If a salad is going to be the centerpiece of a meal, it needs to be hearty enough to carry off its obligations without being overly filling. With cornbread served on the side, this grilled chicken salad is a satisfying and flavorful entree. Pesto sauce, used here in the marinade and dressing, is a natural, and each vegetable -- particularly the crunchy jicama -- adds a different texture.
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup prepared pesto
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 3 medium (12 to 15 ounces) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- 2 heads romaine lettuce (tough outer leaves removed), torn into bite-size pieces
- 3 medium carrots, shredded
- 1/2 pound jicama, cut into julienne (very thin slices)
- 1/4 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced or cut into wedges
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted*
In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, oil and pesto and stir to mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place the chicken breast halves in a resealable plastic food storage bag and pour in 1/4 cup of the pesto sauce mixture, reserving the rest for the salad dressing. Turn to coat and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (or up to 4 hours).
Meanwhile, place the lettuce in a large serving bowl. Add the carrots, jicama, mushrooms and tomatoes and toss gently.
When ready to cook, prepare the grill. If using a gas grill, preheat the grill to medium. If using a charcoal grill, start the charcoal or wood briquettes. When the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly under the cooking area for direct heat. Oil the grate. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and grill about 3 inches from the heat until opaque throughout, 6 to 8 minutes per side, depending on the thickness. Transfer to a carving board and cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices.
Place the warm chicken strips on top of the salad. Add just enough of the reserved dressing to moisten the salad and toss gently. Scatter the pine nuts on top. Serve immediately, and pass the remaining dressing at the table.
This recipe was such a popular entry in Diane Rossen Worthington's 1994 "The California Cook" that she included it in "The New California Cook" (Chronicle Books, 2006, $22.95).
Tested by Marcia Kramer.
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