Monday, 13 April 2015

Mixed Greens with Chicken, Blue Cheese and Roast Garlic - Maple Vinaigrette

I was reading a magazine the other day and saw a recipe for a Cobb salad, which was the inspiration for this meal, although I have to admit I went a bit off track as I started to pull bits and pieces out of the fridge! Traditionally, Cobb salad is a chopped salad, often arranged with each ingredient showcased separately. It starts with chopped greens such as iceberg or romaine lettuce, then is topped with tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, cooked bacon, chicken breast, avocado and blue cheese.

I had mixed salad greens and 2 chicken breasts to use, as well as some hard boiled eggs, a handful of grape tomatoes, some baby cucumbers, 3 blood oranges and of course, some blue cheese. No avocado though...well, they weren't ripe enough to use! I threw in some pecans, as I had about 1/3 of a cup left, and made an easy roast garlic - maple vinaigrette.

In a dry frying pan, toast the pecans over a medium low heat, stirring often. Set aside to cool. Dice and cook 4 rashers of bacon in the same pan, draining it on some paper towel when it is crispy. Pour the excess bacon fat out of the pan. Place 12 cloves of garlic in the oven to roast (see the post Garlic if you haven't roasted garlic before). Set it aside to cool when it is ready.

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and cook them in the pan from the bacon.

The residual bacon fat will prevent the chicken from sticking, and will also add a smoky flavour.

When the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the heat and allow it to rest for 10 minutes, before slicing thinly.

I peeled 3 blood oranges, and sectioned them. I saved the juice for the vinaigrette.

In a large bowl, place the salad ingredients:

2 good handfuls of washed greens per person
the orange segments
halved grape tomatoes
sliced baby cucumbers
toasted pecans

Make the vinaigrette by combining the following in a jug, and combine using a hand blender. Taste and adjust seasoning.

12 cloves roasted garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
the juice from the blood oranges
4 - 6 tablespoons of olive oil

Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil to start, then taste and adjust the acidity and consistency by adding more oil, or more vinegar.

Add half the dressing to the salad, and toss gently until the lettuce leaves and other ingredients are lightly coated, adding more dressing as needed. Divide between your plates, top with the sliced chicken, crumbled blue cheese and place the quartered hard boiled egg on the side.

  • As is the case with any salad, change up the greens to suit your tastes and/or availability. Try romaine, quartered lengthwise with dressing drizzled over the cut side; butter lettuce, cored and placed on the plate with dressing drizzled over it; arugula, watercress or mustard greens; radicchio or Belgian endive; spinach or curly leaf lettuce.
  • If I am serving a salad as the meal, I like to add more than just the main protein. Think nuts, seeds, eggs, cheese...
  • Add crunch with vegetables such as red peppers, cucumber, carrots or by adding croutons.
  • Always think of presentation and colour when choosing ingredients...a salad that's all green, or has only red vegetables added doesn't have as much visual appeal as one with red, yellow, green, black, white.
  • I like to keep on the lighter side when dressing a salad. People can always add extra; pass the dressing at the table for this purpose.
  • If you are able to buy quail eggs, boil them and add them to the salad for something fun. To boil them, place them in a pot of water, and bring to a boil; boil for 3 minutes then remove from the heat, cool and peel.
  • Baby potatoes that have been sliced or diced, boiled in salted water until just tender can also be added to a salad. Toss them with some of the dressing while they are still warm and they will absorb it,  along with all of its flavour.
  • Any leftover meat is perfect to add to a salad like this... pork, chicken, fish or beef.
  • Invest in some little airtight containers that can hold enough vinaigrette for one serving, and taking salads like this to work becomes a treat. Pack everything in an airtight dish, leaving enough room for mixing; pack the dressing separately. Dress your salad when you are ready to eat...a colourful, fresh, crisp and healthy lunch! Just don't forget a fork!!

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