Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summertime, and the dinner is chicken salad

Here in the Mid-Atlantic we went from braised meat season to chicken salad season in about a week. Spring was cold and I still had quite a bit of meat in the freezer, so I just went on braising right through dogwood winter and on into blackberry winter. Then, the next day it was 87 degrees with a dew point of 98 so really 87, feels like Beelzebub's sauna. That is dinner salad weather, main course salad weather, composed salad weather, and for me that comes to mean chicken salad. I try occasionally with a crab salad or a shrimp salad, but really, I go back to chicken salad the way Volvo owners go back to Maine.
This is how it goes. I start with a chopped salad-- chicken, tomatoes, a grain, (this year it's quinoa, super grain of the future), arugula or some sort of greens. The dressing is mayo, buttermilk, lots of basil and some lemon juice all whizzed up in a blender. The garnish, and the garnish is crucial, is grated asiago, roasted pumpkin seeds and raisins. This is a variation on a salad from Epicurious. I'll have that for a few weeks and then branch out. Tarragon instead of basil in the dressing, chicken, bacon, avocado and tomato. If the mayo based dressing starts to cloy, I'll spend a week with chicken, greens, avocado and mango, dressed in a mixture of lime juice, brown sugar and fish sauce. There's another recipe, originally from Epicurious, but significantly spiffed up, where the dressing is oil and vinegar and garlic and chutney and curry paste and the salad is chicken and brown rice and scallions and raisins. You could probably serve it on a bed of greens.
There's a chicken tikka salad with tomatoes and raita. A chicken pasta salad with artichoke hearts, tomatoes, olives, feta and a vinaigrette. I like to make a tahini dressing and maybe add some whole wheat noodles, a red pepper and more scallions. Late in the summer corn goes well with most chicken salads.
It's early yet. I'm still with the first one and just starting to think I might defrost some bacon for the second one. But I know in a month or two, it will still be 89, feels like Mars and I'll start fantasizing about a pot roast salad.

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