ChickenSalad

Lemon Chicken Salad - may 6, 2010

 To come clean, lemon chicken salad makes our dinner sound more special than it actually was. Ina Garten's recipe in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook calls for grilled lemon chicken, which I'm sure is delicious, but was just not in the cards tonight. I used the remainder of our roast chicken from earlier this week, and while slicing it up, marinating it and then cooking it again on the grill was enticing, it was also too ridiculous. 

Instead I made the dressing (it contains lemon - and so justifies the name), tossed the chicken in it, added  some peas, snap peas, lettuce and sliced red pepper. Hooray - easy! And the most amazing thing?  My semi-vegetablephobe daughter cleared her plate. Lettuce with vinaigrette, chicken, toast, those are easy things. But red pepper and cooked peas? Never! Until tonight, when after four years and ten months of withholding dessert unless she eats the rest of dinner, my ploy worked. All for two stale Girl Scout shortbread cookies (what are those called? Samovars?). Unbelievable.

My son, on the other hand, wouldn't touch it. But that's fine with me. I'm sure he'll love the next thing his sister hates, it just seems to work like that. And he'll surely gobble down breakfast tomorrow.

I'm not terribly familiar with Ina Garten, my friend Rosanna gave me her cookbook as a gift a couple years back, and from time to time I'll make something from it. Lots of tasty salads, beautiful desserts I haven't tried (its so hard to put in all that effort when my kids won't get any, which meansI have to eat half of the thing myself). She has a show on the food network, but, I have to own up, I don't watch the food network. I'm sure that if I did, I would never actually do anything. According to her Wikipedia Bio, she is a former White House nuclear policy analyst. That is very interesting. Does this influence her cooking? Does she make funny political references on TV? Will someone just tell me so I don't have to watch it myself?

For dessert, strawberries. And stale cookies, for those who finished the meal. These strawberries arrived in our Frog Hollow CSA box, following closely on the heels of strawberries from our Eatwell Farm CSA box, which followed the flat we bought for my son's birthday party from the UCSF Wednesday Farmer's Market. And now there are some in the garden!

Life is good when we have abundant strawberries, and production should be ramping up over the next month or two. We picked our first ripe-ish strawberry from our garden today. It was not, sadly, the beauty I mentioned earlier in the week. That wonderful, perfectly shaped, rosy red glowing first berry of the 2010 garden disappeared. Completely. The entire thing. I fear it it was a raccoon, but hopefully one of the tree pruners who visited us that morning ate it. I really don't want to be battling raccoons for my strawberries. That sounds like a losing battle. 

This morning we also tried some little tiny white berries that are growing on our largest plant, which we bought last summer at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market. It is an alpine strawberry plant, and I thought that meant it grew tiny red berries, but it seems they are tiny white berries. For weeks these berries have been dangling seductively, each about the size of the tip of my pinky finger, not changing in color or size. Not even a blush of pink. This is the plant that for a while seemed to be raising its own colony of fruit flies. And finally, this afternoon, I clued in. 

We tried the berries, and the kids loved them, but I'm not sure why. Maybe they stayed on the plant too long. Maybe our sandy soil (do I dare even call it soil?) needs more compost. To me they were strawberry flavored, but not terribly sweet - a little bit bitter. Now that I know, I won't wait around for the next batch of berries to turn red, we'll snatch them up right away. Maybe that will sweeten them up.

Lemon Chicken Salad: (adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)

leftover chicken (a breast and leg, or whatever you've got)

1 lemon

2-3  Tablespoons olive oil

1 red bell pepper, sliced

lettuce, cut into approximately 2x1" pieces, washed and dried

1 cup sugar snap peas, shelling peas (shelled) or a combination

salt and pepper

First of all, make the dressing. Squeeze the lemon into a measuring cup, then, holding your spoon over a jar with a lid (but off, right now), pour the lemon juice into the spoon then dump it in the jar, to measure the amount. After putting all the lemon juice in the bowl, add an equal number of Tablespoons of olive oil. Add salt and pepper until it tastes good to you, I like about 1/2 teaspoon of each. Put the lid on the jar, shake it up, and set aside.

Slice the chicken meat into small strips - about 2" by 1/2". put them into a small bowl, then dump half the dressing on top and stir it around. Let that sit while you chop and wash the lettuce and wash the peas. While you're washing, put a small pot with about an inch of water in the bottom on to boil. When it is boiling, add the peas. If you have a combination of snap peas and shelled peas, add the shelled peas first, then the snaps after about five minutes. Let it cook for another three minutes, then pour them out into a colander in the sink and then into a bowl full of cold water to stop the cooking process. After a few minutes drain them into the colander. Shake as much water as you can off the peas, then get out a really big bowl. Put in the lettuce, peas, peppers and chicken - pour it in to get all the dressing. Toss it with tongs, then, if more dressing is needed, add some and toss again. Serve immediately, and grate some fresh pepper over the top.

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