Chicken salad - have it your way
Many options to make the old standard new again.
What color is your chicken salad?
The option-happy dish enjoys year-round rotation but seems to come into its own in warm weather, when it becomes the perfect meal for so many summer occasions such as picnics, potlucks, and dinners on the deck.
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, with the "Tastes Like Chicken Salad" recipe, made with sunflower seeds, herbs, and a mix of nuts, that results in a salad that is assertively herby, and not so far off, tastewise, from an Italian-flavored rendition.
Potato and Chicken Salad With Salsa Verde
Makes 2 servings
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
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
1. For the salsa verde: Combine the parsley, mint, dill, oil, mustard, lemon juice, and pepper in a food processor; pulse just until coarsely chopped.
2. For the salad: Combine the potatoes, the sprig of 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 the potatoes are just tender enough to pierce with a sharp knife.
3. Drain; cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and return them to the (empty) saucepan over low heat, along with the chicken and capers. Toss to incorporate and cook just long enough to warm everything through. Turn off the heat.
4. Add the salsa verde to the saucepan and toss gently to coat.
5. Divide the arugula between plates. Top with the dressed salad. Serve right away.
Note: The salsa verde can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Per serving: 490 calories, 32 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams sugar, 31 grams fat, 75 milligrams cholesterol, 320 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.
Tastes Like Chicken Salad
Makes 12 servings
For the salad:
3 cups roasted, unsalted hulled sunflower seeds
4 ribs celery, thinly sliced
3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons each: dried oregano, dried thyme, dried sage
For the dressing:
1/2 cup each, roasted, unsalted: macadamia nuts, cashews, and Brazil nuts
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup coarse-grain mustard
6 cloves garlic, crushed
11/2 tablespoons fine sea salt
2 cups coconut water
11/4 cups fresh lemon juice (from 5 to 6 lemons)
1. For the salad: Put the sunflower seeds in a large bowl. Cover with cold water (by at least 1 inch); soak for 4 hours.
2. Meanwhile, make the dressing: Combine the macadamia nuts, cashews, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, mustard, garlic, and salt in a food processor or blender; process until smooth.
3. With the motor running, gradually add the coconut water and lemon juice to form a creamy-looking dressing.
4. Drain the sunflower seeds and shake them dry. Wipe out the bowl they were soaking in, then return the dry seeds to the bowl along with the celery, scallions, oregano, thyme and sage.
5. Pour the dressing over the mixture and toss to incorporate. For best flavor, cover loosely and let the mixture rest for 30 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature.
Note: 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.
Per serving: 370 calories, 10 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams sugar, 31 grams fat, no cholesterol, 980 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber.
Chicken Salad for the Ladies
Makes 5-6 servings
5 cups cooked chicken, preferably white meat, cut into bite-size pieces
3/4 cup chopped scallions
Flesh from 1 large mango, diced (1 cup)
1/3 cup Major Grey's mango chutney
1/4 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise (do not use nonfat)
Juice of 1 lemon
11/2 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)
1. Combine the chicken, scallions, mango, chutney, mayonnaise, lemon juice, yogurt, and soy sauce in a serving bowl; stir to blend well.
2. Just before serving, garnish with the peanuts and cilantro, if desired.
Per serving (based on 6, using low-fat mayonnaise): 340 calories, 42 grams protein, 23 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams sugar, 9 grams fat, 105 milligrams cholesterol, 450 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber.
Saffron Chicken, Lemon, and Green Bean Salad
Makes 4 servings
1 lemon (preferably unwaxed), scrubbed well
11/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
Pinch saffron threads, crumbled
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
About 11/4 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
1. Use a fork to prick the lemon in 3 or 4 places. Place in a small saucepan along with 1 teaspoon of the 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.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together the saffron, mint, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a gallon-size plastic zip-top bag. Add the chicken and seal. Massage to coat; let it marinate (at room temperature) while you prep the beans.
3. Set up a steamer over a few inches of barely bubbling water (over medium heat). Place the 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.
4. Grease a large skillet with cooking oil spray and place it over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the marinated chicken. (It's OK if some marinade clings to the chicken; discard any remaining marinade.) Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, then turn the chicken over and cook on the second side for 6 to 8 minutes or as needed, until the chicken is cooked through and nicely browned. Cool, then cut into bite-size pieces, transferring them to the bowl of green beans.
5. Slice off and discard the ends of the 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 the thyme.
6. Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and the honey in a liquid measuring cup, then whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to form an emulsified dressing. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
7. Pour the dressing over the lemon-chicken mixture and toss to incorporate. Serve at room temperature.
Note: The lemon can be poached and refrigerated up to 5 days in advance. The salad can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Per serving: 340 calories, 35 grams protein, 17 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams sugar, 16 grams fat, 80 milligrams cholesterol, 400 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.