Monday, August 17, 2009

Craving Capers :: Mediterranean Chicken Salad w/Spinach, Orzo, and Heirloom Tomatoes

I've heard your taste buds change every few years, well, I've decided it must be true!

I have always disliked capers (let's be honest... I've 'hated' capers!). And I'm not one to not like food. But, this weekend I accidentally had them in a salad, and now I can't get enough! I loved their salty brininess.

So, all day I've been craving capers! ... and then daydreaming about how I was going to use them to make dinner. I decided to make a Mediterranean salad of grilled chicken, with spinach and a bit of orzo.

I marinated the chicken breasts in lemon juice and a bit of the caper vinegar (the juice that comes in the jar w/the capers). And with the spinach I added orzo pasta, ripe yellow heirloom tomatoes, chopped olives, and of course: capers! I was going to top it with grated Parmesan but the cheese counter at Citerella (on of my favorite places for cheese!) suggested Ricotta Salata (a dry version of ricotta - imagine the consistency of feta cheese but less salty and tart). Delicious, and easy...a perfect weeknight meal!

2 chicken breasts
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
Pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped and pitted olives
1 tbsp capers
1 tomato, sliced
1 cup cooked orzo (cooked just like you would cook pasta - keep al dente)
2-3 cups of fresh spinach
A few slices of Ricotta Salata (you can substitute with Parmesan)

Marinate whole chicken breasts with the juice of half a lemon, Dijon mustard, and olive oil. Sprinkle with pepper and add a bit of the juice from the capers you will use later (about a teaspoon of the caper oil). Allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

Heat your stove top griddle (I use a cast iron Le Cruset griddle) on medium high heat and brush with olive oil. When the griddle gets hot (test it by sprinkling a bit of water - it should bubble) place the chicken breasts. Resist the urge to flip them over quickly! Wait at least 3 minutes. Flip chicken breasts over and allow them to fully cook. If you have a cooking thermometer, you can double check, this is especially useful when you have thick pieces. They will be ready when they hit 170F. Remove from heat and allow them to cool for 5 minutes, then slice.

Toss the olives, capers, tomatoes, orzo, and spinach in a bowl. Top with the chicken and ricotta slices.

Serve with a simple vinaigrette of 3 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar, and a bay leaf per serving. Be careful to not add salt to the dressing. The caper and olives will add plenty of salt to the salad.

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