Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Indian Summer

Santa Barbara is holding onto Indian Summer like it's its job. No complaints here. Usually Summer isn't all that in SB, but this year has been exceptional. Not much "June Gloom" or "Fogust" to complain about. September was spectacular with many pool and beach days, and October isn't showing any signs of weakening with temps still in the 80s—which seems to match the atrocious $5.00 per gallon gas price, which is equally abnormally high even for California. Until Fall decides to show up, there will be no stews, roasts or comfort dishes being cooked. No, right now it's all about grilling and salads and staying out of the hot kitchen. 

This is one of my warm weather dishes that's been on heavy rotation for the past few months. Having said that, it can definitely be replicated indoors—and should be. It's delicious, nourishing, a snap to make, and healthy (if that's a driving factor for you). I should also mentioned that it's good for the lazy cook, which I would label myself as. Although I love to cook, I hate cleaning an excessive number of pots, I avoid the food processor because it has too many pieces to assemble (and clean—see previous point), I still question if anyone really needs a food scale, and I avoid any recipe citing ingredients in metrics. So if you like the kind of dish you can eye-ball the ingredients, throw them into a blender, toss into a bowl and have people rave, then this is your kind of recipe. 

Seriously, you basically just take the core ingredients of gazpacho and blend it up to make a delicious and thick dressing. 

You toss it with some lettuce, toasted almonds, avocado and grilled or sauteed chicken. That's it. You're money. So whether it's too hot to cook in the kitchen or you're looking for a fresh and tasty dish to brighten a rainy fall day, try this out. It will feel like Summer to you, regardless of if you're wearing flip-flops or a chunky sweater. 

Grilled Chicken Salad with Gazpacho Dressing
from Food Network Magazine

1 lb chicken tenders
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 slices of crusty bread
1 clove garlic, halved
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine or sherry vinegar
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1 cup cherry tomates, quartered
1 cup fresh parsley
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
8 cups arugula (about 8 oz)
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1. Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium heat and lightly coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. [Note: If I have my act together I will marinade the chicken in Italian dressing or equivalent for a few hours ahead of time.] Grill until well marked and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes depending on thickness. Transfer to a plate. Add the bread to the pan and grill until toasted, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and rub with garlic halves. 
2. To make the dressing, puree the olive oil, vinegar, 2 Tbsp water, half of the cucumber, tomatoes, parsley and almonds, 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper to taste in a blender until smooth. 
3. Cut the chicken in strips. Tear the bread into bite-sized pieces. Combine the arugula, chickpeas, chicken, bread, and the remaining cucumber, tomatoes, parsley, and almonds in a large bowl. Add half the dressing, season with salt and pepper and toss. Divide among shallow bowls. Drizzle with the remaining dressing. 
Serves: 4

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