Friday, May 4, 2012

Chicken Salad with Fruits and Peppadews

Love, love salads!  Although this salad just screams summer, you could make it any time of the year because the fruits - strawberries, mandarin oranges, pineapple and avocado - are available year-round. In addition to the beautiful fruits, this salad features savory chicken, toasty nuts, a fresh citrus vinaigrette, and peppadews.  If you're not familiar with peppadews, they're small red peppers with a bit of heat and sweetness.  They're sometimes available in the olive bar at your grocer, otherwise you can find them in jars with the olives in the grocery shelves.  (They make a really great appetizer filled with cream cheese or goat cheese.) I would definitely serve this salad to company - it's beautiful, fresh and elegant.

Back in the days when The Lawyer and I had a giant community garden, we decided to grow our own peppadews.  Turns out that's not as easy as it sounds.  The peppers grow in South Africa and the seeds and breeding rights are closely guarded.  We scoured the internet and found a close substitute for seeds.  The surprise was that the peppers are so hot they pretty much melt your tongue and only become peppadews after removing the seeds and pickling them in a sugar brine to calm the heat.  The Lawyer, being ever inquisitive, tried a raw pepper and regretted it for quite a long time.  You should have seen the looks on our faces when we were first tried the pickled version after his fire-eating experience - pure fear which turned to relief when we found out they were great and just like store-bought peppadews.  Life is an adventure.

* * click here for a printable recipe version * *

Chicken Salad with Fruits and Peppadews
Four servings

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Lemon pepper seasoning
1 avocado
1 bag baby salad greens
1/2 cup thin sliced red onion
1 cup mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
8 – 10 Peppadew peppers, cut in half
1/2 cup pecans or almonds

Citrus Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (about one orange)
1/3 cup fresh grapefruit juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger

Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour into a bowl, cover and chill.

Sprinkle the chicken with lemon pepper seasoning and salt. Grill or broil until done, about 5 minutes per side. Set aside to cool slightly, then thin slice on a diagonal.

Toast the pecans or almonds in a dry pan or oven until fragrant (this just takes a minute so watch them carefully). Coarsely chop the nuts.

Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit, then score the avocado flesh into cubes with a knife and scoop from the shell using a spoon. Gently combine salad greens, onions, mandarin oranges, strawberries, pineapple, peppadews and avocado chunks in a bowl. Toss with some citrus vinaigrette. Place on plates, top with sliced chicken breast and nuts. Spoon a little more vinaigrette over the chicken.

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