When Hubby gave off a somewhat strangled noise, skirting the edge of panic last weekend while giving his weather forecast app a disdainful glare, I knew we were in trouble.
“34°-38°C each day and not much cooler during the night for a week straight… I don’t even want to know how this is going to turn out in August, when it’s actually supposed to be this hot” he said, and went ahead reading reviews of high-powered fans and mobile ACs. I, on the other hand, experienced a sudden pang of panic too, a food-related one rather than a fear of melting in the heat.
We’ve been bouncing around 30°C for quite a while already… if the heatwave that has set up shop here somewhere around mid-May this year is going to stick around for 3-4 months rather than the usual 3-4 weeks around July/August, our summer-diet of cold salads, lots of tomatoes and chilled watermelons is going to take on ridiculous proportions. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Summer, as well as both tomatoes and watermelons, but about once or twice a week, my stomach starts to protest at the mention of yet another meal consisting of anything with a water content of 80% or more, chilled or not. Plus… kitchen-withdrawal! Ahrg! Anyways, when hubby announced the imminent arrival of the last nail in our stoves temporary coffin, I decided to close up the kitchen with a couple of summery, minimal-stove-time quick-fixes for you guys – the recipes coming your way the next couple of weeks are well worth the minutes at the stove~! The first dish in line is one of our favorites when the need for something solid, hearty yet still refreshing arises in times like these – my Bloody Mary Chicken Salad.
1 Ripe Hass Avocado, skinned, pitted and diced into ½ cm cubes
½ Lemon, Juice
A generous Pinch each of Celery Salt and Black Pepper
2 Heads of Baby Gem Lettuce or ½ head of Iceberg Salad
300g Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1 Red Onion, very finely diced
Opt: 1-2 Jalapeños, deseeded and sliced into thin ringlets
1 small Bunch of Coriander, leaves picked and roughly chopped
1) Place the avocado cubes in a small bowl, sprinkle them with a generous pinch each of celery salt and freshly cracked pepper, drizzle the lot with the lemon juice and cover the bowl with clingfilm.
2) Set the bowl aside, out of harm’s and heat’s way, for the time being. Just don’t put them somewhere too far out of sight… I regularly forget about them in the heat of the assembly-line. To give the whole avocado deal another boost, place the bowl in the fridge to chill through – that way your salad will get the whole, really refreshing, hot-and-cold contrast going.
3) Place the tomatoes, onion cubes and the optional jalapeños in a large mixing bowl and give them a quick toss.
4) The only thing you can’t deal with right this instant are the greens. Keep them in the fridge until it’s time to plate up
The Bloody Mary Dressing
Just on a side note – a Bloody Mary is, next to a Mojito, my favorite cocktail~! Unlike the drink, more often messed up by bartenders around the world than not, this dressing doesn’t need the pivotal high-quality tomato juice the mentioned barkeeps so often neglect to use. I went with the purée-option for this one as a sort of fail-safe to compensate for the ridiculous variations in tomato-juice quality. If you have found your personal “perfect tomato juice” however, thick and very tomatoey, you can substitute the purée/water combo with the juice.
2 heaped Tbsp of Tomato Purée
1 Tbsp of Sparkling Water
1 Lemon, Zest and Juice
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ Tsp Celery Salt – if you have a small stalk of fresh celery in your fridge, chop it up very finely and add the cubes and a generous pinch of salt to your dressing instead
2 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar
½ Tbsp of Habanero Tabasco Sauce – regular Tabasco works too, of course, I just like the added zing in this one
1 Tbsp Worcester Sauce
1 Tbsp Honey
Freshly ground Black Pepper
As with most dressing-related things, the list of ingredients is longer than the instruction… Simply add everything into a small mixing bowl and stir or whisk the lot until it’s well combined before going through the usual taste-and-adjust routine.
Just for the record, even though they might be of a similar color, you can’t replace the Worcester sauce with soy sauce. Not in this dressing, and surely not in a real Bloody Mary. Been there, done that, gave the barkeep hell for it once I had my gag reflex under control. A smoky chipotle-based condiment could work – slightly different outcome, flavor-wise, though – as a substitute if you can’t get your hands on the real deal for some reason, but make sure to check its fire before adding wild amounts of it to your Tabasco-laden dressing.
A little Rapeseed or Sunflower Oil for the pan
300g Chicken Breast – ignore the exact weight in favor of buying one large or 2 small chicken breasts. You need it/them to be in one piece for the pan.
1-2 Tsp of Honey
1 Tbsp Concentrated Tomato Purée
A generous Pinch each of Sea Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper
1) Open the chicken breast with a butterfly cut, carefully flip it open – try not to break the halves apart – and gently flatten the piece with the tapping help of a sheet of clingfilm and a small pan or pot.
2) Once you have a large, smooth piece of chicken sitting in front of you, about 1cm thick all the way throughout to give you the perfect starting point for a speedy and even sear, you’re golden. Since we’re headed towards chicken strips in a salad, some of you might ask “what’s with the one-piece deal”? Well, in my experience, at least in a non-wok, non-saucey pan-sear scenario like this one, going down this road prevents the chicken from drying out too quickly – and flipping one piece of meat works wonders towards saving stove-time as opposed to flipping and fiddling around with a panful of wriggly and bendy bits trying to escape your efforts to give them an even sear.
3) Set a heavy-based pan onto medium-high heat, close the lid and let it get up to speed for about 5 mins.
4) Meanwhile, add the honey and tomato purée to a small bowl and stir them until they’re well combined.
5) Season your chicken with a generous sprinkling of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper on both sides.
6) Add the oil to your pan once it’s reached its maximum temperature, twirl the pan to distribute it and carefully slide in the meat. Don’t forget to lay the meat down into the pan away from where you’re standing, large pieces like this crank up the chances of hot oil trying to escape the pan quite a bit.
7) Fry the chicken for 1-2 mins – depending on how thin you’ve flattened it down – on both sides.
8) The time to flip it over has come once it doesn’t stick to the pan after the initial sear anymore – a gentle shake of the pan will make it come loose. A careful look at the side of the meat should tell you the cooking process has gone halfway through to the side facing up at the moment and the side facing down is on it’s way to develop a golden crisp.
9) Flip it once it’s there, fry it for the same amount of time the first side took.
10) Take the pan off the heat, brush the meat with the honeyed tomato purée, close the lid and keep it in for another 2 mins.
11) Don’t forget to turn off the stove and do a little celebratory jig if you feel like it – stove-time’s over~!
Assembling the Dish
1) Finely slice the salad leaves into thin ribbons and divide them onto your plates or into taco’ish salad-leaf cups. Sprinkle the servings with your tomato-onion-chilli mix.
2) If you’re gunning for the fingerfoody, portable option of serving it in salad-cups, here’s a bit of advice: Go with iceberg leaves – they’re a bit easier to manage in larger amounts than Gem lettuce, more similar-sized leaves in one head and all that jazz. Use the leaves at around 1/3 of the way into the core of the head of lettuce – they’re still large enough to hold a few spoonfuls without looking silly, but they’re a bit more durable, crunchier if you will, so they don’t wilt as quickly in case they’re not being devoured right away.
3) Slice the still-hot chicken into thin, bite-sized strips.
4) Fold the chicken strips into the tomato-dressing mix – keep a few pretty slices to top the servings off with them if you’d like.
5) Divide the mix onto the lettuce beds.
6) Top the servings off with the chilled avocado cubes and sprinkle them with the coriander leaves.