Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tropical Paradise Salad

I'm sick of winter.  I was hopeful that if I made a wild and springy salad, it would warm up outside, but I found myself eating the leftovers as I watched snow flakes flutter down.  It was delicious anyway :).  The dressing is something that I haphazardly threw together, tasting and adjusting as I went.  It's very likely that I'll come up with a different version in the future, but the basic bones of it were good.  Light and citrusy, which is what I was going for.  I made this for a crowd, and was able to prepare everything in advance and assemble it at the last minute.

Tropical Paradise Salad

1 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup granulated sugar
dash cayenne pepper
1/4 t. freshly ground sea salt
1/2 t. cinnamon

2 chicken breasts
3 T. honey
2 T. butter
freshly ground sea salt and pepper
1/2 t. dried tarragon

1 mango, peeled and diced
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
1 cup sliced sweet bell peppers (I used mini colorful sweet peppers found at Costco)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 bag prewashed baby salad green mix
1 avocado, diced (and with a splash of lime juice if you're not going to eat it right away)

Dressing:
1/2 cup coconut milk
zest and juice of one lime
one orange, zested, and juice sqeezed out of half of it, fruit removed from the other half and added to the mix
2 T. honey
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup pineapple juice
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To make the almonds, heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, then add the almonds, cooking for 3-5 minutes and stirring a few times until they begin to toast.  Meanwhile, mix the sugar, cayenne, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Sprinkle 3/4 of that mix evenly over the nuts, then wait until the sugar starts to liquify.  Stir gently until most of the sugar is melted and coating the nuts.  Remove from heat and immediately sprinkle the remaining sugar over them and stir until it's evenly distributed.  Immediately dump out onto a piece of parchment to let them cool.

You may certainly use prepared grilled chicken strips or diced rotisserie chicken as a time saver.  To prepare it the way I did (though I always prefer to grill - it was just too cold), add two chicken breasts right from the freezer into a large nonstick skillet with a tightly fitting lid.  Add 1/4 cup of water to the pan, and season the breasts with the salt, pepper and tarragon.  Put the lid on and simmer over medium low heat for about 20 minutes.  Remove the lid, put a pat of butter on each breast and a generous squirt of honey, put the lid back on for another 2-3 minutes until the juices begin to caramelize, then flip the breasts over and again put the lid on for another 2-3 minutes.  Remove the lid for the last 2-3 minutes to allow the juices to reduce into a lovely syrup.  Pull the pan off the burner and let the chicken rest for several minutes before dicing.

Assemble the salad by laying down the bed of lettuce on the bottom, then sprinkling the fruit, veggies, chicken, nuts and cheese on top.  Prepare the dressing by processing all of the ingredients but the oil in the blender.  Once the blender is spinning, add the oil in a thin stream.  This will help it emulsify nicely so that it won't separate later.  If you want a little bit of a kick, a couple drops of tabasco or a dash of cayenne will do the trick nicely.  A dab of dijon mustard would add a nice tang as well.

If you are not going to serve immediately, I recommend having the dressing separate.  This quantity will serve 4 main dish salads.

1 comment:

Amanda K said...

I love salads like this! I totally have to try it out!