Eighteen years ago, my mom came to stay at my house for a month, to help after my second son was born. During that time, we cooked a lot, and collaborated on some new ideas.
It was dreadfully hot in the San Gabriel Valley where I lived, so one day, while I was looking through recipes in a magazine, I came across a warm-weather salad. It looked promising, so we made it during her visit. It was quite good, and it immediately went into my recipe file. Throughout the years it has morphed more than a celebrity who marries a plastic surgeon. These days, I think there are only a few of the original ingredients, so I suppose this makes it mine now 😉
This is delicious without any meat in it at all, but if you’d like to add protein, the addition of pinenuts, or chopped hard boiled eggs is a wonderful start. I usually like to make this a heartier meal, so I add poultry of some sort. I especially love the idea of using meat that’s already been cooked, to make a quick, nutritious meal that tastes nothing like the night before.
Try using the leftovers from a roast chicken, your Thanksgiving turkey, or make it even easier by grabbing a rotisserie chicken from your local grocery store. In other words, use what you’ve got and don’t spend all night in the kitchen!
½ c. apple cider vinegar
½ c. Agave syrup
½ c. warmed coconut oil (so that it is liquid, but not hot)
1½-2 lbs. red seedless grapes, each sliced in half
1 small bag frozen peas, thawed
8 stalks celery, including leaves, small chop
6 small Armenian cucumbers (or 3 large), thickly sliced
2 cans artichoke hearts in water, drained, cut in eighths
1-2 baskets strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 small bags of baby spinach, with larger pieces torn
6 stalks green onions, sliced
3-4 chicken breasts, cut up (or use whatever poultry you have on hand)
Avocado for garnish
Make the dressing first!
In microwave, heat vinegar till it just begins to boil. Add agave syrup and stir well. Add (unflavored!) coconut oil. Taste. If you prefer more oil, add more. You can also add black pepper if you choose. Pour into shaker bottle and place in refrigerator for later use.
In a large bowl, mix together the heaviest items well: grapes, peas, celery, and cucumbers. Then gently mix in the middle-weight ingredients: artichoke hearts, and strawberries. Carefully add the spinach and green onions. I know, you’re asking why the order? If you just dump everything in together, you’ll end up with spinach on the top and grapes and peas at the bottom. You want all the good stuff in each bite!
After you fill each individual salad bowl, then tuck in the pieces of chicken, if you want it to look pretty, since chicken/turkey has a way of leaving little strings everywhere. An alternate look is to place chicken across the top, down the middle. Garnish with avocado slices.
Shake the bottle of dressing vigorously. Lightly dress the salad. Remember to shake well before each use, and don’t just dress the entire salad unless it will definitely be eaten all in the same sitting. These leftovers are fantastic… but only without dressing! Also worth noting: because coconut oil hardens when it’s below 77°, when you’ll need it the next day, make sure to warm it on a low setting in the microwave for a few minutes before you shake it to serve.
Optional: Another ingredient I used to add was curly fusilli, which looks really pretty, and adds a carb/starch to your salad, should you want a heavier meal.