Let Salsa verde, saffron, green beans give chicken salad a kick

Washington PostJune 24, 2014 

What color is your chicken salad? The option-happy dish enjoys year-round rotation but seems to come into its own in warm weather. With the right combination of ingredients – starting, say, with a rotisserie bird – you can skip cooking altogether.

Avoiding mayonnaise these days? Greek yogurt or mashed avocado can stand in as a creamy component, or you can go the vinaigrette route.

Is crunch a must-have? Besides the stalwart celery, a world of nuts and radishes and greens is at your disposal. Natural sweetness can play off any tang or tartness once you include grapes, mango, dried fruit or a touch of honey.

You’ve got your favorites. Still, you might be able to find a few more in this new batch. Note to curious vegetarians: There’s something here for you, too.

Potato and Chicken Salad With Salsa Verde

This can be an easy weeknight entree as well as picnic fare. Adding a fresh herb – in this case, a mint sprig – to the cooking water is a small step that makes a big difference. The salsa verde can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Adapted from “No Time to Cook: Fresh and Easy Recipes for a Fast Forward World” by Donna Hay (Hardie Grant, 2008).

For the salsa verde

1 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves

1 cup loosely packed mint leaves

1/2 cup loosely packed dill sprigs

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Freshly cracked black pepper

For the salad

6 fingerling potatoes

1 sprig mint

Kosher salt

2 cooked chicken breast halves, cut into thick strips or shredded

1 tablespoon capers (preferably salt-packed), rinsed and drained

2 ounces baby arugula leaves

PLACE parsley, mint, dill, oil, mustard, lemon juice and pepper in a food processor; pulse just until coarsely chopped.

COMBINE potatoes, mint and a generous pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Add enough cool water to cover by at least 1 inch, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 15 minutes or until potatoes are just tender enough to pierce with a sharp knife.

DRAIN; cut potatoes in half lengthwise and return them to the (empty) saucepan over low heat, along with chicken and capers. Toss to incorporate and cook just long enough to warm everything through. Turn off the heat.

ADD salsa verde to the saucepan and toss gently to coat. Divide the arugula between plates. Top with the dressed salad. Serve right away.

Per serving: 490 calories, 32 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 31 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar

Yield: 2 servings

Tastes Like Chicken Salad

This nutty treatment is assertively herby – and not so far off, tastewise, from an Italian-flavored rendition. Serve on grilled bread or atop salad greens. The sunflower seeds need to soak for 4 hours. The salad needs to rest (to blend flavors) for at least 30 minutes before serving. It can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Adapted from “Cook for Your Life: Fresh, Delicious Recipes,” by Ian Thorpe (Hardie Grant, 2011).

For the salad

3 cups roasted, unsalted hulled sunflower seeds

4 ribs celery, thinly sliced

3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

3 tablespoons dried oregano

3 tablespoons dried thyme

3 tablespoons dried sage

For the dressing

1/2 cup roasted, unsalted macadamia nuts

1/2 cup roasted, unsalted cashews

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup roasted, unsalted Brazil nuts

1/4 cup coarse-grain mustard

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1 1/2 tablespoons fine sea salt

2 cups coconut water

1 1/4 cups fresh lemon juice (from 5 to 6 lemons)

PUT sunflower seeds in a large bowl. Cover with cold water (by at least 1 inch); soak for 4 hours.

MAKE dressing: Combine macadamia nuts, cashews, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, mustard, garlic and salt in a food processor or blender; process until smooth. With the motor running, gradually add coconut water and lemon juice to form a creamy-looking dressing.

DRAIN sunflower seeds and shake them dry. Wipe out bowl they were soaking in, then return the dry seeds to the bowl along with the celery, scallions, oregano, thyme and sage.

POUR dressing over mixture and toss to incorporate. For best flavor, cover loosely and let the mixture rest for 30 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature.

Per serving: 370 calories, 10 g protein, 18 g carbohydrates, 31 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 980 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar

Yield: 12 servings (makes 7 1/2 cups)

Chicken Salad for the Ladies

Major Grey’s chutney is widely available in several brands. Using a store-bought rotisserie bird keeps this dish easy, but if you’d rather cook the chicken yourself, trim 4 or 5 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves of visible fat. Season them generously with salt and pepper, and arrange them on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Cover tightly with foil; bake in a 300-degree oven for 30 minutes. Cool before cutting. The salad can be made and refrigerated a day in advance. Taste, and season as needed (with salt and pepper) before serving. Adapted from “The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/Park Avenue Potluck: Recipes From New York’s Savviest Hostesses,” by Florence Fabricant (Rizzoli, 2007).

5 cups cooked chicken, preferably white meat, cut into bite-size pieces (see headnote)

3/4 cup chopped scallions

Flesh from 1 large mango, diced (1 cup)

1/3 cup Major Grey’s mango chutney (see headnote)

1/4 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise (do not use nonfat)

Juice of 1 lemon

1 1/2 cups plain, whole-milk Greek-style yogurt

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1/3 cup roasted, salted peanuts, lightly crushed, for garnish (optional)

1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)

COMBINE chicken, scallions, mango, chutney, mayonnaise, lemon juice, yogurt and soy sauce in a serving bowl; stir to blend well. Just before serving, garnish with peanuts and cilantro, if desired.

Per serving (based on 6, using low-fat mayonnaise): 340 calories, 42 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 105 mg cholesterol, 450 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 15 g sugar

Yield: 6 servings

Saffron Chicken, Lemon and Green Bean Salad

The lemon can be poached and refrigerated up to 5 days in advance. The salad can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Adapted from “The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life,” by Ellie Krieger (Taunton Press, 2008).

1 lemon (preferably unwaxed), scrubbed well

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed, divided

Pinch saffron threads, crumbled

2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves

1 clove garlic, minced

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

About 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (tenderloins removed), trimmed of visible fat

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon honey

Freshly ground black pepper

USE a fork to prick lemon in 3 or 4 places. Place in a small saucepan along with 1 teaspoon salt. Cover with water; bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 50 minutes or until quite tender. Drain and cool.

WHISK together saffron, mint, garlic, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a gallon-size plastic zip-top bag. Add chicken and seal. Massage to coat; let it marinate (at room temperature) while you prep beans.

SET up a steamer over a few inches of barely bubbling water (over medium heat). Place beans inside; cover and steam for 4 minutes or until crisp-tender and a brighter shade of green. Cool, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces, transferring them to a mixing bowl as you work.

GREASE a large skillet with cooking oil spray and place it over medium-high heat. Once pan is hot, add marinated chicken. (It’s okay if some marinade remains on the chicken; discard any remaining marinade.) Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, then turn chicken over and cook on the second side for 6 to 8 minutes or as needed, until chicken is cooked through and nicely browned. Cool, then cut into bite-size pieces, transferring them to the bowl of green beans.

SLICE off and discard the ends of lemon, then cut the fruit in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the flesh and pulp. Cut the remaining peel (with pith) into thin slices, then into 1/4-inch pieces, adding them to the bowl as you work. Add thyme.

WHISK together remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice and honey in a liquid measuring cup, then whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil to form an emulsified dressing. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

POUR dressing over the lemon-chicken mixture and toss to incorporate. Serve at room temperature.

Per serving: 340 calories, 35 g protein, 17 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar

Yield: 4 servings

Pecan Chicken Salad

Refrigerate chicken salad for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days before serving. Adapted from “The New Basics Cookbook,” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (Workman, 1989).

1 1/2 cups pecan halves

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, patted dry

3 cups no-salt-added chicken broth, heated to almost boiling

1 pound seedless green grapes, some cut in half

1 cup diced celery

1 cup chopped fresh dill, plus a few sprigs for garnish

1 cup regular or low-fat sour cream (do not use nonfat)

1 1/4 cups regular or low-fat mayonnaise (do not use nonfat)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 bunches watercress (optional)

PREHEAT oven to 325 degrees.

SPREAD pecans on a rimmed baking sheet; toast at 325 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice, until nuts are fragrant and lightly browned. Cool completely before using.

INCREASE oven temperature to 350 degrees. Arrange chicken breast halves in a single layer in a shallow baking dish, then pour in broth. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper over the baking dish; bake for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Use tongs to transfer chicken to a plate to cool; discard broth. Shred chicken into bite-size pieces, placing them in a large mixing bowl as you work, and add grapes, pecans, celery and chopped dill; toss to incorporate.

WHISK together sour cream and mayonnaise in a medium bowl, then scrape it into the bowl with the chicken. Toss to coat, then season well with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

ARRANGE beds of watercress on individual plates, if desired; top with equal portions of the chicken salad. Garnish with sprigs of dill. Serve right away.

Per serving: 390 calories, fat 20g, saturated fat 3g, cholesterol 85mg, sodium 450mg, total carbohydrates 19g, dietary fiber 2g, sugar 10g, protein 34g

Yield: 12-14 servings; makes 13 to 14 cups

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