Friday, February 7, 2014

Sesame Seed Chicken Salad

Last Year's Post: Linguini alla Puttanesca
Two Years Ago:  Chicken, Gruyere and Fig in Puff Pastry

Salads are a great addition to your weekly dinner rotation during the summer of course, but also during the winter because they're a light and healthy change of pace from heavier winter foods .  The thing that's interesting about this chicken salad is the maple syrup/mustard and sesame seed coating on the chicken, which gives it great crunch and flavor.  It almost tastes deep-fried although it's not.  A combination of black and white sesame seeds is particularly dramatic, but all white seeds would be just as good if you don't want to buy black sesame seeds.  If you're interested, you can buy black sesame seeds at my favorite spice store, Penzeys, here or at your local Penzeys if you're lucky enough to have one in your city.

I also found some great multi-colored cherry tomatoes at my local natural foods store that add color to the salad.

Adding color to your food whenever possible makes it much more visually appealing.  In addition to the tomatoes, chicken and lettuce, the salad contains cucumber and cheese.  I prefer to use English cucumbers (the long thin cucumbers wrapped in plastic wrap) because they have a thinner skin and fewer seeds than regular cucumbers, plus I don't like the waxy coating they (whoever they are) put on regular cucumbers.

The original recipe called for chicken tenders, but a large boneless skinless chicken breast is just as easy to use - all you have to do is cut it into pieces that are about 1- 1 1/2" in diameter and 3-4" long.  The chicken pieces are marinated in a maple syrup and mustard mix for an hour, then rolled in sesame seeds and cooked in a skillet for just a few minutes.  While the chicken is marinating you can make the vinaigrette and chop the salad ingredients, so all you have to do is assemble and serve the salad while the chicken is done.  Easy and healthy!

printable recipe
Sesame Seed Chicken Salad
Serves 4 as a main dish

For the Dressing:
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil

For the Salad:
½ cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1- 1/3 lbs chicken tenders, or boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into pieces approximately  1 - 1 ½ “  in diameter and 3-4” long
2/3 cup sesame seeds (preferably a mixture of black and white)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 (5-oz) bags mixed baby greens
½ English cucumber, unpeeled
16 – 20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese

For the dressing, whisk all ingredients in a bowl or shake in a jar.

For the chicken, whisk mustard and syrup in a bowl to blend.  Add chicken and marinate 1 hour in the refrigerator.

While the chicken is marinating, cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and use a small spoon to remove the seeds.  Cut crosswise into slices.

After the chicken has marinated, remove from the marinade and shake off any excess.  Place the sesame seeds in a shallow bowl and roll the chicken in the seeds to coat on all sides.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Place half the chicken pieces in the skillet and sauté until just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove the cooked chicken pieces and repeat with the other tablespoon of oil and remaining chicken pieces.

Toss the lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber with dressing and serve with the cheese and chicken pieces on top.

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