California Summer Salad
Californian cuisine stands on the pillars of "fresh" and "healthy," and that food really speaks to me once the weather warms up and the first vegetables of spring are available to use. Seasonal ingredients found in a local garden or public market, especially those that are full of color and big on flavor, are exactly what I gravitate toward when easing into the slower, warmer months of summer. Less time in the kitchen means more time for kicking around the soccer ball with neighborhood kids, going for a stroll on the canal with your favorite people, or sitting around the firepit playing charades with friends.
It reached the mid 80's (FINALLY) here in upstate New York, so obviously... summer is just around the corner! Granted, it was only two nice days days tucked into a slew of storms, but nevertheless... bring on the dinner salad! The citrus marinade with a spicy little kick was the true rockstar of the meal, and I strongly suggest doubling the recipe to use as a vinaigrette as well, because it's just so good! You can marinate the thinly sliced chicken a day in advance, so actually making the meal takes only 15 minutes! Best of all, there will probably be leftovers, so your lunch is made for the next day as well!
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 bunches Romaine lettuce
- 2 ripe avocados, diced
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onions
- 10-15 grape tomatoes, halved
- 2 ripe mangoes, pitted/peeled/diced
- 3 hard cooked eggs, peeled & sliced
- 1/4 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 Tablespoon hot sauce (add more to your preference)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Whisk together the ingredients for the marinade and set aside. (If you are following my advice and doubling the recipe to use as dressing too, reserve the other half in a sealed Mason jar and refrigerate until ready to use.)
Thinly slice across the chicken, into approximately 2" strips. Toss it with the remaining marinade and pour it into a Ziploc baggie or a container with a tight fitting lid. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
When ready to cook, heat a large cast iron pan over medium high heat. With tongs, spread the chicken (in 2 or 3 batches) out on the surface of the pan in an even, single layer. Cook until golden brown, then flip over and repeat (approximately 3 minutes pet side, depending on how thin). Let the cooked chicken cool slightly on a separate plate while the rest of the chicken is cooked.
Meanwhile, prepare the salad: coarsely chop the romaine lettuce and place it into a large serving bowl, discarding the core end. Next add the mango, avocado, red onion, sliced eggs, and halved tomatoes. I like to layer the toppings in a clock-like pattern (similar to pie slices) or in neat rows. It's easier for people to pick around any ingredients they don't prefer and it also looks so much prettier! Finally, add the slightly cooled chicken. Serve the reserved dressing and sunflower seeds on the side.
Yield: 6 large dinner portions, probably with some leftovers.