Mango Chicken Summer Salad
The days are getting longer, and the deck is beckoning, urgently reminding me that these seemingly endless sunny evenings are only here for a very few weeks a year, if you remember that in Calgary, about quarter of summer nights are occupied with thunder and hail, and more than half of them with rampaging wasps and mosquitoes. Early summer, before storm and insect season, is by far the best time of year, so when the sky is clear all day, and well into the night, it’s probably a good idea to find a recipe that will let you spend minimal time in the kitchen, and maximal time enjoying the fruits of the kitchen outside. Mango Chicken Summer Salad has enough heft to it to convince the crowd on your deck that this is actually a meal, not just a side dish – and when you consider it also comes with black beans, quinoa and avocado, you bet you got a meal. Watch them go for seconds… (This recipe will feed six, with some left over. It also has the huge advantage of being endlessly expandable, if people show up unexpectedly to your deck, by chucking in another diced mango, and/or pepper or cucumber. The protein part seems to be able to genuinely welcome extra fruit and vegetables without diluting the overall effect).
- 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- A blend of paprika, seasoning salt, rosemary, oregano, thyme, pepper and garlic powder – or Club House One Step Italiano Seasoning, if you don’t want to be bothered blending.
- ½ cup (uncooked) quinoa, washed in a sieve before cooking.
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 mangos, peeled and diced into ½ cm chunks
- 1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced into ½ cm chunks
- ½ a long English cucumber, diced into ½ cm chunks
- 2 medium avocados, diced into 1-cm chunks for garnish
- 1 small can (391 ml) reduced sodium Green Giant corn niblets, drained
- 1 19-oz. can black beans, drained and well-rinsed in a colander
- Juice of 2 limes (or just use bottled lime juice)
- 1 tsp. smoked Paprika
- 1 tsp chili powder
- Cholula or other hot sauce, to taste
- Salt, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Lightly oil a ceramic baking dish with olive oil.
- Place chicken breasts in the dish. Season well with your spice blend.
- Put the dish in the oven, and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the thickest part of the meat registers 160 degrees on your meat thermometer.
- While the chicken is baking, put chicken broth into a heavy saucepan. Cover and set on medium-high heat until the broth begins to boil.
- Add quinoa, stirring to get it all into the liquid.
- Immediately turn the heat to low, cover the pot, and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed by the quinoa.
- Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and put the pot into a sink of cold water, to cool off.
- Go outside.
- Come back in when the timer says the chicken is done. Remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool. You can do this cooking part the day before, or in the morning before the day heats up.
- When you are ready to assemble the salad, put your diced vegetables and mango together into a large bowl.
- Slice the cooled chicken breasts and dice into 1 cm pieces
- Add chicken to the bowl, stirring to mix in. You will note the seasoning will start coming off the chicken. No worries – it helps season the vegetables to near perfection.
- Add drained corn and black beans, gently stirring to incorporate together.
- Taste it. If needed, add smoked paprika and chili powder and salt, to taste.
- Hot sauce always makes this salad just that extra bit better. Let the crowd season it themselves, or just foist it on them. Trust me, they’ll like it.
- Add avocado chunks as garnish, and splash with lime juice to keep the avocado bright in appearance and savor.
Serve with copious amounts of white wine, sangria, or a crisp beer, or some good sparkling water. Quinoa, black beans and chicken carry a full meal’s worth of protein, everyone gets their veggies, and mango makes it just sweet enough to not need dessert. Could there be a better way to quietly underpin summertime conversations on the deck?