I believe that great meals don’t have to take a great deal of effort, so long as you start with high-quality ingredients. This is not a new idea. At a recent dinner at Annisa, a three-star restaurant in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, its chef, Anita Lo came out to speak to the diners, and she talked about the value of starting with the best sources. “The French always say, ‘Shopping is half the work,’” she remarked. Knowing this can make you days much easier. Life is too complicated as it is, so why make mealtime into something that causes trouble.
In the summer (and just about anytime, really), I love a fresh salad. My preferred green is romaine lettuce, which is what I grew up eating. (As a bonus, I recently discovered that you can re-grow your own romaine at home, using the heart that remains after you have pulled off the leaves.) As a child, we had it all the time. My mother was born on a farm in Ireland and she spurned American conveniences like shrink-wrapped supermarket greens. I still remember the thrill of ordering a head of iceberg with Thousand Island dressing at a fancy restaurant once. We never had iceberg.
Romaine has more nutrients than iceberg, but it alone is not enough for a meal for me. I need protein, too. Chicken salad is nice, especially when the weather gets warm. You don’t really want to heat up your kitchen like the sky on the Fourth of July, so sticking with fresh vegetables makes great sense. And I can cook the chicken on the stovetop quickly for the salad, so things stay cool around the house.
This simple chicken salad is perfect for a weeknight dinner. It’s quick and easy. For a long time I struggled with cooking boneless chicken breasts. I don’t like watching things on the stove for too long, and most are so thick that they talk a long time to cook through. I speed up the cooking process by cutting each chicken breast in half lengthwise, so it’s half as thin (I cut them at least in half; sometimes in half again, if necessary). Then I get a frying pan good and hot and I add a bit of oil. I sear the breast so it browns up nicely on one side, then I flip it. By the time the other side is browned a bit, it’s usually cooked properly inside. The meat needs to be opaque, but not dried out. That’s the trick. To season the chicken, I squeeze fresh lemon juice over the meat as it cooks. If you really want to increase the flavor, and since I was inspired to write this post through Kraft’s Tastemakers program, you can also try mixing a batch of Good Seasons Italian in your cruet and then pouring the dressing over the breasts and placing them in Ziploc bags to marinate them for a few hours, or overnight.
After the breasts are cooked, I slice them crosswise, and let them cool a few minutes while I get my salad ready.
Once I’ve assembled my salad (and this is the simple version—you can add red peppers, onions, olives, tomatoes, and just about anything you like to your salad), I dress the salad with Good Seasons Italian, and divide the greens into serving bowls. Then I layer the meat over the greens and enjoy! If you start with fresh lettuce, good chicken, and the tasty herbs of Kraft Good Season’s Italian dressing, you can’t go wrong. The recipe for Simple Summer Salad with Good Seasons is here.