Great salads are all about contrasting taste and textures.
Such as soft, creamy chunks of cheese playing against crunchy, bitter bites of radish. Or delicate leafy greens juxtaposed with crunchy, sweet carrots. And spicy seasoned croutons with sweet, juicy cherry tomatoes.
This time of year, the tendency is to make a meal of a salad. This often is done by upping the protein, usually by adding roasted or grilled chicken or turkey. But meat can add bulk without memorable flavor and texture.
To remedy this problem I wanted to devise a quick and easy way to cook chicken or turkey breasts that would give them a pleasantly crunchy exterior texture and assertive flavor, but leave the inside tender and juicy.
The answer was a dry rub, a blend of seasonings that used to coat the meat just before cooking. For this recipe, the rub is made from dried porcini mushrooms, smoked paprika and garlic powder.
For an easier alternative, purchase a prepared rub (found in the seasonings and spices section of most grocers). Either way, meat dusted with these seasonings develop deep flavors and a delicate crust -- the perfect contrast to the rest of the salad.
The dressing for this salad is simple, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a bit of olive oil. The idea is to dress the ingredients lightly so as not to compete with the other flavors.
Letting the meat rest briefly after grilling is key not only for cooking (meat continues to cook for a few minutes after being removed from the heat), but also to let it cool so it doesn't wilt the salad greens.
GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD
Start to finish: 20 minutes
Two 1/2-ounce packages dried porcini mushrooms
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken or turkey breasts, cut into thin strips
6 cups salad greens
1 small cucumber, cut into small chunks
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
20 cherry tomatoes
Monterey Jack cheese, for gratingJuice of two lemons
Extra-virgin olive oil
Lightly coat grill grate with cooking spray or oil. Preheat grill to high.
Place the dried mushrooms in a food processor or blender. Pulse until the mushrooms are very finely chopped, reduced almost to a powder. Add the paprika, garlic powder, pepper and salt, then pulse once or twice to combine. Transfer to a shallow bowl.
One at a time, dredge the chicken pieces through the mushroom mixture, coating both sides. Set aside.
Divide the greens among four serving plates. Top with cucumber, red bell pepper and cherry tomatoes. Set aside.
Lower the grill to medium-high and place the chicken on the grate. Cover the grill and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until just cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate and let rest 5 minutes.
When the chicken has cooled a bit, cut into bite-size pieces and distribute them evenly between the four salads. Top each salad with grated cheese, then drizzle them with a bit of lemon juice and olive oil.Copyright © 2015, CT Now