In the heart of the winter, when the icy cold blows down from the north, our minds and our bodies are looking for foods that will warm the soul. But right now, as we move toward the warmth of summer, we are looking for foods that are nourishing to our minds and cool to our bodies.
There are many cooling foods and chilled, crisp salads are one example. Salads have an abundance of variety in flavors, textures, colors and aromas. There certainly is a salad that can appeal to everyone. These days so many more restaurants are concentrating new dishes on salads. But the best salads are still made at home.
The traditional salad will have a dressing and/or vinaigrette tossed with the greens or just poured on top. My recommendation is to use approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons of dressing per person tossed with the greens. In this fashion you maximize the flavor of the dressing/vinaigrette and minimize the amount of calories from fat.
In today's salad the dressing is tossed as the salad is made. This is not a traditional type of dressing, but one that you and your family will enjoy as you enjoy each other's company to share the meal.
The featured protein in this dish is poached chicken. When poaching any meats or seafood remember to add flavors to your poaching liquid. This can come in the form of some roughly chopped onion. Fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme or cilantro, any of the dried herbs or seeds like mustard seed, dill or fennel. When adding these to the poaching liquid allow them to simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, gently developing flavor in the water. Add your meat and poach until it is cooked through. Only three minutes for a nice size shrimp, or perhaps 10 minutes for a large piece of salmon or boneless skinless chicken breast. Do not aggressively boil the liquid, poaching is a mild simmer with almost no bubbles at all.
When serving the salad be sure have a side of some unique piece of bread. Such as focaccia, perhaps a buttermilk biscuit, a few crackers or a dinner roll.
Summer Fruit Chicken Salad
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, poached and cut into 1/2 inch
2 ribs of celery, cleaned and diced
1 cup seedless red grapes cleaned and halved
1/2 red grapefruit, peeled, sectioned, membranes removed
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 cup pecan pieces, toasted
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
large leaves of lettuce to serve the salad on
Poach the chicken in a flavored liquid about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove, allow to cool then cut into chunks.
Combine the chicken, celery, grapefruit, pecans and brown sugar in a bowl, add the sour cream, salt, pepper and lemon, toss thoroughly. Chill for several hours and serve on large lettuce leaves.