We had some warm days last week, and so, one night, I was in the mood for a pasta salad, and settled on a Latin-Inspired, Pasta-and-Black-Bean-Salad with Chicken. That, however, quickly morphed into a fusion of flavors and ultimately became a White-Bean-Black-Rice and Chicken Salad … so let’s get cooking …
Step one was out to the herb ‘garden-‘basically some pots on the deck, and hanging contraption of smaller pots, for some fresh Mint, fresh, Basil, fresh cilantro, and fresh Mexican Thyme which has a cool anise flavor to it. Then it was back to the kitchen for the rest of the “stuff.”
I don’t measure when I cook, I taste and guess. This works out well most of the time but can be disastrous, so let’s just talk what went into dinner:
From the left: Bell Pepper, Tomato, Onion [Okay, the onion isn’t pictured, but did go into the salad], Avocado, Lime, Chipotle peppers in Adobo, Kalamata olives, White Beans, Black Rice, Feta Cheese, two boneless, skinless Chicken breast, and that assortment of fresh herbs.
First up, the chicken. Liberally season with salt and pepper, and any other spices [garlic powder, perhaps] that you like. Take a chipotle pepper out and chop — these muthas are hot, so go sparingly — and rub all over both sides of the breasts. Then take some of the adobo sauce the peppers come in, and brush the chicken breasts as well. Wrap loosely in foil, place on the middle rack of the oven and cook at 350 for 35 minutes; that’s what our oven takes, and it’s a convection oven, so the times may vary.
Cook ½ cup of Black Rice in 1-¼ water, or broth — I used chicken broth; bring to a boil, then simmer for forty minutes; also, rinse and soak the beans for about a half hour in hot water, then cover with water — no salt, it dries them out — and boil, then simmer for about forty five minutes. When the rice is done rinse it off — black rice has a tendency to ‘bleed’ onto the other ingredients if you don’t rinse it — and then chill it for the salad. When the beans are done, drain them, and let them cool off in the fridge.
Oops, I forgot corn. I had a small can of corn in the pantry, so I sprinkled some Grapeseed oil in a pan, threw in the corn with salt and pepper, and then cooked it on medium heat until the corn charred a bit.
Dice the pepper, the tomato, the avocado, and … look! … it’s the onion. For the avocado, cut it in half lengthwise, remove the pit and then, with a non-sharp knife so you don’t pierce the skin — yours or the avocado — cut a series of slits into the avocado, and then you can just scoop out the chunks easily. Put all those into the serving dish.
Take all the herbs, whichever ones you choose — I used all the ones mentioned—and give them a good chop.
When the chicken is done, take off the rack and let cool in the fridge; then you can remove some of the peppers — or, if you like it hot, leave them on — and cube the chicken and add to the veggie and herb mixture.
Toss in the chilled rice and beans, make a vinaigrette out of fresh lime juice and olive oil; use a ratio of 2-to-1 to make the vinaigrette: ½ cup olive oil to a ¼ cup lime juice—I went a little heavier on the lime because I liked the zing. Season with salt and pepper, shake well—or use a blender to emulsify, and then add to the salad. Chill the salad till dinner, sprinkle with crumbled Feta, and then serve atop a bed of mixed greens with a couple of lime wedges.
There’s a lot of cooking and chilling with this recipe, but, let’s say you made Black Rice one night; make a little extra and keep in the fridge until you wanna make the salad; the same goes with the chicken and the beans; they can be cooked and chilled a day or two in advance, Then, when you want to build the salad it all comes down to the veggies and the herbs and spices. Toss together, dress it and eat it.