In these warm summer days, salads are sounding better and better. I didn’t want to run out to the market with a grocery list just to make dinner so I scrounged my pantry and fridge for ingredients. The result was a fantastically delicious dinner that my youngest son can’t stop asking me to repeat ASAP.
I call this salad Make-it-happen salad because this what I came up with when I decided not to wait until I could shop for special ingredients. I wanted to make it happen with the things I had on hand. I’ll list the ingredients I used as well as suggestions for alternatives that I might have used if my fridge and pantry selections had been different.
Make-it-Happen Grilled Chicken Salad
First, I needed to use up some homemade sourdough bread that was getting stale, so I made croutons. This is a very easy process. I cut the bread into chunks, tossed the chunks lightly with olive oil, sea salt, and minced garlic, and then baked on a cookie sheet for about 25 minutes at 300°. At that point they were very crusty and golden brown. I turned the oven off and let them cool while I made the rest of the salad. (Storebought croutons will work fine if you have them.)
For the body of the salad, I tore up one and a half bunches of romaine lettuce into bite-sized pieces. (Any kind of leaf lettuce will work. A mixture of kinds of lettuce would be even better, I think. In fact, any kind of leafy green would probably be excellent in this salad.) I chopped one bunch of green onions up and mixed them through the lettuce.For the dressing, I whisked together:
- 1/4 c. ranch dressing
- 1/3 c. Italian dressing
- 2 T. balsamic vinegar
- 2 T. lemon juice
- (I could have used any prepared salad dressing. If I’d had any anchovy paste, I would have used that. Any vinegar and oil combination would do nicely. Fresh herbs would also add a lot.)
I grilled 5 chicken breasts that had soaked for about 20 minutes in the juice of two limes and some sea salt. After the chicken was cooked, I cut it into strips. (I will try this salad with grilled fish in the future. I might also use leftover chicken that’s already been cooked. My son, Michael told me that he thought I should have cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces instead of strips. He also felt that I could have used LESS chicken for each salad. I could even use strips of deli meat if I didn’t want to cook anything.)
After the chicken was grilled and sliced, I set it aside while I assembled the salad. First, I poured the dressing over the lettuce and added 1/2 c. grated romano cheese (I could have used parmesan or any hard cheese. I could also have used feta cheese; the feta would take the flavors in an entirely different direction.) I tossed everything thoroughly.
I put a generous bed of dressed lettuce on each plate. Then I added fresh, quartered tomato slices and sliced chicken. I topped the whole salad with some grated extra sharp white cheddar cheese and those crunchy garlic croutons.
(If I’d had bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, or cucumbers in the fridge, I could have added those as well. Next time I might sprinkle some toasted walnuts or pecans over the top. Shelled sunflower seeds or sesame seeds would have added a bit of crunch. Any kind of sprout would have added interesting texture. I think you get the drift. This is a salad that will turn out differently every time I make it because I’ll never have the exact same combination of ingredients in my fridge and pantry.)
(If you have a variety of tastes in your household, you can also let everyone dress their own salad, using either homemade dressings or prepared dressings.)
The result was just delicious. The boys and Dave scarfed up every scrap of salad and felt pleasantly stuffed.
PS For a vegetarian-friendly meal, substitute grilled portobella mushrooms or large pieces of peppers or squash.