Inspired Leftovers: Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing
I could get lost strolling through farmers markets and small local specialty grocery stores. Upon entering the market I enjoy strolling around, looking for new produce to mark the beginning of their season, and admiring the beauty of the bounty. Plants and their fruit are so beautiful and the markets know how to display their vibrant, mix-match colors creating a landscape like the scattered dots in a pointillist painting. I go to the market with a shopping list and an idea of what I want, but I can be easily swayed by the texture, color and shape of the fruit and vegetables enticing me to take a closer look.
My inspirational browsing does not transfer to the supermarket. The stacks of pre-packaged fruits and vegetables greet me at the entrance., immediately making me defensive. No lingering allowed, keep moving, keep moving, keep moving. The costumer is encouraged to grab and go, not to examine and select. Ironically it can take me a longer time to shop at a supermarket, despite being designed for speed and efficiency, because I do more scrounging around to find a good piece of meat or produce. My focus will concentrate on what I absolutely need, while my inner thoughts say, “Damn, this is what I have to choose from?” The supermarket may call the pre-packaged produce as “Grab and Go,” I call it wasteful and a ripoff. There is no need to encourage me to spend more money, I do a pretty good job at that already, and I do not want the extra packing material, or 3 lbs of green beans. All I want is fresh food at a reasonable price, that is ripe, flavorful, and I can pick and choose as I please without the extra waste.
I will be honest, I procrastinate going to the grocery store. It is a lot easier to procrastinate now that there are only two of us living under one roof. There are times when 5:30 rolls around after a day of work and I realize that there is nothing planned or prepared for dinner. On these days, leftovers and a well stocked pantry come to the rescue. I do plan for leftovers and count on them two days a week. As my dependence on leftover grows, I am more insistent about keeping sticky fingers from grazing or helping themselves to seconds.
When I was a kid leftovers was a sentence to eating the dregs scraped off the bottom on the pan. When mom announced leftovers of dinner, she was met with groans, rolled eyes, and exasperated reactions. I vaguely remember my own children giving me the same reaction as well, but it was possibly more directed to the amount of times we had chicken for dinner. “Chicken! Again! Can’t we have something different for a change? Why must we always have chicken? Ugh. ”
Leftovers do not have to be the dregs, as long as there are some fresh vegetables available, last nights dinner can become new again. My inspiration for this leftover meal came about because I had more avocados than I knew what to do with, some homemade yogurt that I am in love with, and enough leftover grilled chicken to stretch into a salad for two. The finishing touches are added once the foundation is set. The avocado and yogurt dressing was inspired from a recipe of Mark Bittman’s of which I added a tomatillo and poblano pepper, (the leftovers from another meal). Some food items are just meant to be together and avocado, tomatillo and poblano chili pepper are just those foods asking to be married.
Look in your fridge and pantry, hidden inside are some odd and end gems of produce and proteins ready to freshen up last nights dinner. These easy dinners can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. No tantrums with this fresh take on leftovers. You never know, an inspired leftover meal could be your next family favorite.
What is your favorite way to use up leftovers?
What to do with your leftover avocado?
Avocado toast on whole grain bread with a poached or fried egg.
My standby lunch of open-face sandwich with avocado, salsa and cheese, melted under the broiler.
Inspired Leftover Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Serving Size: 1 cup
Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. Any type of prepared chicken will work with this recipe, just remove skin and bones if needed. Grilled chicken and cucumber salad is a refreshing and easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.
The avocado yogurt dressing was inspired by a recipe from How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. I cut the ingredients in half because I was using it as a salad dressing and not a dip. I threw in a tomatillo and some poblano pepper to add a little more flavor and texture. If you do not have either of these two ingredients, replace them with a couple of tablespoons of tomatillo salsa, (salsa verde).
Prepare and serve the salad immediately, as anything made with avocado will discolor when exposed to air. I have eaten leftover salad for lunch the next day, but beyond that the salad would look and taste funky.
Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad
2 grilled boneless and skinless chicken breasts
4-5 springs of cilanto, chopped
Avocado Yogurt dressing
2 large handfuls of cleaned fresh spinach
Fresh blueberries or strawberries (optional)
Avodaco and Yogurt Dressing
1/2 Haas avocado
2 -3 Tbl plain yogurt
Juice from 1 lemon, zest from half a lemon
Scant 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 small tomatillo, peeled and chopped
1/4 of a poblano pepper -seeds and stem removed and chopped
1/2 of a shallot, minced
1 garlic clove
Kosher salt to taste
Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad
Chop the grilled chicken breasts in to bite size pieces about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch. Place the chicken in a medium sized mixing bowl.
Cut the cucumber piece in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut each of the 4 seedless cucumber sections in half lengthwise to create 8, long cucumber pieces. Cut the cucumber pieces into 1/2 inch chunks and add to the mixing bowl with the chicken.
Trim the root off the scallion then slice the white and light green part into thin slivers. discard the dark green parts with the root or set aside for another use. Add scallions to mixing bowl.
Trim the cilantro leaves from the long stems and gather the leaves into a tight pile, holding the pile together with your non-working hand. Cut across the pile to mince the cilantro. Add cilantro to mixing bowl.
Mix all the ingredients together until evenly combined and set aside.
Avocado and Yogurt Dressing
Place the minced shallot in a small bowl and add the juice of half a lemon to the bowl. Let the shallots macerate in the lemon juice for a few minutes.
Peel the garlic clove and remove the green germ from the center. Mince the garlic, then add to the lemon juice and shallots.
Using a spoon, scoop the avocado meat sway from the peal then add the avocado to a food processor. Add 2 heaping tablespoons of yogurt to the avocado along with the peeled and chopped tomatillo, and chopped poblano pepper.
Add a pinch of Kosher salt, about 1/4 teaspoon, and lemon zest to the avocado mixture then turn on the food processor and puree the ingredients until combined.
Add the orange juice and shallot, garlic and lemon juice mixture to the avocado. Turn on the processor and blend until the dressing is smooth. Taste and correct the seasoning to suit your preference. Add the remaining lemon juice, a little salt and remaining yogurt if you think it is needed.
Blend in the food processor until desired consistency.
Putting in all together
Pour half the avocado and yogurt dressing in the bowl with the grilled chicken and cucumbers. Stir until well combined. Taste the salad and add more dressing as you desire. I have used all of the dressing on one occasion and three-quarters of the dressing on another. It all depends on how much you add into the salad. (If you have any leftover dressing, use it as a dip with chips or vegetables, that same night, as a light and easy appetizer before dinner).
Place a large handful of fresh and clean spinach on each plate. Arrange about 1 cup of the grilled chicken and cucumber salad on top of the fresh spinach. Drizzle the spinach and chicken with your best quality extra virgin olive oil and a few fresh berries.
The dressing is a small amount and would be best prepared in a small food processor.
I had a lot of Fire and Ice radishes available so I added them to my salad. This salad is very easy to adapt to what produce you have available and needs to be used up. The berries are a nice addition, adding a touch of sweetness to cut some of the tang from the lemon and yogurt, but not necessary.