First, this was going to be a post about challah, which seemed timely, but since I haven't posted in ages, posting just a link (it's not my recipe) after all this time didn't seem right.
Then I was going to start it with, "Chicken breasts are difficult."
What I've decided on, after some thought, is to open by excusing my posting a salad recipe. See, I always feel like salad recipes are a little bit of a cop-out unless they're somehow unusual or a great break from tradition. Salads, much like soups, are a conglomerate of the stuff you have in your fridge and therefore have always been done before. I'm familiar with this sensation, however. As a writer, anything I put to paper has probably been done before; it's an on-going struggle. The result is, however, that I also feel somewhat secure in my ability to recognize a fresh riff.
I believe my salad riffs freshly.
Cajun Chicken and Mandarin Orange Salad
This salad contains a few extra steps beyond bowl, lettuce, dressing, fork. You could probably dump one or two if you really wanted to.
Second note--I used romaine hearts here. You could use whatever greenery pleases you because I'm of the feeling that lettuce is largely interchangeable unless you're looking for a very particular texture or flavor. In this case, the lettuce is just dressing vehicle. Use whatever you've got.
Lastly, I was originally going to measure ingredients for you. Then I decided against it. Much of this salad's beauty is its well-sprinkled toppings. Sprinkle as you see fit.
Serves twoish, depending on appetite
1 romaine heart, torn up
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced
2 chicken breasts
2 tsp Cajun spice (like this one?)
1/2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
toasted walnuts (To toast a nut: Set oven to 425. Spread nuts in single layer over cookie sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, stir, bake five minutes more or until fragrant and browning.)
asiago cheese, shaved
2 Tbsp avocado oil
2 tsp white wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
Toss romain into a bowl. Top with fennel, sliced into matchsticks or rings or what have you.
For the chicken, mix butter and olive oil in a pan and add the chicken. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with the spice and sautee until chicken is crispy and browning all over.
Drop chicken on top of salad. Scatter oranges, walnuts and cheese over top. (Toasting the walnuts is one of those steps you could skip if you must.)
For the vineagarette, I chose avocado oil because I wanted something fruity to go with the oranges. You could do olive oil or walnut oil for that matter, though I think the walnut oil might OD the salad on walnut. Maybe you'd like that. Whisk the oil, vinegar and salt and pepper together. Drizzle over salad.
I vote a winner. I may be biased.
PS - Crappy photograph to come.