Curry Chicken Salad

When it is hot out, and quite possibly just as hot indoors, do you really want to cook anything? I never minded cooking in the height of summer while I lived in New Jersey or even while I was living in Phoenix. In both of those places we had central air conditioning! Here in Seattle cooking in the summer is completely different, case in point - no air conditioning at all! To be honest, the summer hear in the pacific northwest is beautiful. It generally is mild and there is almost always a breeze. That is until the last week or two, we have been in the 90’s along along with a slight increase in humidity. By the time I walk home from work in the afternoons with the sun beating down on me, and I climb the four flights of stairs to my apartment, I am ready for a cool shower followed by sitting in front of the fan for a bit. Cooking is the last thing from my mind. Salads, quick meals, and grabbing takeout have been the answer to this heat.

Prepping the ingredients for the salad. (Apricots when dried naturally are brown in their approach but just as sweet as the orange ones.)

But Brian came home explaining that he had lunch club at work. The theme they came up with was Summer Salads and Sandwiches. Very fitting given the heat. He explained he was going to make the Curry Chicken Salad I would make for lunch when we owned our bakery. He said to me: “It is always so good. I really love the balance of spice to sweetness and creaminess with it’s crunch.” Unfortunately, Brian had nonstop meetings, worked the weekend, and had business dinners. This evolves into I am now making the Curry Chicken Salad. But I don't mind really, there is not much to chopping the ingredients. While Brian was at one of his business dinners I chopped the celery, shallot, and dried apricots. I mixed them into the curry, mayo, and yogurt to let is all marinate together. I left the baking of the chicken and toasting of the almonds for Brian. I knew he would be home once the sun went down and once the temperature would drop in our kitchen.

When Brian got home he did just that. He baked off the chicken cutlets and let them cool. He toasted the almonds and chopped them and put them aside. When the chicken was done baking and cooled he chopped it up into small pieces and tossed it with the reserved mixture I made and let it all marinate together. He said he tasted it in the morning to adjust the salt and packed it up for lunch club. He said the salad went over well as many of his coworkers took a little bit and either ate it on it’s own with greens or made a sandwich with it. It makes me happy to see others enjoy this salad, not to mention my kitchen did not swelter in heat to make something. Make it for yourself and keep cool this summer. I hope you have breezy days and cool nights!

Curry Chicken Salad with almonds over the top. Served and ready to dig in.

Curry Chicken Salad (makes enough for 6 people)

**Notes: curry powder can vary depending on brand, and region of origin. For this I use a traditional Indian curry. I personally love a south indian curry if available. But if you are weary of the curry then adding just 1 tsp at a time to build a flavor that you are comfortable with.

4 chicken cutlets

2 large ribs of celery, chopped small

1 large or 2 small shallot, chopped small

8 - 10 dried apricots, chopped fine

1/2 cup of almonds, tasted ad chopped

1 tbsp curry powder

1/4 cup of mayo

1/4 cup greek yogurt

sea salt, to taste

Olive oil, for baking

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Coat the chicken with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle a bit of sea salt over it, place it on a prepared baking sheet, and place it in the oven. Check on the chicken after 12-15 minutes. You re looking for the chicken to be cooked though and slightly golden in hue. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Next, in a bowl place your shallot, celery, and dried apricots. Mix it together with your mayo and yogurt. Sprinkle the curry over it all and toss it together and set in the refrigerator to chill and marinate.

Meanwhile, chop your chicken into bite sized pieces. Once all chopped add to your curry mixture and toss well. If serving right away taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If not serving right away cover it all and store in the refrigerator for at least a day, but taste and adjust the seasoning before serving.

Finally, when ready to serve you can stir the almonds into the mixture, or you can serve them along side. Also, if you feel the salad mixture is not creamy enough feel free to add more mayo and yogurt in equal amounts. Serve it with lettuce or with slices of bread to make sandwiches with.

Kumquat and Rosemary Chicken (with wine braised vegetables)

When you work in a restaurant life can sometimes be difficult. Maybe I should retract that sentence? I do love what I do. I could not imagine myself in any other line of work really. There are times however that attack you in this business. Times like Valentine’s Day for example; all you end up doing is thinking about the upcoming holiday — What do I have to prep? What do I need to order? How am I going to get it all done? What if I didn’t order enough chocolate? What if the fruit is not ripe in time? All other things in life get put to the way side…sleep, relaxation. hobbies, friends, family, and just about anything personal. Then; before you know it the big day comes and goes. You survived! (On very little sleep!) You look back at it and laugh in due time making it all worth it in the end. That is where I have been. No time for fun, just work and more work. There was an evening where it got to be too much and Brian took me out. I had a slice of pizza and a pint of hard cider.  I ate and drank and vented a lot. Came home afterward to fall fast asleep, I really needed that decompression that evening. I owed Brian big time for dealing with my stress during what most couples perceive as a great holiday.

Kumquat and Rosemary Marinade

It all got me to thinking about Brian and our relationship. I must admit that sometimes I feel a bit guilty about what I prepare for us to eat daily. You see, I made a conscious decision to become a vegetarian. I wanted and felt the change was necessary in my life. My husband was fully supportive but on the other hand did not feel the need to make the change for himself. It makes me feel bad that he primarily eats a plant based diet due to me. He insists he does not mind, and says he feels he is better for my influence. Somehow, I will always feel bad that he is eating another vegetarian meal when I cook for us.

Chicken pieces marinating and developing lots of flavor.

I have stated on here before I do not mind cooking meat, I just make sure it is consciously done. That and the fact that I studied all types of food in culinary school, I do know what I am doing when faced with a piece of raw protein. If I do not dabble with it once in a while I worry I will lose my knack. That is why I challenged myself, that and I really felt that Brian deserved it. I wanted to make a seasonal chicken dish. I was able to pick up fresh kumquats and rosemary at the market and used them to marinate and bake the chicken. The end result was a bright and flavorful chicken that was just as juicy as it was tangy. It all baked over some wine braised veggies and served over some cracked bulger wheat. A meal worthy for all the non-meat meals he is faced with regularly. Not to mention a meal worth dealing with my agony of restaurant holiday stress. Maybe a good chicken dish can comfort any meat eater, I will stick with my veggies though.

Baked Kumquat Rosemary Chicken with the wine braised vegetables - freshly out of the oven.

Kumquat Rosemary Chicken with Wine Braised Veggies (feeds 4)

**If you cannot find kumquats feel free to use oranges, tangerines, or lemons. If you are not familiar with kumquats, they are really small fruits in the citrus family. All is edible on them - skin and all. The flavor is somewhat like a sweeter lemon or a tart orange.

1 1/2 cup chopped kumquats

2 tbsp rosemary sprigs

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp sea salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

5 - 6 chicken pieces (thighs and breasts)

1 yellow onion; trimmed, halved and cut into strips

3 carrots; peeled, trimmed, and chopped into 1 inch pieces

4 stalks of celery,trimmed and chopped into 1 inch pieces

1 cup of dry white wine

Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

First; in a large bowl mix together your kumquats, 1/4 cup of olive oil, rosemary, 2 tbsp of sisal, and 1 tsp of black pepper. place your chicken pieces in the bowl and toss all together. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 - 4 hours.

Next, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large baking dish (about 9 by 13 inch with a rim at least 2 - 3 inches tall) place your onion, carrot, and celery. Pour the wine over it all and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Remove the marinating chicken from the refrigerator. Place the chicken along with the kumquats and rosemary evenly over the veggies.

Then, place the whole dish in the oven and bake together for about an hour. You will see that the chicken will start to render into the veggies and wine. The chicken will begin to turn golden and brown evenly. (You can check the chicken for it’s “doneness” if you are concerned.)

Finally, once the chicken is browned and the veggies are tender you can remove the dish from the oven. Let it settle and rest about 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm and with the veggies and the juices from the overall dish.