Summer is the time for a main-course salad Entertaining: Cooks can use creativity as well as leftovers in assembling this hot-weather dish.

August 23, 1998|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Our friends all know they can call us at the last minute and come for a visit. That's what happened last Saturday when a friend who had moved out of town found herself back in our area for work and phoned to ask if she could stop by for an hour at noon. Although she never mentioned lunch, I knew she would be hungry and decided to make an impromptu meal for us.

Earlier that day I had been to the local farmers' market, where I had bought some beautiful produce, including a carton of fresh peas, a head of red-tinged butter lettuce and some cucumbers. In my refrigerator I found fennel bulbs, several slices of prosciutto and leftover roasted chicken from the night before. In my backyard herb garden, I snipped a bunch of tarragon.

Gazing at the hodgepodge before me, I finally had an idea. I would create a summer main-course salad of mixed greens topped with a melange of chicken, cucumbers, fennel, peas and prosciutto. For the dressing, a mustard vinaigrette seasoned with chopped tarragon came to mind.

I worked quickly, cutting the chicken into strips, julienning the prosciutto, slicing a cucumber, and blanching peas and fennel slices. Next, I whisked together the vinaigrette sauce and cleaned the greens. When our guest arrived, I simply assembled the salad and heated a loaf of French bread in the oven.

Although this salad was delicious made with the ingredients listed in the following recipe, you could vary it with what you have on hand. For example, tomatoes, cooked potatoes and green beans would all be fine vegetable replacements, while turkey, shrimp or country ham would work as well as chicken and prosciutto.

Summer Salad of Chicken, Fennel and Peas

Serves 4


4 1/2 tablespoons white wine


1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon (see note)


1 medium fennel bulb


1 cup shelled green peas

1 small cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced

2 to 3 ounces sliced prosciutto, cut into [-by-2 inch julienne strips

1 1/2 cups bite-size pieces roasted chicken, preferably white meat

2 medium heads tender butter or leaf lettuce, leaves removed, rinsed and dried pepper

To prepare dressing, place vinegar, mustard and salt in nonreactive mixing bowl and whisk well to blend. Whisk in olive oil and then stir in tarragon. (Dressing can be made 2 to 3 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature and whisk well before using.)

To prepare salad, cut off and discard lacy stalks of fennel bulb. Halve bulb lengthwise, remove and discard tough triangular cores from halves and slice into thin strips.

Fill medium saucepan two-thirds full with water and salt lightly. Bring to boil over high heat. Add fennel and peas and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

In large mixing bowl, combine fennel, peas, cucumber, prosciutto and chicken and toss with half the dressing.

Arrange 3 large, attractive lettuce leaves on each of 4 dinner plates. Tear enough remaining lettuce into bite-size pieces to make 6 cups. Toss torn lettuce leaves with just enough remaining dressing to coat lightly. (You may not need to use all the dressing.) Taste and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Divide and mound greens on each of prepared plates. Top each serving with some of chicken and vegetable mixture. Grind some pepper over each portion and serve immediately.

Note: Fresh tarragon is best in this dressing. If unavailable, substitute 2 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon.

! Pub date: 8/23/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.