What color is your chicken salad? The option-happy dish enjoys year-round rotation but seems to come into its own in warm weather. With the right combination of ingredients – starting, say, with a rotisserie bird – you can skip cooking altogether.
Avoiding mayonnaise these days? Greek yogurt or mashed avocado can stand in as a creamy component, or you can go the vinaigrette route.
Is crunch a must-have? Besides the stalwart celery, a world of nuts and radishes and greens is at your disposal. Natural sweetness can play off any tang or tartness once you include grapes, mango, dried fruit or a touch of honey.
You’ve got your favorites. Still, you might be able to find a few more in this new batch. Note to curious vegetarians: There’s something here for you, too.
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Chicken salad for the ladies
Serves 5 or 6
Adapted from “The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/Park Avenue Potluck: Recipes From New York’s Savviest Hostesses,” by Florence Fabricant (Rizzoli).
As the recipe’s author explains, “the ladies” played tennis together and lunched on this at their end-of-season social.
Make ahead: The salad can be made and refrigerated a day in advance. Taste, and season as needed (with salt and pepper) before serving.
5 cups cooked chicken, preferably white meat, cut into bite-size pieces
3/4 cup chopped scallions
1 cup diced mango flesh (1 large mango)
1/3 cup Major Grey’s mango chutney
1/4 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise (do not use nonfat)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups plain, whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup roasted, salted peanuts, lightly crushed, for garnish (optional)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)
Combine the chicken, scallions, mango, chutney, mayonnaise, lemon juice, yogurt and soy sauce in a serving bowl; stir to blend well.
Just before serving, garnish with the peanuts and cilantro, if desired.
Per serving (based on 6, using low-fat mayonnaise): 340 calories, 42 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 105 mg cholesterol, 450 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 15 g sugar
Grilled chicken curry salad
Serves 4 or 5
By combining the curry powder with lemon juice and zest in the marinade, you avoid that the gritty, over-seasoned effect of old-school curried chicken salad. The dressing is more yogurt than mayonnaise, and the flavors of the grilled chicken and the apple shine through.
This salad can serve as an entree on its own, or it can be used in sandwiches or to top grilled naan for a fusion version of bruschetta.
Make ahead: The chicken needs to marinate for 30 minutes (at room temperature) or up to 2 hours (in the refrigerator).
Recipe from Stephanie Witt Sedgwick for The Washington Post.
1 teaspoon mild curry powder, or more to taste
Finely grated zest and fresh juice of 1 large lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound thinly sliced chicken breast cutlets
1/3 cup nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons regular or low-fat mayonnaise
1 large sweet and crunchy apple, cored and cut into 1-inch matchsticks
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
Combine the curry powder, lemon zest and juice, and oil in a zip-top bag. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then add the chicken cutlets.
Seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible; massage to coat the chicken completely. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, or refrigerate for 2 hours.
Prepare the grill for direct heat:
If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (400 degrees) with the lid closed. If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly over the cooking area.
For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 4 to 6 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Brush the grill grate.
Place the marinated chicken cutlets on the grill. Close the lid and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the chicken has good grill marks and is almost cooked through. Turn the cutlets over, close the lid and cook until the cutlets are done throughout, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool for 15 minutes.
Slice each cutlet into 11/2-inch-long strips, each a generous 1/4-inch thick.
Whisk together the yogurt and mayonnaise in a large bowl; season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the sliced chicken, apple and cilantro, stirring to incorporate.
Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Per serving (based on 5, using nonfat yogurt and low-fat mayonnaise): 140 calories, 22 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar
Potato and chicken salad with salsa verde
Make ahead: The salsa verde can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Adapted from “No Time to Cook: Fresh and Easy Recipes for a Fast Forward World,” by Donna Hay (Hardie Grant).
For the salsa verde:
1 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed dill sprigs
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly cracked black pepper
For the salad:
6 fingerling potatoes
1 sprig mint
2 cooked chicken breast halves, cut into thick strips or shredded
1 tablespoon capers (preferably salt-packed), rinsed and drained
2 ounces baby arugula leaves
For the salsa verde: Combine the parsley, mint, dill, oil, mustard, lemon juice and pepper in a food processor; pulse just until coarsely chopped.
For the salad: Combine potatoes, the sprig of mint and a generous pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Add enough cool water to cover by at least 1 inch, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 15 minutes or until potatoes are just tender enough to pierce with a sharp knife.
Drain; cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and return them to the (empty) saucepan over low heat, along with the chicken and capers. Toss to incorporate and cook just long enough to warm everything through. Turn off the heat.
Add the salsa verde to the saucepan and toss gently to coat.
Divide the arugula between plates. Top with the dressed salad. Serve right away.
Per serving: 490 calories, 32 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 31 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar
Pecan chicken salad
A classic combination of pecans, celery and grapes.
Make ahead: Refrigerate the chicken salad for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days before serving. Adapted from “The New Basics Cookbook,” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (Workman, 1989).
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, patted dry
3 cups no-salt-added chicken broth, heated to almost boiling
1 pound seedless green grapes, some cut in half
11/2 cups pecan halves, toasted (see note)
1 cup diced celery
1 cup chopped fresh dill, plus a few sprigs for garnish
1 cup regular or low-fat sour cream (do not use nonfat)
11/4 cups regular or low-fat mayonnaise (do not use nonfat)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 bunches watercress (optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Arrange chicken breast halves in a single layer in a shallow baking dish, then pour in the broth. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper over the baking dish; bake for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Use tongs to transfer chicken to a plate to cool; discard the broth. Shred the chicken into bite-size pieces, placing them in a large mixing bowl as you work, and add grapes, pecans, celery and chopped dill; toss to incorporate.
Whisk together the sour cream and mayonnaise in a medium bowl, then scrape it into the bowl with the chicken. Toss to coat, then season well with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Arrange beds of watercress on individual plates, if desired; top with equal portions of the chicken salad. Garnish with sprigs of dill. Serve right away.
Note: Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet; toast at 325 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice, until the nuts are fragrant and lightly browned. Cool completely before using.
Per serving, 390 calories, 20g fat (3 g sat. fat), 85mg chol., 450mg sodium, 19g carb., 2g fiber, sugar 10g sugar, 34g protein.
Saffron chicken, lemon and green bean salad
Make ahead: The lemon can be poached and refrigerated up to 5 days in advance. The salad can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Adapted from “The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life,” by Ellie Krieger (Taunton Press).
1 lemon (preferably unwaxed), scrubbed well
11/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
Pinch saffron threads, crumbled
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
About 11/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (tenderloins removed), trimmed of visible fat
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon honey
Freshly ground black pepper
Use a fork to prick the lemon in 3 or 4 places. Place in a small saucepan along with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cover with water; bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 50 minutes or until quite tender. Drain and cool.
Meanwhile, whisk together the saffron, mint, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the oil and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a gallon-size plastic zip-top bag. Add the chicken and seal. Massage to coat; let it marinate (at room temperature) while you prep the beans.
Set up a steamer over a few inches of barely bubbling water (over medium heat). Place the beans inside; cover and steam for 4 minutes or until crisp-tender and a brighter shade of green. Cool, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces, transferring them to a mixing bowl as you work.
Grease a large skillet with cooking oil spray and place it over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the marinated chicken. (It’s OK if some marinade remains on the chicken; discard any remaining marinade.) Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, then turn the chicken over and cook on the second side for 6 to 8 minutes or as needed, until the chicken is cooked through and nicely browned. Cool, then cut into bite-size pieces, transferring them to the bowl of green beans.
Slice off and discard the ends of the lemon, then cut the fruit in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the flesh and pulp. Cut the remaining peel (with pith) into thin slices, then into 1/4-inch pieces, adding them to the bowl as you work. Add the thyme.
Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and the honey in a liquid measuring cup, then whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to form an emulsified dressing. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Pour the dressing over the lemon-chicken mixture and toss to incorporate. Serve at room temperature.
Per serving: 340 calories, 35 g protein, 17 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar
Tastes like chicken salad (vegetarian)
Serves 12 (makes 71/2 cups)
Make ahead: The sunflower seeds need to soak for 4 hours. The salad needs to rest (to blend flavors) for at least 30 minutes before serving. It can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Adapted from “Cook for Your Life: Fresh, Delicious Recipes,” by Ian Thorpe (Hardie Grant).
For the salad:
3 cups roasted, unsalted hulled sunflower seeds
4 ribs celery, thinly sliced
3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons dried thyme
3 tablespoons dried sage
For the dressing:
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted macadamia nuts
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted cashews
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted Brazil nuts
1/4 cup coarse-grain mustard
6 cloves garlic, crushed
11/2 tablespoons fine sea salt
2 cups coconut water
11/4 cups fresh lemon juice (from 5 to 6 lemons)
For the salad: Put the sunflower seeds in a large bowl. Cover with cold water (by at least 1 inch); soak for 4 hours.
For the dressing: Combine the macadamia nuts, cashews, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, mustard, garlic and salt in a food processor or blender; process until smooth. With the motor running, gradually add the coconut water and lemon juice to form a creamy-looking dressing.
Drain the sunflower seeds and shake them dry. Wipe out the bowl they were soaking in, then return the dry seeds to the bowl along with the celery, scallions, oregano, thyme and sage.
Pour the dressing over the mixture and toss to incorporate. For best flavor, cover loosely and let the mixture rest for 30 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature.
Per serving: 370 calories, 10 g protein, 18 g carb., 31 g fat (4 g sat.), 0 mg chol., 980 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 4 g sugar