Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Crunchy Chicken Salad + a tip on how to keep baby lettuce fresh


As much as I love salads, I rarely order them as a main course in a restaurant because frankly, I think I do a better job of making them at home. Also I find that many restaurants use bottled dressings instead of making their own vinaigrette. I have never cared for the taste of bottled dressings no matter whose fancy chef’s name they put on the label.

So when we were in Chattanooga last summer having lunch with Meakin’s son at J. Alexander’s, I spotted a grilled chicken salad on the menu that appealed to me. It said the chicken was tossed with a mixture of baby salad greens, fresh herbs, crunchy cabbage, and topped with crispy tortilla strips. I asked the waitress about the dressing and she said the chef makes his own house balsamic vinaigrette. Sounding better by the minute, I broke my own rule about ordering a salad in a restaurant, then crossed my fingers, and placed my order. After the couple of bites I interrupted their conversation.  “This is fabulous. I would have never thought to add shredded cabbage to a green salad.” You might call this an “ah ha” moment for me in salad making and surprised everyone at the table, including me.

At home I’ve made this salad numerous times with grilled chicken breasts and left-over roasted chicken breasts and both work equally well. What I do have problem with is how to keep organic baby greens fresh in my refrigerator for any length of time. I buy the ones in the clamshell packages and invariably some of the greens get damp and go limp too quickly when stored in the clamshell.


I saw this idea somewhere, but I can’t remember where. It said to repackage the organic greens as soon as you bring them home into two plastic bags and seal the bags with a clip, leaving a lot of air in the bag so the greens can breathe. It works like a charm and I haven’t thrown away any since I started using this idea. If you’ve looked at the price of organic baby greens lately, you’ll appreciate any ideas on how to lengthen their freshness time. If you’ve discovered other methods that work for you, please share it with me. I’m all ears.


This is a simple, unpretentious salad, certainly not gourmet fare. Instead it’s the kind of meal that’s made for lazy summer days such as the 4th of July when you have more on your mind that slaving in the kitchen. When I think of the 4th of July, coleslaw invariably comes to mind. The shredded cabbage in this brings a lovely crunch as well as an element of surprise to a green salad. If you can find a baby greens mix that includes fresh herbs, all the better, or use assorted fresh herbs from your garden such as parsley and dill. Coleslaw mix works well, but shred your cabbage if you like. I make my own balsamic vinaigrette and for crunch I top the salad with purchased Chow Mein noodles in place of the tortilla strips. You could also make your own homemade tortilla strips as Meakin did here for Mexican soup. An Asian vinaigrette with rice vinegar would also be delicious.



There’s not really a “recipe” for this. For two people I put a good handful or two of organic baby greens with herbs in a large salad bowl along with a big handful of bagged coleslaw mix, chopped roasted chicken breasts, and toss the mixture with a vinaigrette of 1 tablespoon good aged balsamic vinegar mixed with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and generously top with Chow Mein noodles. Easily doubled or tripled.

I hope you and your family have a safe and happy 4th of July filled with plenty of good food and sunshine.

One year ago – Firecracker Coleslaw







56 comments:

  1. Like you, I love salads, but rarely order them when eating in restaurants. This recipe is wonderful! I really love the extra tortilla strips.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. I love salads and this sounds really good. As my husband is not a lettuce fan my salads are always a mixture of spinach, chard, cabbage, rocket, sorrel and any herbs that should be floating around in the garden. Take care Diane

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  3. In my honest opinion, your posting is worth a million bucks! I never would have thought to bag the lettuce when you get is home...duh...but so clever. I will be trying this. And the salad...well, I don't have to tell you how good it looks. Susan

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  4. The salad looks so good..we have our little way too w/ the greens.. flip the box upside down..after having placed a paper towel on top..I'll try your way too one day:)

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  5. I love any kind of salads but the number one deal breaker is if it has a crunch to it. I love crunch in my greens and this just looks perfect in my book! thanks for sharing

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  6. Looks delicious! I can't wait to try it. I just love a crunchy salad.

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  7. This looks delicious! I have really been trying to serve more salads. What a great option for a main dish! Thanks Sam!

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  8. Thanks for an excellent tip on keeping greens fresh in the fridge. I hate to throw them out but sometimes they quickly get to the point where they aren't usable.

    Beautiful salad, Sam, and I love your addition of the Chow Mein noodles for crunch.

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  9. Thanks for the tip Sam as well as one tasty salad!

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  10. Great salad greens tip! Right now I harvest my own baby greens, but this winter I will be buying organic at the store, so I love this tip!

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  11. This type of salad has become my standard fare for dinner at home as the organic lettuces is popping out of the field at the farm. I love the tip on preserving greens and plan to try that immediately!

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  12. Sam, I am always up for a good salad. I eat one almost everyday. I have been challenged too by how to make those tender green leaves last and have tried just about everything and I think this method you suggest works the best. Do you wash the greens before you put them in the bag? I was doing it all wrong, leaving no air in the bag at all. Thanks for the tip!!

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  13. The salad is lovely and sounds delicious, but that tip is invaluable! I waste a lot of greens here, they just don't last, this will help, thanks.

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  14. Thanks, not only for the recipe but for the tip on keeping those tender little greens fresh. I can pick out a bottled dressing most every time. I started to use fresh dressings years ago. They are so simple to add that I wonder how all those bottled dressings manage to sell.

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  15. I dearly love salads, mostly those that are made "for" me. When I am disciplined (hah) I prepare all the ingredients for three-days of salad and then only assemble for a quick lunch. I have been making my own salad dressings forever so it is a healthy delicious lunch.

    I'm off to the kitchen now! Oh, I have been putting the greens in zip-lock bags but like the extra space and air of your photo... merci!

    Bises
    Genie

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  16. Great tip with the plastic baggies. If you think your greens are expensive there you ought to see our post-import duty prices. Yikes. I hate throwing stuff out but it inevitably happens. Maybe now it won't! Thanks so much :)

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  17. Sam, this is the perfect dinner salad for this time of year! I have never added cabbage but will give it a try. Thanks for the tip on the leafy greens...I have been so frustrated with the short time they stay fresh.

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  18. The salad looks delicious! I agree with salad dressings in restaurants, but I will confess I do love Stonewall Kitchen's salad dressings and two other bottled ones.

    Have you heard of those green salad bags? My sister swears by them. She bought them in the produce section of her market, and I know other people who have liked them and tried them.

    I like the idea of cabbage in salad also, especially red cabbage!

    Have a great 4th!

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  19. I love salads but like you hardly ever get to use up all the lettuce before it goes bad...I will be trying to new tip!! I also love the idea of a little cabbage in the salad!!! Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful 4th of July weekend!

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  20. Thanks for passing that tip along. You're right, the 'good' greens are pricey and I eat a lot of them!

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  21. "I have never cared for the taste of bottled dressing" - I agree as they all have this wang that I don't like. Great tip on the greens. Bev likes to add cabbage to salad as well but as pretentious as I am, I'm not sure I could go for this one :-). Say hi to Meakin for me.

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  22. I love your tip for keeping salad greens fresh, Sam. A friend of mine will stir fry them with a little garlic and olive oil when they wilt. She said they taste good,like escarole, but I never tried it.

    Summer is definitly salad days! All I like as dressing is a little white balsamic vinegar.

    Happy 4th of July!

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  23. Oh, I am all over that firecracker coleslaw. Thanks for the recipe!

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  24. If you're ever in Bluffton or Hilton Head, go to Truffles. They have a wonderful Napa tuna salad....cabbage,greens, fresh sushi-grade grilled tuna, shredded carrots, Chinese noodles.......all with a wonderful sesame dressing that is house-made.

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  25. Sam, I am with you. I don't care for bottled salad dressings. I make my own too.

    Great tip on the salad greens. I will remember that advice. Thanks.

    Velva

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  26. lovely salad and your right your salads rock

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  27. Love, love the sound of this. I really like a recipe that is not a recipe. I find myself doing more and more of that. will definitely try this. It sounds divine. Also love the tip for the greens. I've thrown out more than I want to admit. I believe we met through Yvonne and Monday Menu. Thanks for stopping by my blog too. Mona

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  28. I love chicken salad and cole slaw!

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  29. Okay, I will definitely be using this method for keeping greens fresh. They are so expensive.

    The salad looks delish. We use Chow Mein noodles sometimes, too.

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  30. You know me and lettuce, Sam. Not my favorite thing in the world. But this salad looks like it has lots of good solid stuff in it and cabbage does not count as lettuce in my book, so that's a plus.
    Great tip on storing lettuce. When my daughter is here, I always buy those containers. From now on, I'll change them out for plastic bags with plenty of air.

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  31. I wouldn't have even noticed the cabbage if you hadn't said it, but I can almost feel the crisp crunch of it.

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  32. OK seriously...what a great tip to pass on! I will try it fir sure! Thank you!

    Also, I agree, RARELY do I order a salad as a main... as I am almost 100% of the time uphappy w/the order. There have been a few times I was thrilled and I can name them by name - that is how memorable their salads were! Yours looks FANTASTIC!

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  33. Thanks on the tip to keep the green fresh and also to put cabbage strips in the salad – I’ll try that. I hope you’ll have a great time at your bloggers get together.

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  34. That is a great tip and I can't wait to try it! Love the addition of chow mein noodles on your salad.

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  35. This salad looks amazing and I'll have to try the tip! I've awarded you over at my blog! Please come check it out!

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  36. Happy 4th of July Weekend! Scrumptious looking salad and perfect for a hot summer night.

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  37. I love adding slivers of red cabbage to green salads -- for color and for crunch. These are some delicious looking salads, Sam.

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  38. What an awesome tip. I will be putting it to good use. Have never been a fan of the bottled dressing either..yuck.

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  39. I certainly enjoyed reading the info you so graciously shared with us on how to store the rest of the precious greens~I get so discouraged after opening a bag/carton and in just two days, they look terrible. Great salad you made..... Anxious to try this salad saving method! You have a safe 4th, also!

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  40. I buy organic lettuce and mesclun mix in very small quantities because we just don't eat that much of it, but love your tip on keeping them fresh. I'm like you, I like my own salads better and make my own dressings.

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  41. Thank you so very much for that tip to keep my baby greens fresh; on my way to the fride right now to try this.
    This salad is talking to me; looks and sound great. I also have of fear of restaurant salads. Great post.
    Rita

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  42. This sound nice Sam, great post, gloria

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  43. Can you imagine restaurants using bottled dressing? It is really a crime! I am in salad mode and this gives me some great ideas! Thanks, Sam! Your food always gives me cravings.

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  44. Sam, Thank you so much for this fabulous tip! I am so happy to learn this one! I love those mixed greens, but like you, find that they do not stay fresh long! I can't wait to your useful tidbit!

    YOur salad looks delicious. I am trying to eat mostly salads at lunch with a little protein. So this fills the bill! And the added treat of chow mein noodles makes it extra yummy!
    Thanks~ everytime I come here I know that I can take a great tip or recipe away with me. I also feel like I have visited a friend!
    Yvonne

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  45. I am a huge salad fan too. Your chicken salad looks delicious indeed. Thank you for sharing the tip too.

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  46. This looks divine, Sam. Perfect for summer.

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  47. Sam, your inspiring blog has wet my appetite!!! I have all the ingredients for this delicious looking salad on hand today thus, it will become my lunch! Thank you so much for the inspiration and good ideas.
    Warmly,
    Tracey
    x0x
    P.S. Great tip regarding preserving the salad greens!

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  48. You're right Sam, homemade dressings are so much better than the bottled versions. I appreciate the tip on how to keep our greens fresher! This salad is beautiful, fresh, and healthy! and I want to thank you for sharing it last week on Fresh Food Friday. Hope to see you join in again this weekend!

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  49. Thank you for this delicious chicken recipe Sam...and the great tip for keeping the salad greens.... I will try that this weekend....xv

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  50. Hi Sam, I hope you can stop by today; I featured your Crunchy Chicken Salad on this weekend's edition of Fresh Food Friday! Thanks again!!!! It just sounds and looks so delicous

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  51. I stumbled upon your blog and read all I could on your other blog about living in the carribean. That has been a lifelong dream of mine, to live on an island, and I'd love to read your book. Pls let me know when its available: annmarin123@gmail.com

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  52. Hello, I just wanted to let you know how happy I was to have found your blog. My husband would love this salad with the added crunch of the noodles. And thank you so much for the hint on keeping greens fresh.

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  53. I am glad you discovered this salad. It looks absolutely satisfying. Thanks for the tip on increasing the time of our greens.

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  54. I keep baby salads fresh by putting a clean dishtowel (paper towels work too) at the bottom of a wide bowl with a lid, big enough to leave breathing space for the greens.

    I like to wash "grownup" lettuce as soon as I bring it home. Spinning it dry and then layering it on barely moistened dishtowels, then rolling all up loosely and putting the package into a plastic bag keeps it fresh for 3 to 5 days.

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  55. I love the colors and the freshness of this salad!!!YUM! Deb

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I enjoy reading each and every comment. If you leave a comment with a question or that requires an answer, please leave an address or way for me to get in touch with you. I appreciate your taking the time to visit my blog and I hope you'll return again soon.
Sam