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Ali’s Summer Salad

My daughter Ali is an enthusiastic, aproned artist in the kitchen, and is all about putting love on the table. She called the other day to say that while at play she’d created a salad she thought I’d like. I’ve been impatiently waiting for my appetite to return because (even while sick) the sounds of this salad set off sweet harmonies and the songs of birds in my head! : )  Last night I was finally able to make it, and once again, the birds did sing!

Ali’s Champange Summer Salad with Chicken, Peaches and Avocado

(serves 4 generously)

Salad Ingredients

  • 2 quarts (8 cups) salad greens – (a salad mix, with some of the spicier, more peppery greens is great – or arugula)
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cooked and sliced (see preparation options below)
  • 2 firm-ripe peaches, medium-thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, cut in chunks or thinly sliced
  • 5 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (optional)
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons Lemon Verbena minced (very optional, but wonderful if you have it)

Champagne Vinaigrette Ingredients

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1-1/2 cups canola oil

Options for the Chicken

  1. Quick & Easy – Preheat oven to 350°F. Place breasts on rimmed cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper for easy cleanup. Brush both sides of chicken with olive oil and generously sprinkle with coarse salt and a little pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes (depending on size and thickness, or until chicken registers 160°F on and instant-read thermometer.) Allow chicken to cool to room temperature. Just before combining with other ingredients, slice diagonally across the grain in 1/2-inch slices.
  2. Slow & Scrumptious – Marinating the chicken before cooking using the following marinade (good also for shrimp or any white fish) and then preparing in the oven or on the grill will add more juicy flavor to your chicken.

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 t. dijon mustard
1 shallot, minced
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1 t. kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Combine all marinade ingredients in a gallon-size zipped plastic bag. Pound chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic until uniform thickness, around 1/2-inch. Marinate refrigerated for 4 to 24 hours. (Even after several hours, there is plenty of good flavor.) Grill or cook using any method you prefer until internal temperature reaches 160°F. (See #1.)

Champagne Vinaigrette

This makes a LOT of dressing, and you certainly won’t need it all for this salad. But it IS very delicious and if you look, you’ll have no trouble finding other places to use it during the next week or so. (Virtually any combination of greens and fresh summer fruits would likely do very well dressed in this. That being said, you could easily halve this recipe and still have leftovers.) This could well be a dressing you’ll go to again and again. ( It can keep quite well for a week or so refrigerated.)

In a medium bowl combine all ingredients except the oil. Using a whisk, gradually add the oil in a thin, steady stream until creamy.

The Salad

To assemble the salad, combine the greens, (and lemon verbena if using), peaches, avocado and chicken in a large bowl. Add enough dressing to lightly coat the salad. Crumble goat cheese over all and scatter with toasted pepitas (if using.) Place additional dressing in a small pitcher at the table.

The Endless Possibilities

How about blueberries, or plums, or apricots, or raspberries? Or various combinations? How about a piece of grilled white fish in place of the chicken? Or fresh-steamed crab legs? Doesn’t it set your wheels to turning? I love that about a good salad!

A note on the Lemon Verbena. I had planted it  in my herb garden for the first time this year. I knew I’d use it in iced-tea and I had some sweet things in mind for it – ice-cream being one. Cutting some for my tea last night, I thought I’d try a little in the salad. It added a lovely lemony fragrance, without the tart, and a hint of herbal/lemony flavor. I’d do it again – but this salad is delicious, refreshing, and healthy just as it is.

Thank you dear girl for the wonderful contribution!

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ali #

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. It really is so good. Would love to know what other creative changes people find work with the salad. It certainly provides a springboard. We’ve been using this recipe for the champagne vinaigrette for years from a Nordstrom cookbook. Last I checked, they sold this dressing in the bottle at their cafes, though it never seems to taste as good as when we mix it up ourselves. It really is the quintessential summer dressing. Trader Joes Vanilla Blueberry Goat Cheese and dried blueberries is another excellent twist. Salad for dessert anyone?! The kids adore this salad and so does their mother!

    July 24, 2011
  2. Don #

    Nummy Ali. Loved the roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) crown!

    August 1, 2011

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