Summertime chicken salads

If I cook chicken, serve majadra as an accompaniment, I like to cook extra chicken, rice and lentils.

July 12, 2012 17:19
Chicken salads

Chicken salads. (photo credit: Thinkstock)


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When I prepare chicken as a Friday night main course and serve majadra (rice with lentils) as an accompaniment, I like to cook extra chicken, rice and lentils to combine another day as a main-course salad. This way I get several meals for the time I spent cooking. Sometimes I serve the salad for Saturday’s lunch or freeze the components and enjoy the salad later in the week.

This is a useful formula for summertime entrees. Instead of the lentils, I might use cooked white beans, chickpeas or frozen fava beans, and instead of the rice, bulgur wheat or barley. Instead of the grains, cooked pasta works just fine in these salads.

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To complete the salads, I add fresh herbs and colorful raw or cooked vegetables – whatever I have on hand. Fresh tomatoes, small diced cucumbers and roasted peppers are always welcome in the mixture, as are green onions, parsley, fresh coriander or thyme.

For dressing, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil is ideal, or a sprinkling of vinaigrette made of wine vinegar and oil and flavored with your favorite mustard. Such dressings are more pleasing in summertime than the mayonnaise of standard chicken salads from the deli. Besides, these light dressings show the color of the salads’ ingredients much better. Vinaigrette is lighter and thinner than mayonnaise, and less dressing is needed to moisten the salad, and so it ends up lower in fat.

Faye Levy is the author of Faye Levy’s International Chicken Cookbook.

ZA’ATAR CHICKEN SALAD WITH BEANS AND BARLEY The sesame-herb flavor of za’atar blend is a good seasoning for chicken salads like this one, as it goes well with chicken, beans and grains. Roasted red peppers, green beans and chopped green onions make this a colorful salad. If you already have cooked rice or barley, use about 3 cups in this salad.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 cup pearl barley
350 gr. (3⁄4 pound) green beans, cut in thirds
1 to 11⁄2 cups frozen fava beans or lima beans or cooked or drained canned chickpeas
3 cups diced cooked chicken or turkey
1 or 2 roasted red peppers (see Note below; or from a jar), cut in strips
3 green onions, chopped
3 to 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 3 Tbsp. strained fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tsp. za’atar blend
Lettuce or baby spinach leaves (optional)

Bring 3 cups water to boil in a large heavy saucepan and add a pinch of salt. Add barley and return to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 35 to 40 minutes or until barley is tender. Rinse barley briefly and drain well. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.

Cook green beans uncovered in a saucepan of boiling salted water, uncovered over high heat, about 5 minutes or until crisptender.

Remove with a slotted spoon and rinse with cold water.

Return cooking liquid to a boil. Add fava or lima beans and cook uncovered over medium-high heat until just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain beans, rinse with cold water and drain well; if fava beans have thick skins, you can remove them by pinching each bean.

Add green beans, fava beans, chicken, pepper strips and green onions to bowl of barley. Fold together gently.

In a small bowl, whisk oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add to salad. Taste and adjust seasoning. Just before serving, fold in all but 1 tsp. of the za’atar. Sprinkle remaining za’atar on top. If you like, serve salad on a bed of lettuce or baby spinach leaves.

Note: To roast and peel red peppers: Preheat broiler with rack 5 to 10 cm. (2 to 4 inches) from heat source, or far enough so peppers just fit; or heat grill. Broil peppers, turning every few minutes with tongs, about 15 minutes or until their skins are blistered and charred; do not let them burn. Put them in a plastic bag, close bag and let stand for 10 minutes. Peel using paring knife. Halve peppers; be careful because they may have hot juice inside. Discard seeds and ribs; pat dry. Do not rinse.

TURKEY SALAD WITH RED BEANS AND RICE Salads like this, of turkey and rice, are convenient for entertaining since you can make them ahead and serve them buffet-style. Preparing the salad in advance has another advantage: As the meat sits with the dressing, it gains flavor. You can substitute cooked chicken or roast beef for the turkey.

If you would rather use brown rice, cook it for about 40 minutes. If you have already cooked rice, use about 3 to 31⁄2 cups in this salad.

Serve this entree with a green salad and an Israeli or roasted pepper salad.

Makes 4 or 5 servings

11⁄4 cups long-grain rice
1 cup cooked red beans or a 400-gr. (15-ounce) can of beans of your choice, drained and rinsed
3 cups diced cooked turkey
4 green onions, chopped
3 to 4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
11⁄2 to 2 Tbsp strained fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh coriander or parsley

Cook rice in a large pan of about 8 cups boiling salted water, uncovered, about 14 minutes or until just tender but still firm. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again well. Mix rice with beans, turkey and green onions.

In a small bowl, whisk oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add to salad.

Sprinkle with thyme and oregano and fold them in. Taste and adjust seasoning. Just before serving, fold in 1 Tbsp. fresh coriander. Serve sprinkled with remaining coriander.

MEDITERRANEAN CHICKEN-PASTA SALAD Marinated artichokes, black olives and sun-dried tomatoes along with fresh tomatoes and herbs add good flavor to chicken salads. Medium shells are an ideal pasta shape because they suit the shapes and sizes of the other ingredients and are easy to mix with them. Tomato pasta shells or spirals give a pretty result. For the legume in this salad, use cooked lentils or chickpeas or any cooked or canned beans you have.

You can keep the salad, covered, for 1 day in the refrigerator, but it’s best to add the fresh herbs and diced tomatoes just before serving.

Makes 4 servings

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, or more if needed
1 tsp. dried leaf oregano, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more if needed
1⁄4 cup minced red onion 2 cups diced roast chicken or turkey
1 to 2 cups cooked or canned beans or chickpeas, or cooked lentils
1⁄2 tsp. dried leaf oregano, crumbled Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 225 gr. (8 ounces) medium pasta shells (about 3 cups)
1 cup drained marinated artichokes, quartered, or marinated mushrooms
1⁄2 cup black olives, halved and pitted
1⁄2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut in small pieces
2 to 3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1⁄4 cup chopped parsley
1 large or 2 small ripe tomatoes, diced

In a large bowl, whisk lemon juice with pepper, oregano, salt, pepper and cayenne. Whisk in olive oil. Stir in onion.

Add chicken and beans to dressing; taste and adjust seasoning.

Marinate in dressing, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Cook pasta uncovered in a large pot of boiling salted water over high heat, stirring occasionally, 5 to 8 minutes or until tender but firm to the bite. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again well. Add to bowl of chicken and beans. Add artichokes, olives and sun-dried tomatoes and mix gently. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon juice and olive oil if you like.

Shortly before serving, add basil, parsley and diced tomatoes and toss gently. Remove from refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving.

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