Hello summer! We've gone from three seasons of SAD (seasonally affected disorder) to GLAD (giddy, laughing and delighted) now that the sun is back out. We've finally had an opportunity to eat our first outdoor meals and we're not going back inside. Breakfast, lunch and dinner seem to taste better in the backyard, at the park or on the beach. Worst case scenario: if a meal happens solo in the car, at least we can roll the windows down now!
One of our favorite dishes this season has been this salad of chicken, peaches and avocado with a basil-lime vinaigrette. It's crisp, juicy and easy to prepare, just like we want every summer meal to be. One of the many bonuses is that you can simply prepare it ahead of time and add the vinaigrette just before serving. If you have little prep time in advance? Use a store-bought rotisserie chicken or leftovers from a previous evening's grilling.
The secret reason we love this recipe is because of the rustic, chewy croutons and the basil-lime vinaigrette. A loaf of thick-crusted, airy bread is what we like to use. Slice it up into a few thick slabs, then tear them by hand into bite-sized pieces. All of those jagged edges capture the heat differently when toasting, adding to the overall flavor of your croutons.
We recently put together a summer dinner for a friend who was recovering from an illness. We wanted her to enjoy the same bright flavors and textures of summer. So we packed up a portable picnic for her to enjoy until she could get out and about. But as we loaded ten separate containers of ingredients into our basket, we vowed to make things simpler next time. Thus, this recipe was born. Where it streamlines the complexity, it sacrifices nothing in flavor. Load this one into your picnic basket next time.
Chicken, Peach, and Avocado Salad with Basil-Lime Vinaigrette
Several slices of thick, country style bread (about 6 ounces) for croutons
2 Tbsp (or more) olive oil
1/4 tsp smokey paprika or other seasonings of your choice
1/4 tsp sea salt
pepper to taste
1 lb cooked, shredded chicken (approx. 2 large boneless breasts)
2 Tbsp olive oil (optional)*
1 Tbsp Herbes de Provence (optional)*
3-4 cups mixed salad greens
2 peaches, sliced
1 avocado, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup (packed) basil leaves
1/3 cup lime juice
1 garlic clove, grated
1 Tbsp honey
3/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Tear bread into 1-2 inch croutons. In a medium bowl, toss croutons with olive oil and sprinkle with smokey paprika, salt and pepper. Spread out into a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, approx 4-8 minutes. (To maintain a chewy interior, avoid toasting too dark). Remove from oven and allow to cool.
*If you plan to cook the chicken yourself, combine boneless breasts with olive oil and Herbes de Provence. Season with salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet and cook approximately 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool, then shred and toss with pan juices. (Alternately, you may choose to grill the chicken. If so, add the peaches to the grill too!)
Assemble remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl.
To make vinaigrette, combine basil leaves, lime juice, garlic and honey in a blender. Puree for about 1 minute until the basil is finely chopped. With motor running, slowly add the oil in a stream and blend for about about 30 seconds, or until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the cooled croutons and chicken to the salad ingredients. Just prior to serving, drizzle with about half of the vinaigrette and toss gently to coat the ingredients. Add more if necessary or reserve remaining vinaigrette for another use. Toss peaches and avocado in a little dressing if preparing ingredients more than two hours prior to serving.
If you are crunched for time or it’s too hot to turn the oven on, pick up a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Experiment with your favorite seasonings. A boldly flavored barbecue or Jamaican Jerk seasoned chicken tastes great with this vinaigrette too.