This chicken salad is the answer to hot summer days- easy to make, bright, and refreshing. We’re topping it off with a sweet mustard & tahini vinaigrette and fried peaches.
There is something deeply satisfying about a well-balanced salad. I’m not being facetious here either, I’m speaking as a bit of salad-snob actually.
I like hearty salads, dark leafy greens, ancient grains, nuts, fruit, the whole shebang. So last week, when we were hit by a week long heatwave and no one wanted to cook, or even think about hot food in general, I figured it was the perfect time to make a hearty salad for the season.
This salad is like a crescendo. There’s a lot going on with layers of flavors, each leading up to the next. If you have leftover chicken in the fridge this is a perfect recipe to make with minimal effort. Even if you don’t have any leftovers stored away, I prioritized making the chicken as simple as possible with just a few yet impactful ingredients like lemon thyme and oregano fresh from the garden.
For a little extra ‘heft’, I served the chicken over a bed of freekah, though you can use any grain you have on hand, even pasta will do.
So, you have your grains, your protein, but now we need to get some fresh fruit and veggies into the mix.
In place of leafy greens, I opted for whole grains, crisp cucumbers, and juicy tomatoes for added body. As a matter of personal preference, I love fruit in my salad so here I added blueberries and fried peaches. Naturally, you can add any kind of fruit you like. It is a highly versatile dish, so feel free to get creative.
Fried peaches, grilled peaches- they’re basically the same only I used a frying pan over the grill. Whichever you choose, the recipe remains the same. Fry them up (or grill) with a generous pat of butter, some brown sugar, and a sprig of rosemary. It offers another flavor of depth that melds the dish together.
No salad is complete without some sort of dressing or vinaigrette. I’ve always opted for homemade and I especially love a honey mustard alongside chicken. This one is a good combination of a zesty vinaigrette and a creamy dressing without the fat, thanks to a spoonful of tahini. Its added creaminess and subtle nutty flavor is a perfect balance to the mustard and vinegar.
Top it all off and savor the flavors of summer. You’ve got a salad bowl that’s perfect for lunch or dinner. The best part is, you’ll have plenty leftover too.
As mentioned earlier, salads are uniquely versatile and this one is no exception. Here are few additional ingredients you can use in place of or in addition to:
For the Protein:
Grilled pork or seared salmon are great swaps if you don’t have chicken on hand or if you’re just craving something a little different. Even leftover steak strips would serve well with this meal.
For the Grains:
I love ancient grains mixed into my salads, but if you’re not a big fan or if you don’t have freekah on hand, buckwheat and quinoa are perfect substitutes. Feel free to go for short grain rice or fine pastas like pastina.
For the Fruits and Veggies:
Use whatever you have on hand. If your blueberries are frozen that works too and it will add a nice refreshing bite. Other ideas are apples, orange slices, cherries, strawberries, plums, grapes, and pears. You can also use dried fruit like apricots, figs, dates, or dried cranberries.
I love avocados in this salad. Other great vegetables to consider in place of leafy greens are bell peppers, string beans, mushrooms, radishes, and corn.
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