Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette Chicken Salad

Hi, my name is Jessica and I have a confession to make.

Despite the name of this blog being Cooking is My Sport…I don’t always love to cook. Sometimes it’s the very last thing I want to do. I mean, the LAST. I envision putting on my baggy round the house clothes, pulling out pots/pans and standing in the kitchen for a while cooking–and I’ll just say to myself, “Yeah, nope. It’s not gonna happen today.”

And you know what? That’s okay. When those times arise, (and they will for everyone) there are a few different alternatives I will take to cooking a super ‘hands on’, full effort, time consuming meal:

First, I’ll order takeout–usually a pizza. Do I really need to do much explaining for this one? I mean, sometimes carb-heavy, greasy, sodium overload food is just what your body is craving. Life is short and if I don’t feel like cooking, pizza is a tried and true fail safe.

Second, I’ll eat cereal and milk. It’s quick, it’s not overly filling and so long as you pick cereals that aren’t loaded with sugar, it’s not the unhealthiest option either. (Honey Bunches of Oats and Hney Nut Cheerios is my winning combination in case you were curious).

Third, I’ll just pick up a rotisserie chicken.

Let me just say this right now: rotisserie chicken slander will not be tolerated on this here blog. I stan for rotisserie chicken and all the things that can be done with it. They’re awesome. They’re a pretty inexpensive buy whether you buy them fresh and cook them yourself, or pick a premade one up from your local grocery store deli. If the seasoning is done right by the deli, they usually taste pretty good on their own, but even if their bland on their own, it’s EXTREMELY easy to take the chicken off the carcass and give it a flavorific makeover within minutes.

I don’t like most chicken salad recipes because they’re mayonnaise based; mayonnaise triggers my gag reflex. So, I tend to stay away. However,  a little while ago I started experimenting with different ways to make the dressings for chicken salad, swapping out the mayonnaise entirely for other options, like this recipe where I used a base of Greek yogurt instead). This time around, I decided to go for a spin on chicken salad that was  made with a vinaigrette dressing rather than a creamy one.

I started out this post by saying I don’t always feel like cooking, and this recipe stays true to that. Literally the only thing that gets ‘cooked’ is garlic heads that are roasted in the oven. ‘Why do we roast garlic?’, you may ask. It cuts through the sharp flavor of raw garlic and improves it, giving a sweeter, richer flavor that really can’t be beat. You’ll be thanking me for this little trick and be using it in all kinds of dishes in the future.

Once the garlic is roasted, you really are practically done. From there, you just mix the rest of the dressing ingredients together in a blender, then pour it over the chicken and vegetables that make up your salad. I used roasted red peppers, cucumbers and onions (the usual suspects in my salads). There’s also a generous portion of chopped parsley leaves in there, which give it a zesty, peppery flavor.

I have to say, the dressing is the star here. The roasted garlic gives it a savory and almost caramelized flavor that’s gets balanced out with the remaining ingredients; acidity with the vinegar and honey mustard, and sweetness from the honey and OJ. Even if your rotisserie chicken isn’t seasoned right, this will spruce it right up. It tastes SO fresh and bright. It’s satisfying, but still light enough to where you won’t feel too full afterwards. This may have been a bare minimum effort meal, but we gobbled it up–I’ve already been asked to make it again. It’s really good and I think you ought to give it a shot on a non-cooking night when takeout or cereal isn’t tickling your fancy. Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #219, co-hosted this week by the lovely Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette Chicken Salad

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

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Ingredients

For Dressing

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (I used malt vinegar, but you can feel free to use red wine, white wine or balsamic, according to your preference)
  • 2 teaspoons honey mustard
  • Juice of 1 freshly squeezed orange
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

For Salad

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, deboned (It should yield 2 1/2-3 cups of shredded chicken)
  • 1/2 cup baby cucumbers, chopped and sliced in half
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, sliced
  • 1/2 cup yellow sweet onion, finely diced
  • Handful of chopped parsley leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Rub about 1 teaspoon of vegetable or canola oil on top of garlic head. Sprinkle the top with salt & pepper and place in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil. Wrap the foil around the garlic, like a package. Place on a half sheet pan and bake in the oven for about 50-55 minutes.

Remove and allow to cool until warm enough to handle. Take the roasted garlic head and break off individual cloves. Use your fingers to press/squeeze out the pulp into the container of a blender/food processor with the veggies. (It should come out very easily).

Pour the vinegar, honey mustard, orange juice, honey, olive oil and salt and pepper in the blender with the garlic. Process on high until smooth—taste and adjust for seasoning. If it’s still a little thick you can add a few tablespoons of water to thin it out.

Combine the chicken, cucumbers, red peppers, onion and parsley together in a large bowl. Slowly drizzle in about half of the dressing and stir thoroughly to combine. Taste it—if it’s to your satisfaction, you can leave off the rest of the dressing and save it for later, or you can add and stir it into the rest of the salad mixture.

Cover the chicken salad and refrigerate for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight to allow flavors to meld.

Falafel Patties

How was everyone’s holiday? You get any good presents? Eat any good food?

I hope the answer to both of those questions is yes. You deserve both.

Here we are at the end of 2017, and I feel like this year just flew by. My cooking and baking schedule for December is almost always hectic as I’m busy putting together recipes and posts for the 12 Days of Christmas series I do every year on the blog. Then all at once the holiday comes, the bustle is over and everything is calm and lax.

A lot of us have a tendency to indulge in a whole lot of sweet and not so lean treats during the holidays that after a while may feel like a sugar overload. I certainly love my carbs and sweets and I’ll never give them up–but after a while I too find myself craving leaner foods with fresh ingredients that leave you feeling full but not bloated or lethargic.

Usually when I get those cravings, I go to particular cuisine: Mediterranean.

Apart from soul food, if I had to pick a cuisine to eat for the rest of my life it would definitely be Mediterranean/Lebanese. I’m addicted to so many things about it: the fresh ingredients, the bright, zesty seasoning and spices, the satisfaction it brings to my belly without making me feel guilty if I ate a lot of it. It’s just the best.

I’ve shared a few of my favorite Mediterranean dishes on the blog already, and I highly recommend that you check them out, as they’d make a good accompaniment to the dish I want to share with you guys today.

No, I mean it. Chicken Shawarma and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, stat. They’ll change your life.

My ‘must-haves’ for a Mediterranean meal include a plate of chicken shawarma, hummus and falafel.  It’s the perfect trio. I hope to God that you know what falafel is, but on the most outrageous of off chances that you don’t…it’s a mixture of ground chickpeas, veggies and spices that are mixed together and then usually deep fried until crispy on the outside.

I say ‘usually’ because I’ve recently found that falafel doesn’t always have to be fried to taste good.

The base ingredients for traditional falafel are still here: you’ve still got your chickpeas, parsley, lemon juice, cilantro and garlic. I also added in plenty of cumin and smoked paprika with some other spices that I thought complemented the others well. I do recommend that you allow the mix to sit in the refrigerator overnight for two reasons: first, the colder it is, the more time it has to firm up and be easier to shape into patties. Second, it allows the flavors to marinate and develop into the beans.

The process of cooking the falafels is simple. After shaping them into patties, they get a quick sear on the stove, then a few minutes in the oven.From there, you can do whatever you like with them; eat them as a sandwich on a bun, stuff one into a pita, crumble them up into a salad, or even just eat it all on its own dipped in hummus. All of these are good choices.

I am most definitely not a vegetarian and it’s very safe to say I will never become one. I love poultry too much to do that. However! I will say that for several days I ate falafel patty sandwiches and found myself uncharacteristically not missing the meat. The garbanzo beans give the patty a ‘meaty’ texture and the fiber in them fills you up in an even better way than meat because your stomach doesn’t feel as heavy. These are really good and I think they’d be a nice way to start the year off if you’re in need of a lighter meal.

Linking this last post of 2017 up to Fiesta Friday #204, co-hosted this week by Sandhya @ Indfused.com.

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Falafel Patties

Recipe Adapted from Chowhound.com

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, peeled (preferably roasted garlic)
  • 1 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Canola, vegetable or peanut oil for frying

 

 

Directions

Place the chickpeas in a bowl of cold water, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours or at least overnight. Drain well. They’ll expand to about 4 cups.

Place 2 cups of the beans in a food processor (or blender). Pulse a few times, then process until a smooth paste. (If the mixture is too chunky, add about 2 tablespoons of water to the food processor or blender to make it smoother). Remove to a small bowl, then pour in the other half of the beans. Pulse these a few times until they are mostly chunky—they don’t need to be as smooth as the first batch, it’s alright if there are some large bits still in there. Remove the second batch of processed beans with the first to the bowl. Place the herbs, lemon juice, spices and baking powder in the processor and process thoroughly. Pour the chickpeas back into the processor and process mixture all together. (If too thick and ‘dry’ to hold together, add a couple tablespoons more of water. If need be, you can also do this in batches, then mix it all together in a bowl afterwards).

Refrigerate the falafel mix overnight to allow it to firm up and for flavors to fully develop.

Scoop the falafel out with about heaping 1/3 cup measure, then shape into patties. Refrigerate patties for 30 minutes. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add three patties to the pan, then cook for about 6 minutes per side. Remove to a wire rack that you place over a sheet pan. Repeat frying process with your remaining patties and oil until finished.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the patties in the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes before serving on toasted hamburger buns or inside/alongside pita bread.

(Note: You don’t have to bake the patties in the oven if their initial consistency/taste after frying is okay with you. I like to bake mine to give the chickpeas as ’cooked’ a flavor as possible, but it’s not mandatory. )