So, here’s the thing: I hate salads.
Not all salads. Bean salad, pasta salad and fruit salad that doesn’t include cantaloupe or honeydew are fine. But I really don’t like raw leaves. And I despise cucumbers. So that eliminates the vast majority of salads.
Unfortunately for me, though, raw leaves are a lot healthier than, say, nachos. Which means I have to try. Even if I feel like a brontosaurus chewing on all those dang leaves.
It was that spirit of trying that first led me to order a butternut squash and couscous salad from Nando’s Peri Peri (a Portuguese chicken restaurant). And even though the couscous and butternut squash and chicken was nestled on a BIG bed of raw spinach leaves, I didn’t hate it. I actually kind of liked it.
Then I saw this recipe in my new cookbook and was reminded of that Peri-Peri salad. It has different ingredients, but the general idea is the same — spinach salad with a grain and chicken on top. And I thought it would fit in well with the cleanse we’re trying to do (I had to find some new dinner options, since I don’t eat fish).
I generally don’t like sweet things in salads (seriously, you can take away my girly girl card now), and I HATE sweet dressings. But this dressing is super easy to make and not sweet — and I didn’t mind the dried cherries. Of course, you can leave them out if you are worried about the sweetness.
(You don’t have to cook this much chicken)
Anyway, Toby and I both enjoyed this salad. I didn’t even mind the spinach leaves that much. And since you keep the dressing separate it makes good leftovers, too. It’s not nachos, but you should still try it.
Spinach salad with quinoa and chicken (Serves 4, adapted from Pretty Delicious)
1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
1 bay leaf (optional)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 bag baby spinach
1 large Granny Smith or other tart apple
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
Pour the dry quinoa in a bowl and pour water into the bowl until the water covers the quinoa. Allow to sit for a few minutes (or up to an hour), then drain quinoa through a fine-mesh sieve. Place the quinoa in a medium saucepan with 2 cups water and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer (uncovered) for about 15 minutes — until the quinoa has absorbed the liquid and you can see the curly germ on the outside of the individual seeds.
While quinoa is cooking, rinse and pat the chicken breasts dry. Brush them with a little of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a grill pan over medium heat and brush ridges with remaining olive oil. Cook the chicken, allowing it to brown on both sides and cook all the way through. Slice cooked chicken into thin strips.
Whisk the vinegar and Dijon mustard together in a small bowl (you can add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, too, but I didn’t). Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Rinse and roughly chop the spinach leaves, if desired. Rinse the apple and chop it up into small pieces, leaving the skin on. Chop the walnuts. Toss the spinach, apple pieces, walnuts and dried fruit in a large bowl.
Once everything is ready, scoop a generous portion of salad into each serving bowl. Top each salad with a scoop or two of quinoa and a few strips of chicken. Drizzle some dressing over everything and serve.