TL;DR is I wanted to make a salad with grilled chicken and this big involved thing just sorta happened on its own.
After a followup visit to the doc on Thursday I have decided that this lethargic, “I don’t give a damn about me” state has got to stop. I’ve added 8lbs in 3 months and my leg, four months after injuring it, is about where it should be one month into rehabbing it.
Combine that with it being summer and between having great fresh veggies in the garden and spectacular summer produce available in several nearby farmers markets, maybe, I thought, I should start eating like I want to stay alive for awhile. Further, I needed to take this long weekend as the kickoff to pounding the hell out of my leg. Which means healthful, anti-oxidant rich foods would probably be a good idea to help with recovery. I am, after all, old. I can use all the help I can get. I am also open to voodoo and incantations. ‘Cause the increase in walking and the sadistic stuff the physical therapist gave me (pretty sure she’s just pissed I've been blowing her off so she dreamt up stuff that does nothing but cause pain) is...ouch. Caya has taken on dual roles as Sous Chef and SVP-Physical Therapy. The latter role consists of going on walks with me and forcing me to pick up the pace (which hurts but the doc says I gotta start pushing it). The former role is essentially to guard the meat. She was very disappointed with how the food part of the weekend started. I did a couple of quinoa dishes yesterday to give me a big protein blast without the fat. There was no meat. Caya thinks cooking without meat is just dumb. Like taking a walk without peeing on things. I mean, who does that?
To make it, put everything but the olive oil in a blender and hammer it for about a minute...get it smooth. Then, removing the little thing at the top of the blender, drizzle in the olive oil. I made it identically each time except for the three vinegars listed above (I had a lot of blueberries). They were all good but there was a clear winner. The white wine vinegar version was a little too ethereal. A little too airy in its taste. The straight balsamic was just too much. Made the vinaigrette about the balsamic and not the blueberries and it’s the blueberry I’m after. The white balsamic struck a good note in between. I tossed the straight balsamic version. I was gonna do the same to the white wine vinegar version when it occurred to me that I could make do with it as a dressing but it would probably be a pretty good marinade for the chicken. On to the marinade for the chicken. I drowned it in the discarded version of the vinaigrette and then threw in a spice mix that consisted of… 2 parts allspice 1 part paprika 1 part cinnamon 1 part fennel seed 1 part mace ½ part nutmeg ½ part ground ginger ½ part salt ½ part pepper 5 cloves So...for those of you who haven’t made spice mixes this way, the above expresses ratios. Doesn’t matter what you use...it could be cups, tablespoons, or teaspoons. Just get the mix as it is above. The weird stuff in there...cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, cloves...those are designed to give it that dessert-y feel. No idea if it will work. The fennel seed gives it some pop. The allspice is a really good foundation, the paprika a sweet and smoky thing, and the ginger...hmm...I don't know. I just wanted ginger. You want the spice mix to be a really fine powder. Throw it all into a spice grinder, even the stuff that's already a powder. Hold down on the grinder and check your email. Let it run, y’all. Then mince the beejeesus out of a couple of cloves of garlic and throw them in with the dressing, the spice mix and 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts. Pour about half the dressing into the container, seal it, shake it and throw it in the fridge for an hour or so. The longer it marinates, the deeper the flavor. If like me, you're impatient, find something else to do. Fortunately, Sous Chef Caya decided to put the Physical Therapist hat on and not so subtly demand a walk. For my well being, of course. This also gave me time to think about what I wanted out of this salad.
What I came up with... For the salad, build a base with something strong like arugula or kale and offset it with a Bibb or red leaf...something mellow. Use them in equal parts. Split and pit both a nectarine and a peach. Cut an onion (if you're grilling use a white or red...yellow onions get really soft really fast) into quarters and peel off the paper. Brush the onion and stone fruit with canola oil and dust with salt and pepper. Set it aside. I figured I should involve some cheese. I don't much like blue cheese. It's just so overwhelming as a flavor and the blue streaks are, you know, mold. Good mold. But mold. I feel like I'm eating penicillin. Which, I guess is a plus in cold and flu season, which it isn't at the moment. But it seemed like there'd be so much sweet, fruity goodness that it needed something that could punch back. Buried way at the back of the cheese drawer was some blue cheese that we'd had since...probably shortly after we got this fridge. Here's a question it's extremely important not to linger on for too long...if blue cheese goes bad, how can you tell? Crumble some blue cheese over the greens and toast a mix of chopped walnuts and slivered almonds. I toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat until I smell them. Other folks slap ‘em on a baking sheet in a 300 degree oven for 7-10 minutes. Makes no difference how you do it. Do you. Once toasted, throw ‘em in the bowl with the rest of the salad. I also wanted some heat. I didn't want it to be about heat. I just wanted something where every now and then you'd take a bite and think, “hello”. Rather handily, I had a lovely Serrano on hand. Again, there'd be so much sweet going on that you gotta work to get over the top of it. I usually remove the seeds and ribs of a Serrano and mince it for a salad. This time I left the seeds and ribs alone and cut really thin rings. It worked. Okay, the chicken has been hanging out long enough. Get your grill way hot and set up a direct and indirect side. Remove the chicken from the marinade and slap it right over the flames on the direct heat side. Most of the time you want to pat it dry, blah,blah, blah. Screw that. Between the blueberry and the honey it'll sear up with a sweet crunchy bark and you want that. After five minutes, or whenever it releases easily, flip ‘em. After another five minutes, move to the indirect side, baste with some of the dressing, and close the lid. When the internal temperature hits 155(ish) pull ‘em off and tent with foil. Food safety best practice is 165 degrees. If you pull chicken off at 155(ish) and tent it, it will keep cooking right up to that 165 mark, the juices will redistribute evenly across the meat and it won't dry out.
For the onion, peach, and nectarine, you don't want to grill it long. You want to sear the hell out of the flesh side of the peach and nectarine and get some grill marks on the onion. But you don't want to bake ‘em. Or stew them. Slap the fruit, flesh side down over the hot part of the grill. Put the onion down as well. After two minutes, tip the onion to another side (remember they're quartered). After another two minutes, remove them. When they've cooled enough to handle (which takes like two minutes) slice them thin and throw them in with the salad. They should still be really firm, just a bit sweeter due to the grilling. By this time, the chicken should have finished the whole resting thing. Slice it and distribute across the salad. Plate stuff up before dressing. This salad will hold up fine in the fridge for a couple of days unless you dress the whole thing, which will make it soggy and gross. I found about a tablespoon of dressing per plated salad works but, again, do you. More or less, it's all good. Damn thing tasted really good. And I haven't craved ice cream.