Nothing beats an enormous ole salad-for-dinner. This one is in my usual sort of producing some sharp greens, nutty grains, and crisp veg with a vibrant, tangy dressing. Then comes the pièces de résistance—shreds of aged gouda (be bound to accompany something a minimum of 18 months aged for firmness and flavor), apple juice-sweetened dried cherries, and chunks of roast chicken (store-bought rotisserie encouraged!). No craving left unsatisfied.
Tip: to form a vegetarian version of this salad, simply omit the chicken and add more veg. Roasted Brussels sprouts, sautéed green beans, fresh tomatoes, more cucumber, or roasted squash would all be wonderful substitutions or additions.
WILD RICE & ARUGULA SALAD-FOR-DINNER WITH CHICKEN
1 hour, 15 minutes
1 c. uncooked wild rice (not instant, quick-cooking, or blend). thoroughly rinsed
2.25 c. water
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 small garlic clove, quartered
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp. plain, low-fat or whole-milk Greek yogurt
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 c. slivered blanched almonds
1/4 c. unsalted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 oz. fresh baby arugula leaves
1 c. shredded aged gouda cheese (look for a hard variety at least 18 months aged, see TIP A below)
2 large, roasted chicken breasts (from store-bought rotisserie chicken or prepared at hoome, see TIP B below), cubed
1 small English cucumber, seeded and diced
1/2 c. dried tart cherries (preferably apple juice-sweetened)
Combine the uncooked wild rice, water, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Set over high heat until the water boils and then immediately reduce heat to low and keep covered for 45-50 minutes. After 45-50 minutes, turn off the heat beneath the pot and let sit covered for another 10 minutes. Then drain any excess water and spread the cooked wild rice across a baking sheet to cool completely. Store the cooked rice in the fridge if made in advance.
Two: Prepare the Dressing:
Meanwhile, combine all of the dressing ingredients (garlic clove through fresh ground black pepper) in a mini food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. If you choose to make the dressing without a food processor or blender then be sure to finely grate or mince the garlic. When done, set aside.
Three: Toast the Almonds & Pepitas:
In a small sauté pan or skillet, warm the 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the slivered almonds and pepitas and stir to fully coat in oil. Watch closely and stir often as they become fragrant and lightly toasted (about 3-4 minutes). When done, immediately remove from the heat, add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and set aside.
Four: Compose the Salad:
Stir the toasted almonds and pepitas into the cooked wild rice and transfer this mixture to the bottom of a large serving platter or bowl. Drizzle a spoonful or two of the dressing over the wild rice and pour the remaining over the arugula and shredded gouda in large mixing bowl. Toss the arugula and gouda in the dressing, then pile the salad mixture over the wild rice. Arranged the cubed chicken breast, cucumber, and dried tart cherries over the arugula. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, reserve 1-2 spoonfuls of dressing to drizzle over top. Serve immediately.
TIP A: With cheese, often the longer it is aged the firmer and more flavorful (funky) it becomes. That's exactly what you're going for with the gouda in this salad. Look for a variety that is quite hard (easy to shred) and at least 18 months aged. It should have a rich, nutty flavor to balance the peppery arugula.
TIP B: For time-savings, I highly recommend using a store-bought, prepared rotisserie chicken. Remove the skin and fat and cube according to the recipe. You're done! If you prefer to roast a couple of chicken breasts at home (perhaps while the wild rice cooks), then go with 2 large, bone-in, skin-on breasts. Seasoned generously with olive oil, salt, and pepper and bake at 375° for 45-50 minutes or until the juices run clear. Then remove the skin and fat and cube according to the recipe.