Chicken, Peach, and Avocado Salad with Basil-Lime Vinaigrette

(serves 4)

 

Vinaigrette for all summer long and beyond
This refreshing vinaigrette is so delicious, you might want to use it for more than just a green salad.  Try it with a corn and tomato salad or a cold pasta dish.  We suspect that it could become a year-round staple.

INGREDIENTS 
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

Vinaigrette
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

METHOD
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. 

THOUGHTS
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.

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