If you like to cook for people, you’ll have come across some concerns with food preferences or allergies. Some are fairly easy to side-step: feed the ovo-lacto vegetarian lasagna, the gluten-free folk, roasted chicken and potatoes. Some are more challenging, such as the vegan (veggie-tofu stir-fry!). But nothing, and I mean nothing ever gave me pause as the friend who was to come to lunch and cautioned me she could not, under any circumstances, have anything fermented. Seriously. She couldn’t have anything cooked with the slightest amount of wine, vinegar, soy sauce, yeast-the list was daunting. She wasn’t being picky-most times she’d caution a a waiter at a restaurant, and still end up in bed, miserable for the next 3 days. I mean what can you cook, that would taste good, with these kind of restrictions? My friend understood this, and suggested she’d just bring her own, “sad, boring food.” Well, this broke my heart. I like for everyone who comes to my table to experience the joy of nourishing, delicious food-so her bringing anything was absolutely unacceptable to me. And so I went to work, researching and thinking…and I found a variation on the dressing you see below. Then I thought-instead of a boring old green salad, what if I build more flavor by brining some chicken, grilling it, and tossing it with the dressing?
It turned out to not only to be even more delicious than it first looked, I was rewarded by being able to prepare a good meal for a friend who was starved for something different (and she was happy to report later that she didn’t get sick from eating outside of her own house for a change!). Serve this up over lettuce with a nice gazpacho (hold the bread and the vinegar, please), and you’ve got a really yummy lunch or light dinner. Even if you don’t have an allergy, you can also use this “magically delicious”, healthy dressing to toss any old green salad, grilled pork chops, or anything needing a tart, vaguely sweet, and garlicky bite.
Green Apple Chicken Salad
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 cup of kosher salt
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 qt. water
For the dressing:
1 green apple, peeled and cored
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly cut up*
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly cut up
salt and pepper
Stir kosher salt, crushed garlic, and agave into the quart of water; place chicken breast in for at least a half hour (up to 2 hours) to brine.Remove chicken and gently pat dry (do not rinse). Place on a hot, oiled grill and cook until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees F. Remove chicken from grill to a plate, tent with foil and allow to cool. When cooled, cut into 2 inch cubes. For the dressing: place the last 5 ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the grilled, cubed chicken and serve. You can store the dressing in fridge for up to 5 days, but give it another spin in the blender or food processor, as it will separate.
*Note: You can quickly blanch the garlic if it’s too much for you raw. Boil a small pot of water, place whole cloves in (after peeling, but before cutting up), and pull out after 1 minute. Plunge immediately into cold water to halt the cooking process. Prepare as indicated.