Ok, I have a question for y’all. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Pizza? Sandwiches? Believe it or not, as much as I love indulging in chocolate, bacon, and fried things, my favorite thing to eat, is a well composed salad. Call me weird (cause I am, and I’ve made peace with that), but if it’s got some crunch, and tang, and a soft salty cheese, I could eat it all day. When I worked at The Cutting Board Cafe all those years ago, I ordered a lot of salads with grilled chicken on top. Mmmm…there was something about that warm chicken breast charred and then cut into cubes that absolutely perfected the salad.
A few friends would joke about how entertaining it was to watch me actually eat, because I would go at it like a ravaging rabid rabbit. I’d take my fork and stab hazardously around the salad bowl, trying to get a little piece of everything in each bite. Those bites always end up being big, so I’d open up my mouth, unhinged like a snake, and pack it all in. It’s about as graceless as it sounds. Probably why it was entertaining to watch, like a train wreck, you just couldn’t look away.
I’ve since become a bit more dignified, and when I’m in public, I’m more delicate with my salads or what have you, but if I’m at home, and there is no one to impress, I go at it and live in my salad heaven, vinaigrette dripping down my chin and all.
I thought a salad would be the perfect thing to share with you all since the weather is getting warmer, and the produce is getting cheaper. I love summer salad season! And my Caribbean inspired salad, is light, healthy, easy and filling. And as an added bonus, it’s glutton free and dairy free for those of you who don’t fair so well with that kind of thing. When you make it, enjoy a bite for me will you? It’s just so darn tasty.
Caribbean Inspired Chopped Salad
2 medium boneless skinless chicken breasts
juice and zest 2 large oranges
juice and zest 6 limes, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tsp cumin
3 tsp salt, divided
1-2 1/2 tsp black pepper, divided
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 cup cilantro, chopped, divided
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 cup black beans
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 scallions, sliced
2 ripe mangos, diced
2 heads romaine lettuce, cut in half length wise, and chopped into 1/2” ribbons
To make the marinade, combined orange juice and zest, garlic, jalapeno, oregano, paprika, cumin, 2 teaspoons salt, 1-2 teaspoons pepper (I like mine peppery) and juice and zest of 3 limes in a small bowl. Whisk together until combined.
Butterfly your chicken. You do this by cutting your chicken breast in half horizontally. Here’s a tutorial on how to do that. Place chicken in a shallow baking dish, or zip lock bag, and pour the marinade over the chicken. Marinate 1-24 hours. If marinating for more than an hour, place in the fridge until you’re ready to cook it.
For the dressing, In a small mason jar, pour olive oil, honey, cilantro, coriander, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and juice and zest of limes. Place the lid on, and shake until emulsified. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. Can be made up to 2 days ahead.
Toss mangos, black beans, bell peppers, scallions, and 1/4 cup cilantro in a large bowl with the lettuce. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.
Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Remove chicken from marinade while oil is heating, scraping off any garlic or jalapeño that may be sticking to the chicken breasts. Place chicken in the hot oil, and brown, 3-4 minutes. Then flip and brown on the other side. If the chicken breast is not cooked through, place the skillet in the oven at 375 for 5 mintues, or until a meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of 165 F.
Remove from the oven and allow the chicken to rest for 3 or 4 mintues. Dice the chicken, add to salad mixture. Pour vinaigrette over salad (you probably won’t use ALL of it) and toss until the contents are all coated with some citrus cilantro love.