The other night, it was just my parents and me. Shawn and Caiti were both off with friends. We had been babysitting for a friend during the day, running errands. I was tired. And busy. I did not feel like making a hugely elaborate dinner. I wanted something that was quick, and familiar, and delicious. So, I made my Grilled Chicken and Olive Salad.
You know those staple meals? The dinners you come back to constantly, that you can make without any kind of recipe or guidance, the ones you can make in your sleep. This is one of my staple meals.
So simple, so filling, creamy, salty, deliciousness. Shawn and I have been making it for years now. It’s evolved a lot over time: started as a grilled chicken salad with ground olives on top. That turned into tapenade on top. Then I made it with cheese stuffed olives. The creamy texture turned it much more dressing-like, so I began tossing it into the salad. Now, I make it with a couple different type of olives and cheeses, depending on my mood. The other night, it was Lucques green olives, no pimentos, with blue cheese.
It really could not be easier. All the dressing ingredients in the food processor, pureed into a bowl of thick, creamy happiness. This also makes an excellent dipping sauce for bread, which I highly recommend snacking on while grilling the chicken. You can tell yourself you’re not ruining your appetite; you’re just eating your dinner in phases.
I usually do a very simple salt and pepper coating on the chicken before grilling it. Sometimes lemon pepper, sometimes flower pepper. Just depends on my mood, really. The salad part usually consists of romaine lettuce, heirloom tomatoes and English cucumber. But, feel free to mix it up. That’s the brilliance of this salad; it’s so simple, there’s really no wrong way to do it. Try jalapeno-stuffed olives with queso fresco; toss some grilled corn and jicama into the salad for a little south of the border action. Try kalamata olives with feta and fresh lemon zest for a Mediterranean vibe. Try a different protein with it; grilled tuna, grilled steak, maybe some lime marinated shrimp. It’s also so good, you really can’t go wrong. Just be sure to have a lot of fresh bread on hand for mopping up the briny, vinegary, cheese dressing; I really like herbed focaccia with this salad, such a great compliment.
See? Easy, simple, quick, without ever sacrificing taste. There is definitely a level of “gourmet” to this dish, all depending on the type of ingredients you go for. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have half a loaf of bread and a small bowl of dressing calling my name J THG
Grilled Chicken and Olive Salad
4 chicken breasts, trimmed of skin and fat
Salt and pepper to taste
6 oz. pitted green olives, unstuffed
¼ cup crumbled blue cheese, packed
1 Tbsp. olive brine
2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil, plus 1 Tbsp.
1 ½ heads romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
2 cups baby heirloom tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
½ English cucumber, sliced on the diagonal, skin on
Preheat the oven to 200°F.
Wash your trimmed chicken breasts and pat dry. Salt and pepper both sides to taste. In a grill pan, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. When the pan is searing hot, transfer the chicken breasts, laying them on crosswise (so you get nice grill marks). Grill on both sides until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes per side. Transfer to the oven to keep warm.
In a food processor, combine the olives (check for pits!), blue cheese, olive brine and white balsamic vinegar. Process until broken up and resembling a paste. With the food processor running, drizzle in the 1/3 cup olive oil, running until all is combined into a thick, smooth dressing. Pepper (no salt) and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the romaine lettuce, heirloom tomatoes and cucumber. Pour 2/3 of the dressing over top and toss the salad well to coat. Dish out the salad evenly on 4 plates.
Remove the chicken from the oven. Cut each breast on the diagonal and transfer to on top of each dish of salad. Spoon the remaining dressing over top the chicken breasts on each plate. Finish with fresh ground pepper. Serve immediately.