Grilled Chicken, Mango and Mint Salad with Caper Viniagrette

In any case, salads repelled me for the longest time. Even as I witnessed the rebirth of the salad, with wonderful exotic ingredients, I stuck to my conviction that this was a useless part of the meal. It wasn't until recently that I began exploring the different options that included some pre-dinner leafy green and now, I must admit, I will occasionally replace a meal with what I once shunned. If you've ever read my personal blog (shame on you if you haven't), you can easily see that health conscious eating is not part of what I explore but as I continue to grow (both figuratively and literally) I feel I need to take a step back and re-evaluate. Now I must openly admit I was wrong. I have actually found some really delicious salad choices that make me realize what I had been missing. I forgive my parents for this scar they placed and I'm really glad it's healing.

I'm almost embarrassed to offer a salad recipe because, frankly, almost any combination of things you enjoy can be incorporated into a salad one way or another. In fact, that's how this salad came together. A few days after Easter, I had some items that didn't get used and I just thought what a lovely salad it would make. The two heads of Romaine lettuce were sure to go bad soon. My mango that wasn't ripe enough when I wanted it a few days earlier would surely be ripe by now. That mint that I bought for the lamb didn't all get used. Oh, and there's that lone chicken breast in the fridge from when I cooked only one for Lisa. Hey those dinner rolls that never got opened can't last much longer and I'd bet we could make some great croutons with them. And so it went with a few other ingredients and this wonderful, fresh and minty salad was born. The juicy sweet mango with the warm grilled chicken paired with a tangy caper vinaigrette will awaken every part of your taste buds.

If you think I'm trying to pawn my day old leftovers onto you, you may be on to something but if you go down this road, you won't feel that way. This is not the 1st salad I've ever made, but it is the first that I've ever penned a recipe for and you will be so pleased if you try your hand at it.

Please enjoy.

Grilled Chicken and Mango Salad with Caper Vinaigrette and Oven Baked Croutons

(Serves 6)

For the croutons

2 cups cubed white bread, I use crust and all but it's your call

2-3 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

(Here I use a spice mix that I generally make as I need and keep on hand. It contains salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, onion powder, cumin, coriander and dried oregano )

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. On a sheet pan, toss the bread cubes with the olive oil and seasoning. Bake for 5 minutes then turn over. Bake another 5-10 minutes until just golden. Remove and set aside.

For the chicken

2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips

2-3 tbsp olive oil

Salt an pepper to taste

Preheat grill to medium high (can be out door or stove top grill -I used stovetop for this one). Toss chicken and oil together to coat and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 2-3 minutes on all sides. Remove from heat and let rest. After cooling 10-15 minutes, cube the chicken into bite size pieces. TIP- If chicken is a little underdone, a few seconds or a minute in the microwave will cure that. The flavor will be preserved. Be careful because too long will dry out the pieces.

For the dressing

3 tbsp capers

1 medium shallot

Tsp Dijon mustard

Juice from 1 lemon

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Wisk all ingredients together thoroughly.

2 heads romaine, shredded. Last 2 inches next to the core is for the compost heap.

¼ cup mint leaves coarsely chopped

1 mango, peeled and cubed

1 medium onion

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss. In the bowl you will serve in, place a few tablespoons of the dressing then add the tossed salad to that serving bowl. Gently fold from the bottom to coat each leaf with just a touch of the vinaigrette. Top with the chicken and croutons and serve. Pass the remaining dressing with the salad.

As a kid I never liked salads. Do all kids feel that way? I think they do. I recall wondering what they contributed to my meal at a restaurant other than something to do while waiting for my steak and subsequent dessert. And even at the nicest restaurants, they consisted of iceberg lettuce, 2 or 3 onion slices (that were quite awkward to eat) a wedge or two of tomato and some stale croutons. Then of course you could order whatever goop you wanted atop the salad. House dressing was something with oil and vinegar and too many dried herbs. Does this sound familiar to anyone else about 1970's salads or did my parents only take to trashy places? Perhaps you shouldn't answer that in fear of me needing some sort of therapy later.

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