I’ve been married for a gazillion years, but I still like to occasionally woo my husband with a great meal. Which is not to say I spend hours preparing a meal that reminds the guy how much I love him, because oftentimes the best dinner is the one that the cook can pull together without much effort.
This date-night salad is a great example of a dish any home cook can whip up in a flash using everyday ingredients. It pairs crispy panko fried chicken tenders with the contrasting but complimentary flavors of fresh orange, salty blue cheese-stuffed olives and the rich caramel taste of dried dates. It’s presented on a bed of peppery arugula and tender baby spinach.
But the real star is the warm mustard dressing, which gets a zesty, citrusy kick from apple cider vinegar and orange juice concentrate.
I garnished the salad with crumbled goat cheese and toasted almonds. Paired with some crusty bread from Mediterra and a glass of crisp rose, it was a perfect meal for two. And it only took about 15 minutes.
WARM ARUGULA SALAD WITH CHICKEN AND CHEVRE
6 cups arugula and/or baby spinach, or mix of both
6 large blue cheese-stuffed or regular pitted green olives, halved or quartered
4 large dried dates, quartered or diced
1 navel orange, peeled, sectioned and cut into chunks
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 cup flour
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water
1/2 pound boneless chicken tenders, or 1 large boneless chicken breast cut into thin strips
Olive oil, for frying
4 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds, for garnish
Prepare salad: Place arugula and/or spinach, olives, dates and orange chunks in a large salad bowl. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together panko bread crumbs and dried spices until evenly mixed, then place on a large plate. Place flour on another plate. In large bowl, beat egg with 2 tablespoons water.
Dredge the chicken in the flour, coating well. Shake off excess flour and dip in the egg, then roll chicken in the panko crumbs to coat. Set the chicken to the side to rest for about 5 minutes. (This helps the coating stick better.)
Place about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet, and heat over medium-high heat. When it sizzles, add the chicken and cook until golden and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, and cover with foil to keep warm.
Add orange juice concentrate, water and vinegar to pan. Stir in mustard and let dressing boil for about 30 seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add 1/3 of the dressing to the salad and toss gently to mix.
Divide salad between 2 plates. Top each salad with fried chicken, goat cheese and drizzle on remaining dressing. Garnish with toasted almonds, and serve.
Adapted from “Eating Well Serves Two” by Jim Romanoff