A summer salad for sharing

Entertaining: Figs, nuts and cheese make things interesting in this chicken salad.

July 11, 1999|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

A student in one of my cooking classes telephoned me a few days ago to report that she had taken a salad I prepared in one of my courses to share with friends at her office. Everyone had loved the Chicken, Fig and Green Bean Salad in Blue Cheese Dressing, and she wanted to know if she could give out the recipe. Nothing pleases cooking teachers more than to hear that people are enjoying their dishes, so I answered with an enthusiastic "yes."

This salad is one I created at the beginning of the summer, and it has quickly become a personal favorite. I cut store-bought roasted chicken into chunks and toss them with blanched green beans, slivered dry Black Mission figs, sliced green onions and toasted walnuts. At serving time, these ingredients are napped with a creamy blue cheese dressing and arranged on a bed of greens. The combination of assertive flavors -- the salty cheese paired with the sweet figs -- and interesting textures -- the crunchy nuts, the crisp beans and tender chicken -- all contribute to make this an out-of-the ordinary chicken salad.

My student said that she could not wait to take this dish to a church supper because the recipe can be doubled or tripled easily for large crowds. She was also pleased that shopping for this salad would be easy because all the ingredients are readily available in most supermarkets.

The salad would be ideal to serve for a summer lunch or light supper along with a bowl of soup and some fresh berries for dessert. It makes a good choice to offer weekend guests who arrive late Friday night or at lunchtime on Saturday, since all the ingredients can be prepared in advance and simply combined at serving time.

To prepare dressing, place blue cheese and mayonnaise in mixing bowl and mash cheese into mayonnaise with rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Add garlic, sour cream, vinegar and lemon juice and whisk well to combine. Don't worry if a few lumps of blue cheese remain.

(Dressing can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover, refrigerate and bring to room temperature before using.)

To prepare salad, cook green beans in boiling salted water to cover until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain in colander under cold running water, then pat dry. Cut beans into 1-inch pieces and place in large mixing bowl.

Soak figs in bowl of hot water to cover to soften, 8 to 10 minutes. Pat dry, remove and discard stems. Cut figs into slivers and add to bowl with beans.

Remove and discard skin from chicken. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces so that you have about 3 cups. Add to bowl with beans and figs along with 3/4 cup walnuts and green onions. If not serving immediately, cover and refrigerate up to 2 hours.

To serve, bring bowl with chicken and other ingredients to room temperature for 30 minutes. Toss with dressing to coat well. Taste and season with salt if needed.

Arrange border of lettuce leaves on serving platter and mound salad in center. Garnish salad with remaining 1/4 cup walnuts. Serve immediately.

Note: Store-bought roast chicken works beautifully in this recipe and saves time. Purchase plain or lemon pepper-seasoned chicken. Avoid barbecue, Italian or other strongly flavored birds. To toast walnuts, spread on rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove and cool.

Chicken, Fig and Green Bean Salad in Blue Cheese Dressing

Serves 8

DRESSING:

3 ounces blue cheese, preferably Roquefort, crumbled

1/2 cup prepared mayonnaise

1/2 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

SALAD:

3/4 pound green beans, ends trimmed

12 dried Black Mission figs

1 (2 1/4 - to 2 1/2 -pound) good-quality plain roasted chicken (see note)

1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (see note)

3 green onions, thinly sliced, including 2 inches green stems

salt

several Boston or red leaf lettuce leaves, cleaned and dried

Pub Date: 07/14/99

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