Chicken salad, a summer classic, is a good choice for a local meal to celebrate the summer solstice. This time of year I like to fix meals that take very little preparation and can be easily moved outdoors if the sun decides to break through the clouds and give us a few extra hours of sunshine. Besides, if we get a full day of sun, who wants to spend time indoors cooking?
The main ingredients you need for chicken salad is, of course, chicken and equally important, mayo. During the summer, mayo becomes its own “food group” in our house. You can make your own if you want to keep it local. The rest of the ingredients can be improvised from whatever you have in your fridge.
I had lots of fresh vegetables from the Farmers Market and this is a great way to use them. I included broccoli and baby bok choy from Willie Greens, hazelnuts from Holmquist Orchards, spinach and garlic scapes from Alm Hill Gardens and dill from Let Us Farm (Tolt Gardens).
If you have some leftover chicken, you can take it off the bone and use that. Otherwise, buy 2 bone-in chicken breasts. Whole Foods has been selling free range chicken from Skagit Valley. Depending on the size of the chicken breast and the size of your belly, this should make 3-4 servings.
I find it easiest to poach the chicken. Put it in a saucepan and fill with cold water just to cover. Put a lid on the pan and turn on high. Bring to a boil and then immediately turn the heat down so it is just simmering. It will take about 30 minutes to cook. Once it is done, remove any skin and cut the meat off the bone. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and put in a large bowl. Putting the salad together while the chicken and vegetables are still warm allows it to soak up all the flavors. After it is all stirred together, keep in the fridge until you are ready to eat.
Meanwhile, chop vegetables into pieces that are easy to eat. Any veggies needing a small amount of cooking can be steamed lightly in a steaming basket. I layered broccoli, bok choy and short pieces of scapes all in one basket and steamed for just a few minutes to soften them slightly. Other vegetables like celery and spring onions need only chopping, no cooking. Toast the hazelnuts in the oven at 350 for about 5-10 minutes.
Add all the vegetables to the chicken along with some splashes of olive oil and a couple tablespoons of mayo until it is nice and moist. Sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste. This is a chance to clean out the fridge so you can stock up again at the Farmers Market. I usually like to stick to a “theme” but that isn’t necessary. Good old American chicken salad usually has mayo, celery and sometimes green onions. This week, mine seemed Asian with the broccoli and bok choy so I added a little toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. Garnish with chopped herbs, hazelnuts, whatever tastes good and serve on a bed of lettuce or spinach.
Now, if the sun is still out, grab a bowl and a fork or chopsticks and enjoy the longest days of the year.