Confession: A few years ago, I could not contemplate the thought of eating a salad as a main course. I was under the impression that my hunger would not be satisfied. Moreover, the idea of adding meat to a salad, other than bacon (because, let’s be honest, bacon makes EVERYTHING better), just didn’t appeal to me—too many differing textures. But then everything changed. After having my son, I was desperately trying to lose the baby weight. In an effort to eat a more well-balanced diet, I decided to give a salad as a meal a try. I wish I could say that I started this culinary exploration in some funky little cafe or high-class restaurant, but I didn’t…it all began at Chick-Fil-A with their Grilled Market Salad and Apple Cider Vinaigrette. I loved the combination of the sweet fruit with the savory chicken and creamy blue cheese; the variety of textures and the possibility of adding mixed nuts and just a little granola (which blew my mind) was surprisingly welcome. Not only did it taste amazing, but I was full and happy. Eating a salad had the added bonus that it didn’t make me feel gross after consumption (the common trend with fast food). I was hooked. Now, whenever we eat out, I always look at the salads before anything else on the menu. Additionally, I’m always creating new salad recipes to serve my family and friends around my own table.
3/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
4 tsp sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Combine the ingredients in a glass jar. Screw the lid on tightly and shake vigorously until the ingredients are well combined. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week, but be sure to remove it from the fridge at least a half an hour before using to allow the olive oil to come to room temperature. Give it another good shake before adding it to your salad.
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup dressing
Place the chicken breasts in a large plastic zip bag or non-reactive dish. Pour the dressing over the chicken. If in a bag, zip it shut, removing as much air as possible, the using your hands, massage the dressing over the chicken so that it’s evenly covered. If in a dish, turn the chicken a few times in the dressing to coat, then cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Store the chicken in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours, stirring or massaging every once in awhile to ensure the meat is fully in contact with the marinade. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator half an hour before cooking to get rid of the chill.
Set up your grill or grill pan so that the cooking surface is over high heat. Grill the chicken, covered with the grill lid (or tented with foil if you are using a grill pan), 6-7 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Let the chicken rest, tented with foil, for 5-10 minutes. If you are not using the cooked chicken immediately, store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.
8 cups butterhead lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen, canned—whatever floats your boat)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 ripe Haas avocados, pitted and diced, skins discarded
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion, soaked in water for at least 10 minutes, then patted dry (the soaking process removes some of that raw onion pungency)
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
Dressing, to taste
4 hard boiled eggs, quartered
Grilled chicken, thinly sliced
Combine the lettuce, bacon, corn, tomatoes, avocado, onion, Gorgonzola, and dressing to taste (start with less and add more as needed) in a large bowl. Toss the ingredients to combine and coat with the dressing. Divide the salad base between 4 plates. Top each salad with 4 quarters of hard boiled egg and sliced grilled chicken to taste. Serve immediately.
🥗 If you’d prefer, serve the dressing on the side—this will allow you to prepare the salad base in advance and give those you’re serving the opportunity to determine their own quantity of dressing. However, if you do this, do not add the avocado until you are ready to serve your salads, as it will turn brown and look gross.