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A Salad For Elle – A Light Dinner and Memories of a Dear Friend

Today Facebook handed the food blogging community a piece of crushing news. We all saw the words printed that nobody ever wants to see concerning a friend, confidant, mentor and contemporary. This is what we saw:

Screen-Shot-2014-01-29-at-11.27.36-AM

To say that my plans for the day fell apart at that moment would be the understatement of the decade. I just sat, stunned, reading through the outpouring of sympathies and well-wishes on every social media channel. Love for Elle was evident, but that’s not surprising at all. She touched everyone she met in warm and wonderful ways.

It took me a little while to realize that everything was blurry because there were tears streaming down my cheeks. The shock of never being able to banter back and forth with her again was, and is, an incredibly raw emotion.

By the time Elle found her way into my life in 2007, I’d already been food blogging for about half a year. While one would think that I should have been the one nudging her in the right directions, that was never the case. At the time our community was fairly small, and rather than seniors and juniors, food bloggers were more like close family. Elle was there for all of us, constantly dishing out encouragement, jokes and caustic wit.

She prodded us to move out of our comfort zones. She harangued when it was needed. She comforted and supported. There was never a lack of kindness or closeness. Once Elle had accepted you as a friend, you were, whether you ever took the time to think about it or not. From that moment on, she was a part of your life, and a very important part.

The recipe for today was inspired by Elle, and was originally posted here in May 2008 as a part of the Royal Foodie Blog Joust, a sort-of Iron Chef arrangement. Elle had chosen the ingredients for that round, so I titled it La Salad d’Elle in honor of the event’s benefactor. Better than just having her name attached to it, Elle and her family enjoyed her namesake recipe, as evidenced in her comment:

Elle says:

This salad is delicious! And I’m not just saying that. My husband and I truly loved it. It’s a little tangy, a little sweet, and still a hearty salad with the tender chicken.

Great recipe!

I can’t think of higher praise.

Since then we’d chatted back and forth on Twitter, Facebook, and through blog comments. There were a few emails here and there, always full of Elle’s trademark warmth and caring. When my wife deployed to Turkey, Elle was one of the people that helped keep me on track. When I considered walking away from blogging, she was one of the first to fill my inbox with encouragement (and a barrage of four letter words threatening my health should I be foolish enough to go through with it.)

I can’t begin to sum up the impact this one person has had on my life, on both personal and professional levels. I am neither talented nor eloquent enough to manage that feat. I definitely can’t do it today. I hope when all is said and done that I managed to touch her life in a positive way as well.

I’ll miss her cheerful replies to comments and good natured jibes, and I know that I won’t be alone. There are people who her passing affects more strongly, and my heart goes out to her family and close friends. the only encouragement I have is that she always seemed to want to celebrate the good things, so I’ll hold those memories close to me, as you should.

I’m also going to make a chicken salad in the next few days. It may be eaten quietly and with tears in my eyes, but there will be a smile in my heart.

Goodbye dear lady. You are already sorely missed.

Chicken and field green salad with feta, almonds and raspberry vinaigrette

Chicken and field green salad with feta, almonds and raspberry vinaigrette


A Salad For Elle - A Light Dinner and Memories of a Dear Friend
 
A bright, slightly tangy salad that showcases chicken on a bed of fresh lettuce with almonds, queso Fresco cheese and a homemade raspberry-lime vinaigrette. A perfect light lunch or dinner.
Author:
Ingredients
Dressing:
  • 3 teaspoon. 100% pure Raspberry Preserves (I used Polaner All-Fruit)
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • The juice of one lime
  • 1 Tablespoon 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 Tablespoon 100% pure raspberry preserves
  • The juice of one lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 Tablespoons 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 dairy or refrigerator 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.
Putting it all Together:
  1. Add lettuce, onions, 1/2 of the queso fresco 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 fresco.
  2. Serve warm or chilled.

 

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