The heat and humidity make the thought of turning on the oven an evil prospect.
Still, you have to eat.
My go-to hot-weather meal starts with a cold rotisserie chicken. From that humble beginning, I can make a dozen salads to soothe the savage beasts. Or at least the hungry wolverines at the table. The subtle flavor of the chicken plays nicely with Asian, Latin and Greek ingredients, not to mention a myriad of herbs, vegetables, fruits and nuts.
I start with a chilled rotisserie chicken that’s often $1 less than when it’s hot. The cooked whole chicken can be purchased from under the lights and then chilled at home, but it’s one less step on a busy weeknight if I can buy it cold.
You can always cook a few extra pieces of chicken when you’re baking a bird, chill them and use those for cold salads. Cooked chicken will keep several days in the refrigerator. I recommend cooking breasts on the bone with skin rather than boneless, skinless breasts, which are more expensive and can taste as good as the foam container they’re packed in. I know: boneless, skinless breasts have become the go-to protein for dieters everywhere, but if you discard the skin and bones and blot the fat from whole cooked breasts, you’ll come out just about even.
A rotisserie chicken yields about 4 cups of meat, equal amounts of white and dark. That’s enough for a main-dish salad for four to six, depending on appetites. (Figure 2 cups of greens per person, too.) Some grocery stores sell rotisserie turkey breasts. Those also make good salads.
Make your own dressing or scour the grocery condiment aisles for interesting varieties to change up your usual fare. Vinegar-based dressings are more healthful than creamy, but you can find low- and nonfat versions of them.
Here are some ideas and recipes for a variety of chicken salads. Rub them in the nose of the wicked summer weather.
CHICKEN COBB SALAD: In a wide shallow bowl, place a mix of cold, chopped iceberg and Romaine lettuce. Arrange piles of sliced hard-boiled eggs, crumbled blue cheese, chopped tomatoes, crumbled turkey bacon, sliced avocado and scallions. Dress with light ranch.
WALDORF CHICKEN SALAD: Waldorf salad doesn’t have to be for Thanksgiving only. Traditionally, it’s chopped apples and celery mixed with toasted walnuts and dressed with a sweetened mayonnaise. Add sliced red grapes and cubed chicken to bulk it up for a hearty deskside work lunch. Make a dressing from mayonnaise mixed with a little honey.
TARRAGON CHICKEN SALAD IN LETTUCE CUPS: The licorice zing of fresh tarragon pairs well with chicken. For 4 cups of chicken, you’ll need about 1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon. Dress the salad with mayonnaise and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, then add some crunch in the form of sliced celery. Keep it simple or add halved grapes, dried cherries or chopped nuts. A few scoops in an ice-cold lettuce cup fancies it up for a meal.
HONEY CRANBERRY CHICKEN SALAD: Mix 4 cups cubed chicken with 1 cup dried cranberries, 3 chopped celery ribs and 1/2 cup toasted pecans. Make a dressing of 1-1/2 cups mayonnaise mixed with 1/3 cup honey and seasoned salt and pepper. Serve on a bed of lettuce.
CHICKEN SALAD WITH PEACHES AND GOAT CHEESE: Combine equal amounts of shredded or cubed chicken with fresh sliced peaches, plus slices of red onion to taste. Dress with a balsamic vinaigrette and dot with knobs of goat cheese, either plain or herbed.
CHICKEN PANZANELLA SALAD: Bread — such as focaccia, French or Italian — that’s past its prime (that means a bit stale) still has life in an Italian panzanella salad. Cube the bread and mix it with chopped tomatoes and basil plus sliced red pepper and red onion. Dress with a red wine vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. The liquid from the dressing and tomatoes will revive the bread. Before serving, mix in shredded chicken.
CHICKEN PASTA SALAD WITH GORGONZOLA AND NECTARINES: Cook a bag of whole-wheat fusilli pasta according to package directions. Drain, transfer to a bowl and dress immediately with balsamic vinaigrette. Bring to room temperature, then add 8 ounces of crumbled Gorgonzola, the shredded meat from an entire chicken, a pound of thinly sliced nectarines and a handful of torn basil leaves. Season with lots of ground pepper.
CHINESE CHICKEN NOODLE SALAD: Make a salad of shredded iceberg lettuce, torn mint leaves, sliced cucumbers and shredded carrots. Top with still-warm cooked vermicelli noodles and cold shredded chicken. Dress with a ginger vinaigrette (Annie’s makes one) or Girard’s Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing and garnish with chopped peanuts.
A dressing powered by orange juice, fresh mint and cilantro, cayenne pepper and cinnamon mingles with cooked rice (white or brown, your choice), chicken, shredded carrots and scallions in this refreshingly different salad. Can be served warm, cold or at room temperature. Its lack of mayonnaise makes it a great potluck or picnic offering.
Moroccan Chicken Salad
- 2 cups cooked rice
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
- 2 cups shredded carrots
- 1/4 cup sliced scallions
- 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
For the dressing:
- 1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Combine rice, chicken, carrots, scallions and olives in a large bowl. Whisk together broth, orange juice, lemon juice, mint, cilantro, oil, cinnamon, cayenne and salt and pepper to taste in another bowl. Toss dressing with rice mixture.
Makes 2 servings.
Recipe from: Eating Well
The salad fixings aren’t special in this salad — lettuce, corn, black beans, chicken, Jack cheese, avocado. It’s the dressing that provides the pow. Among the ingredients are honey, lime juice, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and fresh cilantro. Serve with flour tortillas.
Tex-Mex Chicken Salad with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette
For the vinaigrette:
- 1/3 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 to 2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup extra-light olive oil or canola oil
- 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
For the salad:
- 1 whole rotisserie chicken, shredded
- 1 pound mixed baby greens
- 1 (15-ounce) can corn, rinsed and drained
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 2 avocados, diced
- 1/2 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper
- 2 cups grated Jack cheese
To make the dressing, in a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the vinegar, lime juice, garlic, chipotle chilies, honey, and salt and process until thoroughly combined and smooth. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil (or canola oil) in a thin, steady stream to form an emulsion. Add the cilantro and pulse or process to combine.
In a large bowl, add mixed greens and top with corn, beans, tomatoes, avocados, red pepper and cheese. Now add the chicken. Add dressing and toss.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Recipe from: Food.com
Israeli couscous is a large, pearl-like pasta made of semolina flour. It’s a cousin of the much smaller-granule couscous that we are more familiar with. Israeli couscous can be toasted before using, which gives it a nutty taste. For this salad, it adds body and soaks up the flavors from kalamata olives and capers.
Israeli Couscous Chicken Salad with Olive Vinaigrette
- 1 cup uncooked Israeli couscous
- 1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped capers
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3 cups cubed or shredded chicken
Cook couscous according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Combine olives and next 7 ingredients (olives through garlic) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add couscous to olive mixture; toss gently to coat. Stir in chicken just before serving.
Makes 4 lunch-size servings.
Recipe from: Cooking Light
Fresh cilantro, cashews and shredded cabbage bring a host of flavors and textures to this salad. The recipe calls for a homemade vinaigrette, which is simple to put together.
Asian Chicken Salad
For the dressing:
- 2 cups fresh cilantro leaves and soft stems
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
For the salad:
- 1 rotisserie chicken (about 2-1/2 pounds), skin and bones removed, meat shredded (about 4 cups)
- 1/4 medium red cabbage (8 ounces), cored and thinly sliced crosswise
- 1 red bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), thinly sliced
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 large head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
- 1/2 cup cashews
Make dressing: In a blender, combine cilantro, lime juice and oil; season with salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
In a large bowl, combine chicken, cabbage, bell pepper and scallions; season with salt and pepper. In another large bowl, toss lettuce with 1/2 cup dressing. Divide among four bowls, and top with chicken mixture. Drizzle all with remaining dressing, and sprinkle with cashews.
Makes 4 servings.
Recipe from: Martha Stewart