Thursday, February 23, 2012

Grilled Fig & Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese, Walnuts, and Honey-Tarragon Vinaigrette

One of my favorite things about making a meal is surprising my husband with something he hasn't always loved (beans, salad, etc) and making it awesome!  He recently declared that he was so glad that he married me and (thereby) discovered that beans are delicious.  Victory!  Last night I made a richly-spiced dish of cannellini+kidney bean and roasted bell pepper enchiladas with a guacamole side salad over spinach, garnished with homemade, baked tortilla strips... I didn't have time to snap a picture before we dove in, so I'll wait to post that one till next time when I have a photo.  But suffice it to say that the 100% vegetarian meal gained the hubs' approval.  Score.  Enough about beans...

All day today I was craving a salad.  (It's summer here in the southern hemisphere: prime salad-craving season).  But if I want to make a salad for dinner it's got to be one that will also satisfy the appetite of my fellow diner (the one who has a history of distaste for beans and salad).  I had bought some ripe figs on sale a couple of days ago, and they were just about past their prime.  So on the way home I grabbed some greens and a little block of blue cheese to whip up a dinner-worthy salad.  We barely brushed a little soy sauce over the split figs, coated some butterflied chicken breasts in a splash of soy and a squeeze of honey, threw those on the barbie (grill), and I whisked up a little vinaigrette with some things from our pantry and little balcony herb garden.  The resulting salad was just what I had in mind: fresh greens, grilled fruit and lean meat, creamy blue cheese and walnuts, finished with a peppery sweet tang.  And we both enjoyed it!
Southern Spoon Blog: grilled fig and chicken salad with blue cheese, walnuts, and honey-tarragon vinaigrette
grilled figs and chicken + blue cheese and walnuts
I don't prefer drowning salads in dressing, so the dressing amount made is just enough to splash a little flavor onto the greens.  If you'd like a more generous drizzle, increase the ingredients for the vinaigrette to 4 tablespoons rice bran or extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons honey, 4 teaspoons white vinegar, a generous squeeze of lemon or lime juice, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon (or other mild garden herb).

Whether it's warm or cold where you are, this salad will brighten things up and fill you up, too.

Grilled Fig & Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese, Walnuts, and Honey-Tarragon Vinaigrette
2 hearty main servings, or 4-5 first course servings

3 cups mild lettuce greens, washed and roughly torn (I used green oak lettuce)
1 cup fresh baby spinach, washed
5 fresh, ripe figs, rinsed and tops trimmed
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided (make sure it's gluten-free if cooking g-f)
2 tablespoons honey, divided
2 tablespoons rice bran oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
2 teaspoons white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice (about 1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon (other mild, fresh herbs would work here, such as marjoram)
scant 1/4 cup coursely crumbled blue cheese
2-3 tablespoons coursely chopped walnuts
ground sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Fire up the barbeque to medium heat.  Combine the lettuce and spinach leaves, and divide evenly onto two large dinner plates (or four salad plates); set aside.

Split the figs in half lengthwise, and brush just a bit of the soy sauce over the outside and inside of the fruit; set aside. Butterfly the chicken breasts and slice all the way through to make four thin portions.  Toss the chicken with the remaining soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of honey.

Place the chicken on the grill and cook for about 8-12 minutes, flipping when necessary, until chicken is still tender but no longer pink in the center.  (I've given a big window of time here because cooking time will depend on your barbeque).  Watch closely at the beginning to ensure that you turn the chicken before it burns.  The soy and honey will brown a bit, which is fine.  Place the figs on the grill, flesh side down, and cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Flip over to the skin side and cook about 2-3 minutes longer, until soft and slightly browned.

While the chicken is cooking, combine the rice bran oil (or extra virgin olive oil), remaining one tablespoon honey, the vinegar, squeeze of lime or lemon juice, and the tarragon.  Season with just a little salt and a generous grinding of pepper.  Whisk thoroughly, and sprinkle evenly over the plated salad greens.  Sprinkle the walnuts and crumbled blue cheese evenly over the salads, and top each salad with a tiny pinch of salt and more ground pepper.

Remove the chicken and figs from the grill when done.  Slice the chicken across the grain into thin strips. Arrange the chicken strips across the center of each salad, then arrange the figs evenly around the edge of each salad.

Serve immediately with a warm baguette or fresh loaf of wholegrain bread.

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