The beautiful thing about living in Minnesota is that every year spring and summer feel like a surprise party--I've forgotten how lovely it is to feel the warm air on my face as I walk out the door each morning, and enjoy daylight hours after dinner, and take advantage of the lakes and the bike trails. And just like the weather, the amazingly delicious produce takes me by surprise (even though I've experienced spring and summer, and the produce that comes with it, for 27 years now). I won't go on too long waxing poetic about nectarines and berries, but the cherry tomatoes that are included in this salad are perfectly in season right now--I keep buying big containers at Costco and everyone in my house is popping handfuls of tomatoes as they walk through the kitchen.
This salad is perfect for lunch or dinner in the summertime. It's substantial but not too heavy or warm, and the flavors are bright and fresh and delicious. If you're not familiar with chimichurri, I'd like to introduce you to your new best friend. This sauce is paleo and Whole 30 friendly, bursting with flavor, and great on any grilled meat (or even eggs). I made a big batch for this salad and I've been enjoying it out of the fridge on all sorts of things.
for the chimichurri
1 bunch flat parsley
4-5 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup olive oil or avocado oil
1/8 cup white vinegar
3 tbs lemon juice
for the salad
mixed field greens
chicken (I like boneless skinless thighs, but you could do breasts if you prefer)
2-3 red bell peppers
2-3 zucchini or yellow summer squash
olive oil for roasting veggies
italian seasoning, or your favorite dried spice (stick around the oregano/basil/rosemary neighborhood, don't get too exotic)
about 1/3 cup coconut sugar (omit if Whole 30)
about 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or whatever you like)
balsamic reduction for drizzling (I buy this one at my local grocery store, but it does have some added sugar--you can make your own or omit if a compliant version isn't available)
1. Preheat the oven to 375F and place your chicken thighs on a baking sheet. Please don't wash your chicken, it's pointless and spreads germs. I also made a ton of chicken when I was prepping this salad, so we would have leftovers all week. Why bake four pieces of chicken when you can bake twelve? Place your chicken in the oven.
2. Cut your bell peppers into thick slices (4 per pepper, not thin strips) and lay your slices on a second baking sheet. If you haven't seen this method for cutting your bell peppers, check out the link. It's one of my favorite kitchen tricks. Coat the pepper slices in a thin layer of olive oil.
3. Cut your zucchini or summer squash in quarters, length-wise, and lay them next to your peppers on the baking sheet (or on their own, if you're making extra like I did). Coat them in a think layer of olive oil, and sprinkle with italian seasoning.
4. Put your veggies in the oven. I actually roast my veggies at about 400 and cook the chicken at 350 because our new kitchen has a double oven (huzzah!) but cooking both at 375 will work just fine.
5. After your chicken and veggies are in the oven, turn to your chimichurri. Grab that beautiful parsley.
I made a double batch, because I wanted lots of leftovers, but one batch makes more than enough for this salad. I also left the stems on my parsley, which made for a more fibrous sauce--that doesn't bother me, but if I wanted it to be smoother I would chop off the stems where the leaves start.
6. Shove your parsley into your blender or food processor. This is really a job for a food processor, but I truly hate using food processors and love my blender to bits. I think it's because the food processor has so many pieces, but mostly it's just an irrational preference. I smooshed the parsley all the way down in my vitamix and with plenty of scraping down in between pulses it worked just fine.
7. Add all the other ingredients to your blender/FP and pulse until well combined, stopping to scrape down the sides with a spatula as necessary until everything is blended into a bright green, fragrant mess. Like dis.
8. Set your chimichurri aside and take a look at your chicken/veggies. The chicken should take about 30 minutes (give or take 5) and the veggies will take more like 40. You want your red peppers to be charred on the skin side and the zucchini/summer squash to be very soft and charred on the edges.
9. Take out a frying pan to candy your chopped nuts. If you're looking for a Whole 30 version of this recipe, you can skip this step. If not, did you know that you can melt sugar in a normal frying pan and create candied/glazed nuts at home? It's really easy. Add your coconut sugar to your frying pan (the pan should be dry, with no oil or anything other than the sugar).
CAdd your nuts to the pan, and turn on the burner to medium/high heat. Stir the mixture constantly until you notice that the sugar is melting (you'll see it streaking and turning liquid on the bottom of the pan). Keep stirring about 30 seconds past that point to be sure all the sugar is liquified, and then remove the pan from the heat and continue to stir to ensure the sugar/nuts don't burn or clump up too much. Set aside.
10. Slice your cherry tomatoes in half length-wise and set aside. Slice your prosciutto into strips/chunks (mine always rolls up into ball-like pieces, so I just go with that). I like about 2 pieces of prosciutto per salad, but all of these ingredients are to taste--add more of what you like, less/none of what you don't.
11. Remove your chicken and roasted veggies from the oven when they're finished and let them cool slightly before you assemble your salads--they should both be warm, but it's going to be tough to chop them when they're right-out-of-the-oven hot.
12. Chop your chicken into chunks, and slice your red peppers and zucchini/squash into small strips or pieces. I used about 1.5 pieces of chicken for each salad, and 1/4-1/2 a bell pepper, 1/4 of a zucchini and 1/4 of a yellow squash for each one. Again, whatever sounds good to you will work, the ratio is flexible.
13. Start with a bed of mixed greens in each bowl and layer each ingredient evenly over the top, saving the chimichurri and balsamic reduction for last. Drizzle your chimichurri over the top (or, if it's thick like mine was, drop a few chunks around the bowl and spread them with your spoon). I used about 2 tbs of chimichurri per bowl--this stuff is heavy on the garlic and very flavorful, so start with less and add more to taste. Finish with a drizzle of your reduced balsamic if you like, and dig in!
Enjoy on your porch or patio, with your feet up.