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La Salade d’Elle (Chicken Salad with Almonds, Queso Fresco and Raspberry-Lime Vinaigrette)

Another month and another blog event.  This is my first time joining in with a lot of my blogging friends for the Royal Foodie Joust, hosted by the lovely Jenn (a.k.a. The Leftover Queen).  The joust really is the perfect challenge for me, since you’re presented with a triplet of ingredients and challenged to come up with something unique using them.  What more could the king of cooking without a recipe ask for?!?

The ingredients for this round of the event were chosen by Elle, the winner of last moth’s joust. Her choices?  Raspberry, almonds and lime.  While these three could easily be used to create something very sweet and decadent, there was a hint that she’d like to see something savory come out of it.  I knew what direction I was going to take these ingredients immediately, all I had to do was go get some berries!

While I would have loved to use fresh raspberries for this, we’re not exactly in raspberry country.  The “fresh” raspberries in the market were not only outragiously priced, but smelled more of plastic than berries, so they were out.  I considered using frozen berries, but they tend to muddle the colors of other ingredients, and don’t present well, so I went with 100% all raspberry preserves, and the result was just a bit on the sweet side for me, but still fantastic!

chicken-salad-almonds-raspberry-and-lime-2

If you’re looking for the perfect main course for a hot summer night, this is your dish.  The texture is cool and wonderful, with a load of crunch from both the iceberg lettuce and the almonds, but still quite a bit of toothiness from the romaine.  The queso fresco is the perfect accompaniment, as it has a texture much like feta but is more mildly flavored, like a cross between a goat cheese and ricotta, and blends perfectly with the other flavors.

My wife’s response was simple.  She just looked at me and asked; “We’ll be making this again, right?”

Yes honey, we most definitely will.


La Salade d'Elle (Chicken Salad with Almonds, Queso Fresco and Raspberry-Lime Vinaigrette)
 
Author:
Ingredients
Dressing:
  • 3 tsp. 100% pure Raspberry Preserves (I used Polaner All-Fruit)
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • The juice of one lime
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup canola oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Chicken:
  • 6 chicken breast tenderloins or 2 small chicken breasts, cut in 3/4 inch strips
  • 1 tbsp 100% pure raspberry preserves
  • The juice of one lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil (for cooking)
For the salad:
  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 bunch hearts of romaine, torn or cut in bite-sized pieces (without the really thick stems, please)
  • 1 small red onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco (Fresh cheese. It’s in the refrigherator section of most mega-marts)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Method
Prepare the chicken:
  1. Whisk together raspberry preserves, lime juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Place chicken in a zip-top storage bag and pour in marinade. Squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible, making sure that all chicken pieces are well coated. Marinade in the refrigerator for at least thirty minutes, but no longer than 1 hour.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove chicken from marinade, discarding any left over marinade. Cook chicken 4 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat and brush with a little bit more of the raspberry preserves. Set aside.
  3. (chicken may be cooked up to 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, but do not slice until ready to serve.)
Dressing:
  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl and check for seasoning. The dressing will be very thick. Set aside for at least 10 minutes to allow flavors to combine well and taste again, adjusting amounts as fits your tastes.
Assembly:
  1. Add lettuce, onions, 1/2 of the queso and 1/2 of the almonds to the dressing and toss lightly until all ingredients are well coated. Transfer to a serving plate (or plates). Top with sliced chicken, remaining almonds and queso.
  2. Serve warm or chilled.

 

What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:

I would have used slightly less raspberry in the vinaigrette and a bit more lime, just to make it a bit sharper.  The flavors were wonderful and it’s definitely something I’m going to try again, perhaps with a mix of berries on the next round, and probably some dried cranberries in the salad as well.

Links to other recipes like this:

  • Chicken Salad with Quick Strawberry Vinaigrette, from GreenLiteBites
  • Raspberry vinaigrette, from Daily Unadventures in Cooking
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