Friday, August 22, 2014

Balsamic Chicken Watermelon Salad

Last Year's Post: Ravioli with Peas, Bacon and Lemon Oil
Two Years Ago:  Char Siu Chicken with Chinese Long Beans

People who live in the Southwest (me being one) have gotten to the point right about now that northerners arrive at by late February - namely, enough already.  We're tired of this particular season, lets move along to the next one.  Now, I know that sounds somewhat sacrilegious if you live in the north and savor every day of the all-too-brief summer,  but we're pretty well done by this point.  If you live in a more northerly climate I hope you're sitting by a lake in a lawn chair with your face tipped toward the sun, enjoying every precious minute of the last days of summer.

Either way, this salad works (how's that for a segue?).  For those of you who are trying to be in denial about summer's end, a nice cool watermelon salad will make you feel like it's the middle of summer.  And for those of us who are still stuck in 105+ degree days, a cold and sweet no-cook salad sounds pretty darn appealing.

This salad is very simple - just spinach, watermelon, chicken, blue cheese, balsamic vinegar, and nuts. What makes it work is the variety of tastes and textures from the meaty chicken, creamy and pungent cheese, crunchy nuts, and of course sweet and juicy melon.  If you're in a mood to grill you could certainly grill up some boneless chicken breast or thighs instead of using purchased rotisserie chicken, and you could substitute any nuts you like for the pepitas.  All told it takes maybe 20 minutes to prepare if you boil down the balsamic vinegar in advance, or you could purchase a prepared balsamic glaze at the store to make it even easier - they're in with the vinegars.

 Buying cut-up watermelon is another easy time-saver and comes with additional bonus of being able to buy exactly how much you want.  I decided to use the cut glass creamer (of creamer and sugar fame) that I inherited from my grandmother for a little balsamic glaze pitcher.  It worked great.

After buying pre-washed baby spinach, rotisserie chicken, balsamic vinegar (or glaze), a good blue cheese, pre-cut watermelon and some nuts, really all you have to do is some simple assembly.  What could be easier?  It gives you more time for enjoying summer.

printable recipe
Balsamic Chicken Watermelon Salad
Serves 4

1 cup balsamic vinegar (or ½ cup purchased balsamic glaze)
1 teaspoon all-purpose seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (see note)
4 cups baby spinach
3 cups cubed watermelon
½ cup blue cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), or the toasted/chopped nuts of your choice
Coarse salt and pepper for finishing, optional

Pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes until reduce by approximately half and starting to become syrupy.  Let cool.

Add the seasoning to the olive oil and stir, then toss with the shredded chicken. 

Layer the spinach with chicken, watermelon, blue cheese, and nuts.  Drizzle with the balsamic reduction to taste.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper, optional.

 Note:  two small boneless skinless chicken breasts or four boneless chicken thighs may be substituted for rotisserie chicken.  Brush with the seasoned olive oil before grilling or pan sautéing until cooked through.  Set aside to cool, then shred or cut into slices.

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