Monday, August 16, 2010

Chef's Salad with Spinach, Chicken, and Gouda

Having a salad for dinner is one of those things that always seems like a good idea... in theory. It's easy, it's healthy, and it generally doesn't require heating up your kitchen in the middle of August (that last part is particularly crucial if you blow a fuse every time you try to run the air conditioner and the TV at the same time--the apartment above an Italian restaurant is becoming less quaint by the day, people). But when it comes down to it, salad for dinner is kind of boring, right? This salad... definitely not boring. We've made this quite a few times this summer and it is going to stay in the regular dinner rotation.

In addition to the Gouda cheese mentioned in the title, we've also got some bacon and avocado going on in this salad. We've used turkey bacon a few times to make it healthier, but I suggest using the real stuff here. And while store bought croutons will save you some time, I highly recommend making your own (unless you have the aforementioned air conditioning problem and don't want to turn on your oven). Not only is it a nice way to use up some leftover bread, but they have a much more appealing texture than the croutons from a box (I made mine with some rosemary focaccia). This recipe makes more croutons than you'll need, so save the extras in an air tight container.

Chef's Salad with Spinach, Chicken, and Gouda
adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Garlic Croutons:
1 large clove garlic , minced to paste or pressed through garlic press (about 1 ¼ teaspoons)
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 slices white sandwich bread (6 ounces), cut into ½-inch cubes (1 ½ cups)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2  teaspoon minced garlic (1 small garlic clove)
1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
pinch  table salt
pinch ground black pepper

1 bag spinach salad blend
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves , torn into bite-sized pieces
1/4 medium red onion , sliced very thin
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 medium avocado, halved, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 chicken breast, cooked and sliced into thin strips
4 ounces Gouda cheese (regular or smoked), sliced ¼ inch thick and cut into 2-inch-long matchsticks
4 slices thick-cut bacon (or turkey bacon), cut into 1/4-inch strips, fried in medium skillet over medium heat until crisp, and drained on paper towels


1. For the croutons: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine garlic, salt, and oil in small bowl; let stand 20 minutes, then pour through fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl. Add bread cubes and toss to coat. Spread bread cubes in even layer on rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool on baking sheet to room temperature.

2. For the vinaigrette: Whisk ingredients in medium bowl until combined.

3. For the salad: Combine salad mix, basil, and onions in large serving bowl. Add dressing and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Arrange chicken and cheese over center of greens; sprinkle with bacon, avocado, and croutons and serve immediately.

Makes 2 dinner-sized salads (plus extra croutons)


1 comment:

Italian Restaurant Naples said...

It is nice blog.I loved this. I love the classic Mediterranean flavors of lemon, olive oil, and garlic. The Israeli couscous has an interesting texture, and the feta added a nice punch to it. I know I'm going to want to make this dish again and again.