Don't you just love all the colors and textures in my Grilled Chicken and Barley Salad With Tangerine Sesame Vinaigrette? This lovely (and super-healthy) salad is brimming with root vegetables (golden beets, butternut squash, or sweet potatoes), greens (arugula and/or spinach), and tangerines. The light Asian-inspired tangerine sesame vinaigrette provides bright acidity and umami flavor that will dance on your tongue. 🙂 Jump to the recipe here, or read on and you'll find it at the bottom of the post...
I don't give up easily... The decision to plunge head first into the world of food blogging seven months ago was a difficult one, but I did it. I have slain the dragon of technical issues, fought an ongoing battle with my cameras, and have yet to gain the upper hand on understanding who reads my posts and how my subscribers find me. I have nearly 400 subscribers, yet rarely do I receive feedback through my "comment" section of my posts. I need your help!
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“Go back?" he thought. "No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!" So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
~~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Conversely, writing about food is a "walk in the park." I love the written word, and I love the pleasures of creating and consuming wonderful food. This somewhat eclectic salad recipe is versatile, lending itself well to substituting seasonal ingredients, and whatever you have on hand. I have done this salad with both grilled chicken breast and seared ahi tuna. Farro would be a perfect substitute for the barley. I prefer the peppery bite of arugula, but baby kale or spinach is also delicious. The first time I made it, beets were in season, and they were amazing! This time around, no beets were to be found, so I grabbed a package of cubed butternut squash. Sweet potatoes would also work well. The key is to use fresh, seasonal produce, and utilize your well-stocked pantry for the grain and vinaigrette.
This salad will come together quickly, but does require prep time. The chicken (or tuna) benefits from time in the marinade - at least an hour. Trader Joe's has a really good teriyaki marinade that does not contain additives. Make sure your read the list of ingredients. It should include things like sesame, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, honey or brown sugar... no high fructose corn syrup or chemical compounds 🙂 I add some additional toasted sesame oil and Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar to mine. Rice vinegar seasoned with citrus is readily available at many markets. I am "layering the flavors" by adding the hint of citrus to the marinade. If you don't have a citrus vinegar, substitute orange or tangerine juice for a bit of the vinegar. I typically get the protein into the marinade in the morning for chicken, and an hour or two ahead for tuna...
Prepare the root veggies next. Breaking down a butternut squash can be time consuming, but packaged cubed butternut squash is available at most markets, and a great time saver. Beets, my favorite in this salad, break down more quickly. Pre-heat your oven, peel and cube your roots. Toss with olive oil, ground pepper, and salt. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Barley comes in "instant", medium cook, and long cook packages. I prefer the medium cook. It cooks in 45-50 minutes, and stays a bit firm. I would not recommend the instant variety, as it tends to get mushy. If you're using the long cook variety, you may wish to start the barley, and then prep your root veggies. Because this dish is served at room temperature, you don't need to worry about keeping anything hot.
Once you have the veggies in the oven, and the barley simmering, grill the chicken. Do NOT overcook the chicken. Internal temperature of 160° for white meat is ideal. See Bon Appetit Magazine's Common Grilled Chicken Mistakes for additional help. My husband is the "grill master" at our house, and while he grills the chicken (or tuna), I mix up the dressing, section the tangerines, and toast the sesame seeds.
Once the different components of the salad are finished, it is time to assemble the dish. Combine the barley (drain any remaining liquid), root vegetables, tangerine sections and greens in a large salad bowl. Toss with about ¾ of the vinaigrette. Slice the chicken or tuna in ¼" thick slices. Plate ¼ of the salad, top with ¼ of the chicken or tuna, sprinkle with sesame seeds and drizzle with a bit of the remaining vinaigrette. Voila! One extremely healthy and delicious one-dish meal 🙂
- Don't be afraid to "mix it up." Substitute seared tuna for the chicken. Use your favorite root vegetable. Use spinach or baby kale in place of the arugula.
- Keeping a well-stocked pantry means you only need to pick up a couple of fresh ingredients to pull together a delicious, nutritious meal. For this recipe, I always have chicken breast, and frequently ahi tuna steaks, in my freezer. I have barley and sesame seeds in my pantry. I keep ponzu, orange muscat champagne vinegar, sesame oil, olive oil, and honey on hand, so whipping up the dressing is a snap.
- My husband and I work out 5 days a week, and frequently have grilled chicken breast already sliced in the fridge. This recipe is a great way to use it. Drizzling the dressing over top will provide the Asian flavor if the chicken didn't marinade in teriyaki sauce. You could also use rotisserie chicken in the same way.
- Ponzu sauce is a light soy sauce with a hint of citrus. You may substitute a light soy sauce, but a dark soy sauce will overpower the dish.
- A personal or bullet blender is a great tool for making your salad dressings.