When I can't think of anything to plan for dinner, this salad is our standby. It's quick to put together, super healthy with tons of good vegetables and it tastes yummy! Seriously, we eat this one about every other week.
I usually use grilled chicken, because it's faster, but when I have time, fried chicken strips are a real treat. This week, I had the time, and some buttermilk in the refrigerator that needed to be used. That combination lent itself to the crispy chicken tenders atop this salad.
Early in the day, I pounded out some boneless chicken breasts, gave them a good sprinkling of salt, cut them into strips and dropped them into buttermilk in a ziplock bag. Chicken breasts can tend to be on the dry side when cooked, and benefit from some kind of marinade or brine. Buttermilk works wonders. I left this in the refrigerator all day, and removed it about an hour before cooking, to bring the meat to room temperature.
If you are using grilled chicken, you can mix up this easy marinade - a little soy sauce, vegetable oil or a drop or two of sesame oil (go easy here, it's very strong), rice wine vinegar and if you have it, some fresh grated ginger. I'm giving you no measurements, because literally, I just open the jars and dump a little in. I don't think you can mess this up. You just need enough liquid to cover the chicken. If you don't feel like the marinade, just salt and pepper. And do all of this after breakfast so it has time to do it's magic. If you forget, fifteen minutes is better than nothing.
At some point, you will be ready to chop all the veggies in a big bowl. You can use whatever salad greens you have. Today I had spinach, iceberg lettuce, napa cabbage and red cabbage. This made a nice blend, but other than spring mix (which I think is a little to delicate), you can use any kind of lettuce. I do like some kind of cabbage blended in, because it gives the salad great crunch. I love the way napa cabbage shreds when you cut it and it has a milder flavor than regular cabbage. If you're feeling adventurous, give it a try.
After you have a nice big bowl of salad greens ready to go, then chop up some colorful veggies to add. My favorites are cucumber, red, yellow or orange peppers, broccoli, carrots and red or green onion. I've been told you can buy precut veggies in the store or from a salad bar, and if that's what you need to do, then do it. I personally enjoying chopping.
Look at these colors! Isn't this beautiful?
To prepare my chicken strips for frying, I put equal amounts of plain flour and Panko crumbs in a pie dish with some salt and pepper and mixed them together. I took the chicken from the buttermilk and dredged in this mixture before placing in hot oil in a skillet. Don't crowd the pan, and resist the temptation to turn them over constantly. Give them time to brown.
Since I was taking the time to fry these strips, I made extra (which is the way I normally cook). They reheat in a 350 degree oven to a nice crisp. This gave me lunch for another day, and plenty to share with a tired mama so she didn't have to cook dinner.
If you're grilling chicken, remove from marinade and put on grill. I use a grill pan inside during the cold months.
What about the dressing, you might be asking? For years, I made this salad and used the bottled ginger dressing from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Then I stumbled upon this copycat recipe from Applebees and have never looked back (or bought the store dressing).
In a small bowl mix, 1/2 cup mayonnaise (or 1/4 cup mayo and 1/4 cup plain yogurt), 3 T. rice wine vinegar, 6 T. honey or agave, 2 t. dijon mustard and 1/4. t. sesame oil. The sesame oil isn't optional. It's what makes this dressing asian. This can be made ahead.
Right before serving, drain some canned mandarin oranges, grab some nuts ( I like almonds), and something crispy for the top, like rice or chow mien noodles. Avocado slices are nice too! Then you're ready to assemble the salad. I dress each salad individually, because if we don't use all the salad greens, I want to be able to have them for another meal. Can't do that if they have dressing all over them!
As you read this, you might feel like this salad is too much work. I make it easier on myself by prepping as much as possible early in the day and then as the dinner hour is approaching, all I have to do is cook the chicken and put things on plates. But, if I haven't been that organized, this meal can still come together quickly. Put the chicken on the grill and while it cooks, mix your dressing and chop your salad. Keep an eye on the chicken so as not to overcook though. In less than thirty minutes, you'll have dinner on the table.