Here in the UK we are enjoying a flashback to the summer of 1976, apparently. I was only one at the time so have no recollection of the ‘great summer’ but we are now into weeks, not days, of glorious warm sunshine with temperatures climbing up to 33 degrees in west London. When the weather is hot I love to get creative with my salads and try out different flavour and ingredient combinations. This one I created awhile ago when a friend, who has certain culinary likes and dislikes was coming over to supper. I started with the miso chicken and spinach and then built from there, digging out interesting ingredients from my fridge and pantry along the way. The overall mix of flavours works really well to the extent that I have now cooked this salad multiple times and thought you would appreciate having it too. It’s great for a picnic, lunch or supper, is hugely versatile and if you keep the chilli oil marinade to one side for guests to help themselves, then the whole family can enjoy the dish.
Miso Chicken Slow Baked Tomatoes and Fresh Spinach Salad
For the Chicken Marinade
500g chicken breasts
3 garlic cloves, grated
1 inch ginger, peeled and grated
2 tbsp sweet white miso paste
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp light soy sauce
3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
250g puy lentils
1 avocado, chopped
6 slow baked tomatoes marinated with chilli
chilli oil from the slow baked tomatoes (see above)
250g fresh spinach
1. First you need to flatten the chicken breasts as they will cook under the grill more evenly and quicker if they are thinner. Place a large strip of parchment paper underneath the chicken breasts and another similar sized piece on top. Then using a rolling pin gently hit the chicken pieces which will begin to flatten. Check to see how they are looking and if they need to be a little flatter continue to hit them with the rolling pin. If you overly bash them they will begin to break apart so flatten them to the extent that they still keep in tact.
2. Place the flattened chicken breasts into a freezer bag and then add the grated ginger, garlic, sweet white miso paste, soy sauce and sesame oil. Using your hands massage the ingredients thoroughly into the chicken pieces. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes or longer if you can.
3. Heat up a small frying pan and when it is hot add the pine nuts being careful not to burn them as they toast quickly. Keep them moving around the pan and after a minute they should have toasted nicely. Place to one side.
4. Heat your grill (you could also use a griddle pan or BBQ!) to 200 degrees centigrade and place the marinated chicken directly onto your oven rack. Place some baking parchment/foil underneath to catch all the bits than fall through the rack – these will also taste great in the salad. The breasts will need around 6 minutes each side. If they look a little undercooked leave them for a minute or two more and vice versa.
5. In a large mixing bowl add the spinach, chopped/sliced avocado, puy lentils – for speed I often use the Merchant Gourmet brand – see here, pine nuts and slow baked tomatoes marinated in chilli. Whilst you can of course slow bake your own and marinate them in chilli oil (which I will get around to doing so at some point – will make a great blog post) I opt for the Sacla brand – see here. Chop the tomatoes up slightly and then gently mix all the above ingredients together.
6. Once the chicken has cooled slightly slice into stripes and mix gently into the salad along with the bits that had fallen through the rack. Add a little of the chilli oil from the slow baked tomatoes and place extra in a small pouring jug.
7. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and allow guests to serve themselves. I find it is best eaten at room temperature.
It is surprisingly filling and leftovers the next day taste equally good, so just refrigerate if you have some left over.