Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chicken and Grape Salad Makeover

I have made versions of Chicken & Grape Salad for a long, long time. Generally throwing things together last minute, using whatever is at hand, this is a wonderful cool summer salad that eats like a meal. At its absolutely most basic, the ingredients are as simple as cooked chicken, grapes, and nuts, sometimes with celery or green pepper, and held together with mayonnaise. From there, one can personalize it as desired. 

Chicken and Grape Salad, with many additions
I had some rotisserie chicken left over from the night before. A rotisserie chicken is a great way to have this recipe come together quickly. I did not have any grapes. I walked to the grocery and picked up some grapes, along with a little package of fresh dill, one of the few herbs I do not have growing this year. While dill is not usually a part of this salad, I was considering adding in a little Feta cheese still left in the fridge, and dill seemed like the pairing flavor I was looking for. For nuts I used pecans. My preference, hands-down, would be walnuts, but my husband dislikes walnuts with a passion, so pecans it is! I had gotten a couple of bell peppers at the Farmers' Market this past week. One of them was a deep purple in color, and I thought this would lend nice contrast in this salad. Celery is one of my least favorite vegetables, but when mixed with a lot of other flavors, it is a good filler. 

The Feta cheese is certainly not a common ingredient in this salad, and neither are the craisins (dried cranberries). Even more uncommon is the jalapeno & cheese brat I added. This last was just because I wanted to taste this particular Frohling Cheese & Jalapeno Brat. I bought a package while shopping for the other ingredients because I had tasted some of the brats and summer sausages at the Brown County Fair this past Saturday. Frohling makes some wonderful deli meats and they are South Dakota based. One I tasted at the fair and particularly enjoyed was a Cranberry and Wild Rice Summer Sausage, and that was the one I was specifically looking for at Kessler's local grocery, but those were not in evidence that day. Meanwhile, wanting to taste the brats I bought, I cooked one. After tasting an end piece, I just cut up the rest and added it to my "Chicken and Grape" salad. The ingredient list just kept growing. My recipe ended up like this:

Chicken and Grape Salad

makes about 10 cups

3 cups cooked chicken, cubed
1 1/2 cup grapes, cut in halves
1 cup bell pepper, in chunks
1 cup pecans, broken
1 cup celery, sliced
1 cup cubed Feta cheese, 4 ounces
1 cooked brat or smoked sausage of choice, optional
1/2 cup craisins / dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped scallions
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the mayonnaise and lemon juice. Separately whisk together the mayo and lemon juice and pour over the ingredients in the large bowl. Toss well to completely combine and distribute the ingredients with the dressing. 

Chicken and Grape Salad
My husband and I have always loved this salad, even if made at its most basic, as mentioned above. All the extras just made it that much better. We both served ourselves what should easily have been one large portion, and we both came back for seconds. I would estimate that this should be able to serve 4 to 6 as a meal, or more if it is portioned smaller for a summer brunch or lunch dish. It could be scooped onto a bed of greens, or into lettuce cups or on an open-faced sandwich. 

In researching what others have used in this type of salad, salt and pepper are generally a part of the recipe. I find store bought rotisserie chickens as well as Feta cheese, brats and mayonnaise to be quite salty on their own. I am not one to add extra salt to a meal at table. I believe in seasoning properly while preparing the food. If an ingredient is already salty, I taste before adding any more salt. Salt is not in my ingredient list above for this reason. If you feel it is needed, please feel free to add salt at your discretion.

This recipe is gluten free unless your mayonnaise and or brats/smoked sausage have gluten in their ingredients. If you are gluten-intolerant, I am sure you will already have a favored mayo to use. The brat was optional anyway.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.