BLT Chicken Salad with Basil and Grilled Avocado

DSC_0001 This recipe is for my sister Kath, who said the world could use a new chicken salad recipe – specifically one with crunch that does not involve celery.   It’s a spin on all of those BLTs we ate growing up, and will hopefully remind you of summer during this seemingly endless deep freeze.  Crisp-cooked bacon will add that crunch you’re looking for!DSC_0010BLT Chicken Salad with Basil and Grilled Avocado

serves 6

  • 5 cups cooked, shredded chicken*
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • zest of a lemon
  • 3-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup packed basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, one finely minced, one peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (less if table salt)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 avocados (ripe but firm), halved lengthwise, pitted and peeled
  • 3 small tomatoes, cut into thick slices
  • 9 slices crisp-cooked bacon
  • 6 ciabatta rolls, split
  • Bibb or Romaine lettuce
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together mayo, lemon zest, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, basil, the minced garlic clove, kosher salt and pepper.  If mixture seems too thick, whisk in one more tablespoon lemon juice.  Add the cooked, shredded chicken and stir until thoroughly combined.  Taste for seasoning.
  2. Brush cut side of ciabatta halves, avocado halves, and tomato slices with olive oil.  Heat a grill pan to medium-high.  Place avocado halves flat side down on grill pan and leave undisturbed for a minute or two.  Flip and do the same on other side.  Remove from pan and cut into thick slices.
  3. Add tomato slices to grill pan and cook for a minute on each side or until tomatoes soften and begin to char.  Remove from pan.**
  4. Add ciabatta halves cut side down and grill until warm and lightly toasted.  Remove from pan and rub still-warm rolls on the cut side with garlic clove halves.
  5. If serving immediately, assemble sandwiches with the chicken salad, avocado, bacon (1 and 1/2 slices per sandwich) and tomatoes, adding lettuce if desired.  If making ahead, crumble the bacon slices, cut avocado and tomato slices into chunks, and stir into chicken salad.

*Roast chicken is in regular rotation at our home, and I often roast two at once.  There is plenty of room in the pan so why not?  This way I can serve one for dinner and shred the second for enchiladas, salads, barbecued chicken sandwiches, or a quick dinner of quesadillas.  Store-bought rotisserie chickens are a time saving alternative.

**Grilling or roasting winter tomatoes concentrates and sweetens their flavor, making them taste much more like summer tomatoes.  It is a worthwhile step!DSC_0005

First Harvest

veggies copyThe cold temperatures of spring and early summer gave our garden a very slow start.  Despite a 24′ x 8′ bed filled to the brim with plants and seedlings, we’ve only had lettuce and herbs to enjoy.  Until now!  Seemingly overnight, bright pink tops emerged at the base of radish greens, several teeny tiny green beans exploded into full size, and sweet banana peppers grew almost too big.  The ‘sun sugar’ yellow cherry tomato plant (one of eight varieties I planted) gave us our first tomatoes of the season, reminding us that a homegrown tomato is one of nature’s greatest delights.  And yes, I should have let the radishes grow a little longer, but I was itching to pull something out of the dirt!creamy basil avocado dressingI sliced up all of the veggies along with a handful of mixed fresh herbs, then tossed the salad with this Creamy Basil Avocado Dressing.  (I also drizzled some over grilled salmon, which was crazy good!)

Creamy Basil Avocado Dressing

makes 1 1/2 cups

  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno (seeds and membranes removed), chopped
  • 1 small ripe avocado, seeded and peeled
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until dressing is smooth and creamy.

recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

A special thank you to my son who patiently taught me how to add text to photos.  Extra allowance this week, Little Man!

Breakfast Bite: The Perfect Poached Egg

DSC_0794Hands-down the best way to have eggs, don’t you agree?  The best part is that it’s so fast and simple, but there are a few essential steps to achieving a plump white with a perfectly runny yolk rather than something resembling a Portuguese man-o-war with its egg-y tentacles floating around in the water.DSC_0806The Perfect Poached Egg

  1. The most important step: you must use the freshest eggs possible.  Egg whites thin as they age which is why older eggs spread all over the pan.  I bought the above organic eggs from the Alden Hills Farm stand at the Lake Bluff Farmers’ Market and they were beyond incredible.  Honestly, have you ever seen such deep golden yolks?
  2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add a splash of vinegar.  You will not taste it (scout’s honor!) and it will help keep the white in tact.
  3. Turn the heat down so your water is at a very low boil.  Crack your egg into a small bowl or ramekin, then gently ease it into the water.
  4. Three minutes.  Exactly three minutes!
  5. Remove egg from water with a slotted spoon and ease onto a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb the excess water.
  6. For extra yumminess, serve over a piece of toast with ripe, smashed avocado and a sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.DSC_0793

Strawberry Avocado Salad with Fennel and Mint

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If you’ve been craving bright, fresh, seasonal ingredients that taste like Spring, I have the perfect salad for you.  Sweet strawberries, creamy avocado and crisp shaved fennel are layered on delicate bibb lettuce leaves and dressed with a lime-ginger-mint vinaigrette.  Finished with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of sea salt, this salad makes a light, satisfying lunch or delightful first course for a Spring inspired menu.

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Strawberry Avocado Salad with Fennel and Mint

serves four

  • 1/3 cup grapeseed or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey, plus more for drizzle (replace honey with 2 teaspoons agave if making vegan)
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
  • 1 head Bibb lettuce, leaves torn into large pieces
  • 1 small fennel bulb, fronds removed and shaved thin with a knife or on a mandolin
  • 2 avocados, halved and sliced thin
  • 8 ounces fresh strawberries, sliced
  1. Whisk oil, lime juice, honey, ginger, shallot and mint together in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Layer fennel, strawberries and avocado on lettuce leaves on four plates and dress with vinaigrette.  Drizzle each salad with honey and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.  Garnish with fresh mint.

DSC_0405recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante