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Beans butter up salad eaters

A lackluster stir-fry with leftover roast chicken made me wish I’d just served a salad.

But I wanted my kids to try out spring-loaded chopsticks they received as Christmas gifts. And a big bowl of veggies — even incorporating meat — is a harder dinnertime sell than veggies and meat over some kind of starch. Italian deli-style salads earned the kids’ apathy about a month ago.

But that meal did reinforce my appreciation for salads with cooked cannellini beans. The butter beans in this recipe are similarly sized and mild-flavored. I’d favor more spinach than arugula here — maybe even frisée and Belgian endive, two of my favorite wintertime greens. The Marcona almonds I purchased for a cheese platter also could substitute nicely for honey-roasted nuts.

Microwaving these spices, according to recipe testers, helps to bloom their flavors and aromas in a fraction of the time it would take on the stovetop.

Tribune News Service photo

Winter Chicken Salad

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika

Dash of cinnamon

Juice 1 lemon

1 teaspoon honey

Kosher and freshly ground black pepper

5 ounces arugula or spinach, or combination

4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

1 (15-ounce) can white butter beans, drained and rinsed

Handful fresh cilantro leaves

1 shallot, thinly sliced

8 dried figs, quartered

1/3 cup honey roasted, slivered almonds

In a medium bowl, microwave 1 tablespoon of the oil with the coriander, paprika and a pinch or two of cinnamon until fragrant, for about 30 seconds. Whisk in the lemon juice and honey and season generously with salt and pepper. Whisking continuously, slowly drizzle in remaining 5 tablespoons olive oil until emulsified.

Place the salad greens, chicken, butter beans, cilantro, shallot and figs in a large salad bowl and toss to combine. Add about half of dressing and toss; add more dressing to taste — you want your salad to have a light coating rather than being drenched.

Sprinkle the almonds on top and serve.

Makes 4 main-dish servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “The Complete Salad Cookbook" by America's Test Kitchen.