Labor Day has come and gone, but the calendar says we still have a few more weeks of summer before the official start of fall. Let’s celebrate with one more summery recipe featuring fresh, light flavors!
Chicken salad may not be the first thing you think of when you hear “summer recipe,” but I promise this isn’t your usual sad deli-counter salad. Fresh basil, lemon zest, and lemon juice give this Summer Chicken Salad a light and tangy flavor. Most importantly, fresh grapes and toasted slivered almonds are tossed in with the chicken, to add unexpected bursts of juiciness and crunch.
Summer Chicken Salad Recipe
yield: about 4 cups
- 2 cups chopped cooked chicken
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 medium lemon
- Handful fresh basil leaves
- 2 green onions
- 1 cup green or purple grapes
- 1/3 cup slivered almonds
- salt and pepper to taste
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you always want to toast your nuts. Toasting brings out a much richer flavor, in addition to giving the nuts a nice crunch. So put your slivered almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast them for a few minutes, until they’re golden brown and fragrant. Set them aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the chicken salad recipe.
Next, you need to chop up the rest of your ingredients if you haven’t already. Here’s a quick tip for cutting basil: to get thin and even cuts, place all the basil leaves on top of each other and roll them up lengthwise in a cylinder, then cut the cylinder into thin pieces. You’ll end up with perfectly sized strips of basil every time.
Fortunately the green onions already come rolled into cylinders, so just cut those up as well…
And finish by chopping up the grapes. Halves should be fine, unless you have monster grapes, in which case you’ll want to cut them in quarters.
The brilliant thing about making chicken salad, as opposed to, say, nuclear reactors, is that you can play it by ear and be casual with your measurements. By all means measure if you’d like, but I prefer to throw things together in the bowl, and then make adjustments to taste at the end, all the while patting myself on the back for my carefree culinary attitude.
Zest the lemon into the mayonnaise mixture until you have about 2 teaspoons of zest…
Then cut the lemon in half and squeeze in 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.
Add a few shakes of the salt and a few grinds of the pepper mill, then stir everything together.
Now at this point you may have noticed that our “chicken salad” has been missing a key ingredient. Fret no more, because it’s chicken time! Add your chopped cooked chicken…
And the rest of your ingredients: the basil, green onions, grapes, and toasted slivered almonds.
Ironically, this is one of those recipes that looks better during assembly than it does when it’s finished. Right now, you have beautiful ingredients, artfully layered, and everything looks really delicious. But, you know, it’s not chicken salad until it’s mixed together, so start stirring…
…and soon you will be rewarded with a gloppy mess of chunky stuff in white goo. Sure, it’s not the most stunning recipe, visually, but looks are overrated–what’s important is that it tastes amazing.
Speaking of taste, give it a try and see if it needs more salt, or pepper, or lemon juice, or maybe a few more almonds.
Now show your homely chicken salad you still love it by enjoying it right away. You can put it on top of a green salad, eat it on crackers, or stay traditional by making yourself a big sandwich with crisp lettuce, slices of juicy tomato, and some high-quality bread. Viva la summer!
All text and images (c) Elizabeth LaBau