I live in a very rural area of California – up in the mountains. While I love living in the middle of nowhere, and having very few neighbors, the options for dining out in the area are minimal. Especially when you love good quality real food, and even more so when you are gluten and dairy intolerant!
But – we’re lucky! We have an award winning Brewery (sorry, no gluten free beer, but they do have Pear Cider on tap!) in town, and it is the one place that I still eat at in the valley. Plus, the atmosphere is great, and the people are amazing!
The reason I mention the Brewery (Kern River Brewing Company) is because they have one of the best salads I have ever had! I just have to order it with no cheese (it comes with lots of feta), and no bread (comes with a side of garlic toast coated in cheese!). So, what is this wonderful salad you ask? Tuscan Chicken Salad of course!
Well, I like it so much that I have started to make my own version at home. Plus, I can’t afford to go to the Brewery as often as I would like to eat this salad, so it really was a necessity to come up with my own recipe! So – here goes…
Tuscan Chicken Salad a la Little Sister…
- olive oil
- 1 large chicken breast, sliced thin
- salt and pepper to taste
- mixed salad greens
- toppings: shredded carrots, slivered almonds, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, quartered kalamata olives, feta (if you can tolerate cheese), shredded red cabbage
- sun-dried tomato paste: sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pinch of sea salt
- dressing: balsamic vinegar and oil
Make a nice big bed of beautiful mixed lettuce greens on your plate. Add the toppings to your hearts content. I use my vegetable peeler to make nice large shreds of carrots (and asparagus or other veggies I might feel like adding when I have them).
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Toss the chicken in and season with salt and pepper. Turn occasionally until browned on all sides and cooked through. When cooked completely, add a few ounces to your salad.
In a food processor, mix sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil, salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and process until smooth. I did not put amounts, because I have actually never measured. I make my own sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, and I add a lot of minced garlic and fresh basil when I make them, so I just use what comes out of my jar, including the soaked olive oil. I add about equal amounts of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
To give a general idea, I would use about 3-4 Tbsp sun-dried tomatoes with 1-2 cloves of garlic and about 1/4c each of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. This would call for 3-4 basil leaves. (This will make enough for probably 6-8 salads)
When processed, add a nice big dollop to the salad, and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil!
It looks beautiful and tastes amazing. In order to really mix the flavors, you will need to really mix the sun-dried tomato paste in, which makes it not quite so delightful visually, but the flavors more than make up for that!