The farm stand apricots are looking especially good right now, and there's no reason to wait for the dessert course to try them. In this recipe, they sweeten the dressing and are a tart main component of a healthful, colorful salad. Choose small fruit with smooth skin, mellow orange in color, possibly with a red blush. Cut the apricots in half and the pits should almost come free on their own.
If you use an already-cooked chicken breast or leftover pork chops cut into strips, knock a few minutes off the prep time. The quinoa provides a nice whole-grain boost, but feel free to cook 8 ounces of a dried curly or knobby pasta, such as cavatappi, instead.
Serve with cornbread sticks or warmed flatbread.
- For the salad
- 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (5 to 6 ounces), pounded to an even thickness
- 6 small to medium apricots, halved and pitted
- 1 to 2 small zucchini, trimmed (8 ounces total)
- 1/2 large red bell pepper, stemmed and cored
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups packed salad greens
- For the dressing
- 2 medium apricots, pitted and cut into quarters
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 cup light olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped basil leaves
For the salad: Have ready a large rimmed baking sheet. Bring 5 cups of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat in a large saucepan.
Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and set the strainer over a large bowl. Rinse the grains with cool running water until the water that collects in the bowl is clear (you might have to empty the water in the bowl once or twice). Add the rinsed quinoa to the boiling water and reduce the heat to medium-high. Cook for 12 to-- minutes; taste a few grains for crunch (there should be a little) and check to make sure there is no white dot in the center. Drain and let sit in the colander for 2 minutes, then spread on the baking sheet to cool.
While the quinoa is cooking, poach the chicken breast: Place the chicken broth in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breast and cook for about 8 minutes or until just cooked through, then turn off the heat and cover the pot for a few minutes; transfer the chicken to a plate and shred when it is cool enough to handle. Strain the broth and reserve it for another use, if desired.
While the quinoa and chicken are cooling, slice the apricots, cut the zucchini into 1/2-inch dice and cut the red bell pepper into very thin strips (julienne). Toss the fruit, vegetables, cooled quinoa and shredded chicken in a large mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
For the dressing: Combine the apricots, vinegar and sugar in blender; pulse to mix well. With the motor running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream to form a thick, smooth emulsion. Adjust seasoning as necessary; add a little water if the dressing is too thick. With the motor off, add the basil and mix to combine. Pour three-quarters of the dressing into the apricot-quinoa-chicken mixture and toss lightly to combine.
To serve, divide the salad greens among individual plates and lightly drizzle with the remaining dressing. Spoon the apricot-chicken-quinoa mixture on top of the greens. Serve immediately.
Adapted from the California Apricot Council and Lorna Sass's "Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way" (Clarkson Potter, 2006).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.