It’s a bit of a funny week here and in a way I’ll be glad when it’s all over. On the plus side, it would appear that Summer has actually arrived! Cue sunburnt skin and the smell of burning barbecues everywhere. At this time of year I tend to cook speedy, lighter meals and this Balsamic Chicken Salad is the epitome of these meals.
I made this again the other night. After work I went for a long walk on the beach and I didn’t want to eat too late. I was able to make this in under twenty minutes, I just marinated the chicken before I went for the walk and then it cooked in under 10 minutes. And it is so, so tasty. It can be eaten warm or later as a cold salad so it would be a great work lunch too.
Ideal for one of those rare barbecues too!
Useful tips & links:
- Butterflying your chicken means that it cooks very quickly and stays juicy. You can ask your butcher to do this for you. I cook the chicken on a griddle so that I get those lovely charred marks on the meat, so a barbecue would be perfect too. A frying pan or skillet will work fine if you don’t have a griddle pan.
- For such a simple salad I would always recommend using the best quality ingredients you can afford or get your hands on. The olive oil is extra virgin, the balsamic I use is so thick and delicious that I would nearly drink it on it’s own! And make sure your avocadoes are ripe, unlike these barely edible ones I had. I’m side-eyeing M&S and their ‘perfectly ripe’ range here.
- This salad is a guide, use whatever you like yourself to make the salad. Just think about the different elements and experiment from there. For instance in this salad, the tomatoes add sweetness, the avocado and cheese add creaminess, the bacon adds saltiness and the nuts add a crunch.
- On this, Frances from The Honest Project has written a great guide – Five ways to reinvent your salad.
- Substitute other cheese such as feta or a mild goats cheese. Use whatever nuts you like, normally here I would go for hazelnuts or walnuts but the cashews were looking at me so I went with them. You could also use toasted seeds.
- For another Summery salad using balsamic vinegar have a look at this Strawberry Goats’ Cheese and Pancetta Salad. For more ideas for Chicken Salads click here.
Balsamic Chicken Salad
For the marinade and dressing:
- 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon of dried oregano
- 1 clove of garlic peeled and lightly crushed
- Salt and pepper
For the salad:
- 2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon or pancetta
- 2 tomatoes, cut into half moons
- 1 small red onion, finely sliced
- ½ an avocado, sliced or cut into chunks
- 60g of mozzarella cheese or bocconcini
- Salad leaves
- Cashew nuts
- First make the dressing and marinade for the chicken. Put all of the ingredients into a small bowl and whisk well together. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed or add more honey if it needs extra sweetness.
- Prepare the chicken by butterflying it which means carefully cutting in half horizontally and opening the breast out to have a large piece of chicken which is roughly the same thickness throughout. You can bash the breast with a rolling pin to flatten it more evenly.
- Brush some of the dressing over the chicken breast and allow it to marinade for about 30 minutes. Leave the garlic clove in the remaining dressing to allow the flavours infuse.
- When ready to make the salad, heat the grill and cook the bacon or pancetta until crispy. Remove from the heat and drain on kitchen paper.
- Preheat a griddle pan or large frying pan over a medium heat. Gently toast the cashews or nuts of your choice until golden and set aside to cool.
- Crank up the heat under the pan to high and when the pan is very hot, cook the chicken to 3-4 minutes per side or until cooked through. The time it takes depends on how thick the chicken is.
- Assemble the rest of the ingredients on your plates and lay the cooked chicken on top, either whole or chopped into slices.
- Give the dressing another whisk, remove the clove of garlic and drizzle over the top. Top with the toasted nuts and serve immediately.