august 18, 2017
My favorite event in culinary training was market basket day, when we were asked to craft a multi-course meal from items in the basket. A similar concept shows up on cooking competition shows these days, only the time crunch is more exaggerated. We had most of a morning to come up with creative turns on, for example, red peppers/whole chicken/shallots/apples.I was always astounded at the level of creativity of my classmates and the dozens of different ways simple items could be transformed into dishes with complex flavors and showstopping presentation. When I make a new monthly menu for The Good Eats Company clients, I may look around and see what surplus items might be made into savory and sweet entries on the menu. Lots of walnuts? Time for walnut chocolate caramel tart, and perhaps a walnut crusted roasted fish.
Recently I checked the kitchen and came up with: fragrant roadside stand Virginia nectarines, some avocados, beautiful purple and green lettuce, that large stash of walnuts, colorful baby tomatoes from The Carrot Top Farm in nearby Caroline county and pink peppercorns, one of my favorites for boosting flavor and color. And chicken breast, that ubiquitous protein staple. Market basket time! But when it’s hot and muggy, the idea of creating excess kitchen heat weighs me down with lethargy, and so salad is what I have come up with in this easy end-of-summer entree. Depending on your hunger level, you could stretch that small chicken breast to feed two, and pile on more veggies to complete your meal.The chunky dressing keeps in the fridge one month or longer. Really, all you need is a one hour marinade for flavor, a quick grill and some assembly. Easy assembly, like that Ikea cabinet you admire in the home magazine, but far more easy and much more tasty.
Whenever you are tempted to throw up your hands with dismay at having nothing in the pantry or fridge for dinner, try the market basket concept and challenge yourself to come up with something fabulous, quick and simple. Happy hunting!
Grilled Chicken and Nectarine Salad
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes four servings
4 small chicken breasts, 5-6 ounces each
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of one large lemon
one large clove garlic, zested or finely minced
kosher salt and finely ground white pepper
purple and green lettuce leaves to line plates
2 cups baby tomatoes, halved
2 medium nectarines, sliced
2 small avocados, sliced
- In flat nonreactive container (casserole dish), whisk together lemon juice, garlic and olive oil; place chicken breasts in container and flip to coat well; turn every 15 minutes for about one hour.
- Heat gas grill to medium high (alternately, use cast iron grill pan on a gas stovetop).
- Sprinkle top side (presentation side) of each chicken breast with salt and pepper and grill about 3-4 minutes per side or until chicken is firm but still springy to touch.
- Set aside chicken while salad ingredients are being plated.
- Line four plates with lettuce leaves, then arrange sliced nectarine and avocado with baby tomato halves.
- Place still warm chicken breast atop salad and drizzle the chunky dressing across each serving. Serve immediately.
chunky walnut pink peppercorn dressing
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt – I like La Baleine
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
½ cup finely chopped walnuts
- in small mixing bowl, whisk together mustard, vinegar, salt and oil; add peppercorns, shallot and walnuts
- dressing may be made up to four weeks ahead; bring to room temp before serving to soften olive oil