Quick Summertime Eats

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summertime meal
A warm weather meal: Summertime chicken salad, beet salad, and baguette

It's summer in the Bay Area. In fact, it's nearing the end of summer, but let's not talk about that. If you like remaining in denial, I urge you not to step into Target or Staples as it's a full-on Back to School extravaganza. But generally have Indian summers in the Bay Area, so there is still plenty of time to enjoy weekend barbeques and 24/7 flip-flops. Around this time last year, I was breaking out my fan and making batches of gazpacho. Remember that? Depending on where you live, this year's felt a lot more like fall than summer. But that doesn't mean I haven't been using the longer days as an excuse to get out of the kitchen. Because I have--gravitating towards simple meals of salads, breads, and cheeses. And I try and keep some of this chicken salad on hand at all times.

chicken salad ingredients
Summertime Chicken salad ingredients

I was inspired by the Sonoma Chicken Salad they sell at my local Whole Foods. It has grapes and toasted pecans and not too much mayonnaise, but it's pricey and I only buy it for a special treat. I'm talking really, really pricey. So I set about to duplicate it on my own with a few twists.

Bite of Summertime Chicken Salad on fresh baguette


If you grow your own herbs or are just into herbs in your cooking, feel free to experiment with sage, basil, or dill. Or really anything that sounds good to you. Once you make this salad a few times, you'll probably start throwing in odds and ends that you've got laying around. And I thought I'd also give you my super simple recipe for a quick beet salad. This recipe was inspired by a similar one that they make at Comforts Restaurant in San Anselmo. It's so basic but so, so good. Enjoy. Get cooking.

Summertime Chicken Salad
If you'd rather just boil the chicken breasts instead of roasting them, that works fine too. I just think roasting them with salt and pepper gives it a little more flavor. Feel free to add any nuts you like and, as I said above, experiment with any herbs you like.

2 bone-in chicken breasts
1 Tbsp. olive oil (to roast the chicken breasts)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
3/4 cup small-diced celery
3/4 cup green grapes, sliced in half

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place each chicken breast on a baking pan, rub with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Roast chicken breasts for 35-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked all the way through. I always cut a slit in the middle to check--just to be safe. Set chicken aside to cool completely.
3. Remove meat from the bones, and cut the chicken into small 3/4 inch pieces.
4. Mix chicken, mayonnaise, herbs, grapes and celery together in a serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss well and serve.

Makes: 4 servings

Megan's Beet Salad
4 large red beets
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. sherry vinegar
1/4 tsp. dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

1. Trim off leafy tops of beets, and rinse well.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 F, and sprinkle beets with olive oil, just enough to lightly cover them. Wrap beets in aluminum foil (you'll literally make a little pocket or pouch for them to rest in). Place in the oven and roast until tender, about one hour.
3. While beets are roasting, whisk together the extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
4. Slice cherry tomatoes in half, chop basil into thin strips, and set both aside.
5. When finished roasting, take beets out of aluminum foil and allow to cool completely. Then, the skin should slide right off using a dry paper towel or, if need be, a small paring knife. Slice the beets into eight quarters each.
6. Combine the beets, tomatoes, and basil in a small serving bowl. Pour dressing over and lightly stir to combine.

Makes: 4 servings