There’s nothing better than having someone else cook for you while you enjoy a cocktail or two. Even better is when they clean up after you as well. This is why I’m guilty of eating out – a lot. This week the author’s of Digitally Delicious will be hard at work, enjoying beverages and letting others do the cooking for us.
One of my favorite dishes is the Santa Fe Chicken Salad from Earl’s. It has Cajun grilled chicken on a bed of mixed greens, tossed with a peanut lime dressing, complimented by black beans, corn, avocados, feta cheese, fresh dates, and corn tortillas.
It’s what I order every time we go to Earl’s, and we go to Earl’s a lot so I can have it. It’s really, really good. But eating out takes a toll on the wallet the salad costs about $16, factor in drinks and well, you know… it adds up. So, I’ve decided to see if this is something I can make at home. After scouring the Internet I found a recipe (via kitchenlink.com )and with a few minor modifications I tried my hand at recreating this salad…
Right off the bat I was not impressed with this decision. ‘I should have just gone out’ I thought, ‘and have someone make it for me’.
First off, I didn’t have most of the ingredients on hand. This meant a specific shopping trip that totalled about $40. Not the cheapest salad to make and it didn’t even come with wine. But, the recipe promises to feed four so in the grand scheme of things it’s potentially a money saver. Plus, I drew the line at buying fresh dates. At $10 for a package I decided to use some dried cranberries instead (what would I possibly do with 2 pounds of leftover dates?).
Then I found a calorie listing for the Earl’s salad (via dailyplate.com ). Holy crap! At 900 calories and 58.1 grams of fat it rivals a fast food combo! This can no longer be my favorite thing to order. I feel duped. Salad is supposed to be good for you. Granted, much of it comes from good fats (avocados, peanuts, feta? No? Feta’s no good?) it’s still hard to justify getting 89% of your daily fat intake from one salad.
It also took a long time to make. About an hour in total (excluding, I should add, the shopping trip which was very time consuming – who knew black beans were only located in the organic isle?). Time I could have spent relaxing in the lounge. Plus, there was the cleanup after. I have to admit, preparing the salad myself did take away some of its glamour. No cocktails, no wait staff, no dishwashers…
Ok, but complaining aside the salad was actually good and tasted pretty much like the restaurant version. Most of the dish (chicken, dressing, beans, and corn) can be made in advance or tucked away for next day leftovers. The recipe looks daunting for a salad but there are a few shortcuts that can be taken.
Since I can no longer order this in good conscience I may be able to tweak the recipe at home to make it a little easier on the waistline. Plus, all the shopping, cooking and cleaning no doubt burns off some of the feta. Overall, I have to recommend the at home recipe over the restaurant version.
SANTA FE CHICKEN SALAD AND PEANUT LIME VINAIGRETTE
(source: kitchenlink.com but adapted by me)
FOR THE CAJUN CHICKEN:
2 whole chicken breasts
favourite Cajun seasoning
FOR THE PEANUT LIME VINAIGRETTE:
1/4 cup each: fresh peanuts, vegetable or peanut oil and fresh lime juice (2 limes)
1/2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp each sugar and soy sauce
1 small clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped
2 Tbsp lime zest (2 limes)
FOR THE SALAD:
1/2 cup fresh dates, chopped into 1/4″ pieces (OR 1/8 cup dried cranberries)
1 cup boiling water (only if you are using fresh dates)
2 small corn tortillas (OR crumbled red nacho chips)
vegetable oil for deep frying (only if you are frying fresh tortillas)
4 to 5 cups mixed lettuce
2 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
1 cob corn (OR 1 can of corn kernels)
14 oz can black beans, well rinsed and well drained
1/2 cup feta cheese
TO MAKE THE CAJUN CHICKEN:
Sprinkle Cajun seasoning liberally on both sides of chicken. Grill over medium-high heat or broil until done. Set aside. Slice diagonally into 1/4″ wide slices.
TO MAKE THE PEANUT LIME VINAIGRETTE:
Process ingredients in a small food processor until almost smooth. There should be tiny chunks of peanut and lime.
TO MAKE THE SALAD:
a) Prepare date mixture – pour boiling water over dates; soak for 1/2 hour; drain well and mash (chill until using). OR, skip this step and add dried cranberries to salad.
b) Prepare deep fried tortilla pieces: slice tortillas into pieces 1/8″ wide and 1″ long. Heat oil in a small pot or skillet to 375 degrees F. Drop tortilla pieces in batches; drain on paper towel; sprinkle on salt (may be kept loosely covered at room temperature for 1 day). OR, crumble a few nacho chips into salad
c) Grill corn: rub corn with vegetable oil; place over medium-high grill. Cook, rotating until lightly brown tinged. Remove kernels. (May be chilled until using). OR, pan-fry canned corn kernels in skillet with a little bit of peanut oil until they start to brown slightly.
TO ASSEMBLE SALAD:
Place lettuces in a large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to lightly coat. In a separate small bowl stir together mashed dates or cranberries, corn and drained black beans. Add black bean mixture into lettuces; gently toss. Divide lettuce mixture between 4 dinner plates. Thinly slice avocado and divide between 4 plates, placing on the side. Top each salad with crumbled feta cheese, tortilla pieces, and chicken pieces.
Makes 4 meal servings