Hot weather requires a certain kind of cooking. You need to provide maximum flavor with minimum expenditure of heat and effort. This salad is the perfect example of summertime eating: fresh and flavorful, but quick and easy to make. The ingredients are simple, you may have everything you need in your refrigerator and pantry right now. You can grill or saute the chicken, and, in fact, this salad is the perfect use for leftover chicken. The dressing is bright and sharp-flavored; a light coating of balsamic vinegar and olive oil complements the crunchy celery, juicy grapes, and rich pecans. The recipe originates from a neighborhood cafe in the Milwaukee suburb where I lived for twenty-two years. This salad and two others comprise a trio of chicken salads (along with a variety of other delicious salads and sandwiches) that has been the mainstay of the takeout bar for upwards of twenty years. They always sell out, and they will never be removed from the menu. The restaurant has been in business for a long time and just recently expanded its space to include a wine bar. They serve dinner now too. I miss that little place, but today I have a taste of Cafe 1505 in my own kitchen with this balsamic chicken salad. Enjoy the weekend everyone, and stay cool!
Balsamic Chicken Salad
- For the salad:
- 3 boneless , skinless chicken breasts, grilled or sauteed, and cooled (or use leftover, cooked chicken)
- 1 cup pecan halves , toasted and cooled
- 1 cup seedless red grapes , halved
- 1 cup thinly sliced celery pieces
- 2 heaping tablespoons sliced scallions
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper , to taste
- For the dressing:
- A scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 2 teaspoons finely minced shallot
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the salt, sugar, dry mustard, minced shallot, and balsamic vinegar. Stream in the olive oil, whisking all the while, until the dressing is well combined.
Tear or slice the cooked chicken into strips, about the size that will fit comfortably on a fork. Place the chicken, pecans, grapes, celery, scallions, and parsley in a large mixing bowl.
Add about 3/4 of the dressing and toss the salad together. Check for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper to taste. Add additional dressing, if you like. (Any leftover dressing can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator or several days). Serve the salad on chilled plates, or store it in the refrigerator for a day or two.
See the recipe in the Journal-Sentinel here.