Friday, June 22, 2012

Inspired: A Delicious Dinner Salad

Every now and then, we all have that moment where our minds are just bursting with creative ideas. For me, that tends to happen in the kitchen because I am simply not the artsy type. Food, if you will, is my canvas.

Ok, I’ll leave the lame metaphors there. Because my creative food endeavors are not my point here. My point is, more often than not, we foodies need to be inspired by others and cannot always rely on our little brains to think up something delicious. Cooking has been a part of mankind’s everyday life since…well, a whole lot of years ago. People have tried and failed and tried again and succeeded in the kitchen – why not learn from the mistakes and conquests of others when it comes to our bellies?!

I have always been of the belief that recipes are out there to help jump-start our creative juices. Save for baking, they are really more like guidelines and suggestions and tips. As I have tried different meals and techniques, I find myself becoming inclined to try my luck cooking different dishes I have out at restaurants in my home kitchen.

And why not?! If we have a meal that is so memorable we want to recreate on our own, it must have been a delight!

Pretty much everything I have eaten at Parish CafĂ© on Boylston Street has been amazing. I absolutely love this place – lunch, dinner, anytime of day I could eat their food. Their sandwich menu is a compilation of great sandwiches from chefs at other restaurants throughout Boston, and they also have entrees from their chefs. Some of the sandwiches are too amazing and complex to recreate, though I don’t mind the excuse of needing to go to Parish to have one.

However, a few months ago I had the Hot and Cold Chicken Salad (a Parish-original) and enjoyed it so much that I started thinking about how I could recreate it at home. It is a sweet and sour salad with warm chicken and rice alongside cool, crisp veggies and sweet caramelized almonds. The dressing is a delightful teriyaki vinaigrette.  I made a few adjustments to account for things I had around the house. Overall, it was truly reminiscent of this excellent entree salad. Give it a try, and if you like what you have here then head on over to Parish Cafe for the original!

Here's what you need:

1 head romaine lettuce
3 handfuls of arugula (I was really arbitrary with the measurements -- apologies in advance!)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup sugar snap peas
1 fruit cup of mandarin oranges, drained of the juice
2 sliced chicken breasts
2 cups rice (preferably stick, but I happened to have brown rice on hand and it worked well!)
Ken's Asian Sesame Ginger Soy Low Fat Salad Dressing
Low sodium soy sauce
Lime juice
Olive oil
Salt, Pepper, and Garlic

Here's what you do:

Cook the rice according to the package, replacing 1 cup water with 1 cup low sodium chicken broth.
Sautee or grill the chicken in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon minced garlic. Set aside to cool.
Toast your almonds on a baking sheet at 350 degress for 5 minutes or so. DO NOT BURN!
 Roughly chop the romaine lettuce and toss in a large mixing bowl with the arugula.
Cut off the tips of the sugar snap peas and add to your mixing bowl along with the drained mandarin oranges.
In a small bowl, add 3 parts of the sesame ginger dressing with 1 part soy sauce, 1 part lime juice and 1 part olive oil. I cannot say exactly what measurements I had for the dressing, but this is the ratio of that. Adjust it continually as you taste the mixture. Add salt and pepper. Taste again and adjust as you please.
Add the dressing gradually to the lettuce mixture, tossing to coat. Do not add all of it at once -- do this in waves to assure you are not left with a soggy bowl of veggies.

 On each serving dish, scoop 2 large spoonfuls of rice onto the center of the dish. Top with a generous helping of the salad mix and 4 to 5 slices of chicken breast. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and enjoy!

I made this meal when it was over 90 degrees here in Boston. It was a quick and low maintenance dinner that required very little time over the stove which was so worth it in the heat! Plus, it was light, refreshing, and filling. Although not exactly like the original dish, it definitely had the sweet and sour, warm and cold harmony I was looking for! Yuuuuuummmmmmyyyyyy!

Have you ever recreated or thought to try making a dish that you had at a restaurant? How did it go?!

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