Welcome to summer. It is time for vacations and day trips and spending fun days outside. Admit it or not, we all cook and eat seasonally and now is the time for salads, grilling and lots of veggies. Oh, and cold cocktails.
I had been longing for a big summer salad with grilled meat. Sound good?
Roxanne and I consulted with a seasoning company and each summer one of their focus recipes was a giant dinner salad. We also traveled a lot, and shared their recipes on television and taught lots of classes. Well, this last weekend, my husband and I took a weekend trip and leisurely explored Iowa—and it reminded me of the many business trips Roxanne and I had to Iowa. We taught classes at the State Fair, met lots of great people and always enjoyed a Dutch letter pastry. (And we always shared a pork tenderloin sandwich from our favorite spot at the fair—what fun and tasty memories!)
I think we featured a big, main dish salad of some kind at every one of those summer classes.
I was suddenly craving a big, summertime main dish salad. (Yes, it was after a weekend of big restaurant meals, but still, it is a good idea, right?) Grill some chicken and you are on the way to a great dinner. The farmers’ markets here and in Iowa are filled with the best lettuces and summer ripe tomatoes are just coming in. Then, add or subtract your favorites, what your family will eat and what is in season. I love to add fresh, thinly sliced radishes. (Hey—if they are on so many restaurant tacos, why not add them to this Southwest salad?) If you are feeding some kiddos, add tortilla chips and cheese. Add sliced hot or sweet peppers, grilled or fresh out of the garden, if you want. Grill some extra chicken and enjoy a salad another day or for lunch later in the week.
The recipe is kind of like a template that is awaiting your artistry!
Want some other main dish salad ideas? Some of our other favorites include Southwest Salmon Salad, Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad and Midwestern Cobb Salad. All of these are great main dish salads and would be perfect this time of year.
Any way you toss it, a main dish salad will be a great dinner, all summer long.
Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad
2 teaspoons smoked paprika or paprika (see tip below)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
¾ cup light or low fat ranch dressing
2 tablespoons salsa or picante sauce
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups torn lettuce mix
1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup frozen corn, thawed and drained
½ small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tomato, chopped
2 or 3 radishes, thinly sliced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
Stir together paprika, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Blend 2 teaspoons of the seasoning mixture into the ranch dressing. Stir in salsa; cover and refrigerate.
Pound chicken until even and about ½ inch thick. Place chicken in a zip top bag and drizzle with olive oil. Seal and massage bag to coat chicken evenly. Sprinkle chicken with remaining seasoning mixture. Seal bag and massage to coat evenly.
Preheat grill to medium or allow coals to burn down to white ash. Grill chicken about 4 to 5 minutes per side, turning to cook evenly, until meat thermometer inserted in the center registers 165°F. Remove to a board, cover chicken with aluminum foil and allow to rest 10 minutes.
In a large salad bowl, combine lettuce, black beans, corn, red onion, tomato and radishes.
Slice chicken thinly and add to salad. Garnish salad with avocado slices and minced cilantro.
Serve with dressing mixture.
Makes 4 servings.
Paprika is suddenly so much more than that red sprinkle on Grandma’s deviled eggs. Smoked or Spanish paprika is now readily available. Taste it and it is a little sweeter and more flavorful than standard paprika. That is a little more flavorful, but nowhere near the spiciness of Hot Hungarian paprika. It also adds just a touch of smoky flavor.
I know it is tempting to not pound the chicken—but trust me, it doesn’t save time in the long run. A thicker chicken breast takes longer to cook and it is hard to cook them through without over cooking the edges. Slip the uncooked chicken breast into a zip-top bag or cover with plastic wrap and pound with a meat pounder, or a heavy bottle or can, or a rolling pin.
Refrigerate the dressing mixture at least 30 minutes, or longer. When you first blend the seasonings into the dressing it will be a little grainy—and dissolves once it sits for a few minutes.