This is a pretty big moment in the history of this blog, as this is the first time I’ve posted a recipe for (drum roll please) A SALAD!
And truth be told, I’m not the big salad eater in the house.
The Boyfriend is.
He’s the type who orders a salad off the drive through menu while I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for my big mac and large fries. A big bowl of greens is just not normally my thing, but when I do decide to take the plunge and give it a shot, the salad needs to be nice. Like, fancy restaurant quality kind of nice. I will take perfection or nothing else when it comes to eating greenery.
So needless to say, I was a bit timid to try my hand at making my own “real” salad – you know, something more legit than just lettuce, cheese, and ranch. And it’s not like a salad is all that complicated, because how hard can some chopped up veggies and fruit possibly be, but my own standards for what’s considered good were already pretty high. Maybe too high. Would I need to come up with something super special in order to make a simple salad good enough for my picky palate?
Suddenly I had a lot of sympathy for my mother for all the times she had to figure out what in the world to feed me.
I mulled over my options for a few weeks, then dragged my feet a little, but as the weather was warming and BBQ season as upon up I finally decided to just go for it and piece together the best salad I could think up.
And you know what?
I think I nailed it.
I’ve been so in love with the idea of strawberry caprese lately, so I made sure to include it in the salad. I also knew I wanted the salad to have some substance, and with my new appreciation of the miracle worker that balsamic is to chicken, a marinated tender chicken breast seemed like my best bet.
And I wanted to make sure the balsamic taste was really present (for, you know, the whole caprese thing) so I reduced some balsamic vinegar to create a glaze-like dressing to drizzle on top. Then to top it all off I placed it all on a bed of baby spinach.
The end result? Voilà, a super fancy (and tasty) salad!
I absolutely loved this salad, but I think the best part of it was The Boyfriend’s reaction. He eats so many salads that I sort of see him as an expert on them at this point, so after he took a few bites I eyed him carefully and asked if it was any good. He responded with a quick “yeah” in between bites, then went back to eating – and because I’ve known him for eight years, I could tell what really meant by that was “yeah, it’s freaking amazingly good.”
When his plate was cleared (which he did in half the time it took me) he turned to me and elaborated further, saying the salad was “really tasty. No matter what piece I’m eating, whether it’s the chicken or the strawberries or the cheese, no matter how I eat it it’s just interestingly good.”
And I have to admit, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
This is definitely the kind of dinner salad my picky palate can appreciate.
Strawberry Caprese Chicken Salad
Take a spring twist on a restaurant quality caprese salad with strawberries, mozzarella, and balsamic chicken.
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- In a small sauce pan, bring 1 cup of balsamic vinegar to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and let balsamic simmer for at least 20 minutes or until vinegar has reduced by 1/2 to create a balsamic glaze. Use a spoon to test the glaze - it should leave a film on the back of the spoon when ready. Glaze will thicken more once removed from heat.
- Place glaze in the refrigerator until ready to use. If glaze thickens too much while resting, stir in 1/4 tsp of water at a time until desired consistency is reached.
- Prepare chicken by cleaning and cutting off excess fat.
- Add chicken to a 1 quart zip lock bag. Pour a few tablespoons (2-3) of the prepared balsamic glaze in the bag with the chicken. Squeeze out excess air and seal bag.
- Let chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. For best results, marinate for 5 hours.
- When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Remove chicken from ziplock bag. Discard bag and balsamic glaze that chicken rested in. Place chicken in a small baking dish and pour a few tablespoons (2-3) of fresh balsamic glaze on top. Note: Be sure you still have enough balsamic glaze left over for drizzling over the prepared salad at the end.
- Bake chicken for 30 minutes until it is no longer pink in the middle.
- While chicken cooks, prepare and chop strawberries, mozzarella, and basil. Add ingredients to a medium bowl and toss with a spoon.
- When ready to serve, arrange 1 cup of baby spinach in each serving bowl. Place cooked chicken on top and garnish with strawberry caprese. Drizzle remaining balsamic glaze on top. Serve immediately.