One thing I hardly ever make at home is salad. I don’t consider it all that satisfying, even though I love salads for lunch. My salads never taste like Panera’s salads. They never taste like the salad bar at work. My salads at home are always so….bland.
Bottled dressings, eh. Random ingredients in the fridge, eh.
Then I made this salad. Officially declared by The Fiance to be “the best salad [he’s] ever had.”
Now I’m on to something.
Maybe its the fact that I grilled the chicken on our electric panini press. Or maybe its the fact that I loaded each salad with half an avocado. Yes, and yes. But truthfully….I think its the dressing. The homemade dressing. The homemade cilantro-lime dressing that has so many awesome flavors going on, you don’t even know what to say about it! You just keep eating!!
Now I’m on a salad kick. This week it will be grilled salmon salad with asian vinaigrette.
One more cooking “hurdle” that I have successfully overcome. Lesson learned = get creative!! And don’t use bottled dressings 🙂
Southwest Chicken Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing
For the salad:
fresh spinach leaves, rinsed and patted dry
canned black beans
shredded colby jack cheese
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
poultry seasoning, salt, pepper
For the dressing:
1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt, pepper (small pinch of each)
3/4 tsp minced fresh ginger root
juice of 1 lime
1/4 C honey
1/4-1/2 C packed cilantro leaves
1/4 C olive oil
*Every time that I’ve bought avocado, it takes about 2-3 days to ripen. There is nothing worse than unripened avocado. It tastes like grass. The texture is stringy. Please let it ripen! It will be soft to the touch and a deep dark green. If you need to speed things up, stick it in a paper sack or wrap it in newspaper.
1. To make dressing: place the jalepeno pepper, garlic, and ginger in a small food processor or blender. Pulse until finely chopped. Add lime juice, honey, vinegar, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Pulse a few times to blend. Slowly drizzle in olive oil until desired thickness. Do a quick taste test and make adjustments as needed. Set aside.
2. Grill chicken on an indoor electric grill or outdoor grill. If you don’t have a grill, you could sautee in a pan or even bake in the oven. Either way, season however you like. I used poultry seasoning with salt + pepper, but a mexican spice combo, or lime juice, would be yummy too.
3. Assemble salad: add avocado, small spoonful of corn and beans, cheese and chicken to a pile of spinach leaves. At this point, you could add/change anything you like – next time, I may try pico de gallo, or chopped cherry tomatoes, or red onion, whatever. Before serving, drizzle the dressing over the salad.