Tuesday, August 30, 2011

letting go of the last bits of summer

Ah, the end of summer. It has always been a sad part of the year for me. No more delicious popping-out-of-its-skin stone fruit or refreshing watermelon to look forward to after a long day. No more excuses for gorging on more pistachio ice cream ("It cools me off!") or making salads for dinner ("It's too hot to cook."). At the same time, I have a lot to look forward to: pumpkins, denim jackets, camel colored suede, cinnamon infused desserts, warm hot cocoa, Thanksgiving. Even though I was always sullen about summer ending, autumn's arrival is something to celebrate. Let's celebrate with good food. Goodbyes are easier with food, don't you think? Let's cook some summer-y dishes to use up the last of the produce and our longings for summer food. Let's look forward to autumn.

There are those dishes that you would prefer to eat only in the summer, right? For me, its those salads with mayonnaise based dressings, the ones that are sweet, slightly tangy, and have little bits of crunchy surprises, that call for me during the summertime. This broccoli chicken salad is seriously the epitome of what a easy summer side dish is to me. Its simple and tasty. It has a medley of different flavors that meld together effortlessly. Its summer time, and the living should be easy. Take sips of ice cold Coke in between bites of this magnificent salad and other barbecue staples. The only regret I have with this salad is that I discovered a few weeks before summer comes to close. I wish I had time to eat more of this... Anyway, enjoy!

broccoli chicken salad, cropped

broccoli chicken salad 
inspired by Whole Foods' Broccoli Crunch
serves 4-8

2 - 2 1/2 heads of broccoli
2 1/2 tsp sugar
3 oz vinegar
4 tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 medium onion
2 - 4 chicken breasts, boiled or grilled
2 oz pecans, or any other nut
4 oz raisins, or any dried fruit

First, make the dressing. Dissolve the sugar into the vinegar, mixing every few minutes. When almost completely dissolved, add the mayo and mix well. Cut the broccoli into florets. Wash then blanch them in heavily salted water for a few seconds, immediately dumping the florets into water and ice. Drain and toss with the dressing so it can soak up flavor.. Dice the onion. Add them to the broccoli. Toast the nuts. While they are toasting, dice the chicken into bite size pieces. Add the chicken into the bowl. Set aside the nuts to cool for a bit. If they are pecans or any other large nut, chop into smaller pieces. Toss in the nuts and dried fruit. Dried cranberries and raisins can be used whole. Apricots, and other fruit in the same size range, should be diced. Toss everything together. I like it much better when it is served immediately. The flavors are more vibrant. However, this salad can be chilled. Try to savor this dish within a day or so. Enjoy.

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