Inspired Leftovers: Grilled Chicken Salad with Cucumber Salad and Avocado Yogurt Dressing
I could get lost strolling through farmers markets and small local specialty grocery stores. Upon entering the market I enjoy strolling around, looking for new produce to mark the beginning of their season, and admiring the beauty of the bounty. Plants and their fruit are so beautiful and the markets know how to display their vibrant, mix-match colors creating a landscape like the scattered dots in a pointillist painting. I go to the market with a shopping list and an idea of what I want, but I can be easily swayed by the texture, color and shape of the fruit and vegetables enticing me to take a closer look.
My inspirational browsing does not transfer to the supermarket. The stacks of pre-packaged fruits and vegetables greet me at the entrance., immediately making me defensive. No lingering allowed, keep moving, keep moving, keep moving. The costumer is encouraged to grab and go, not to examine and select. Ironically it often takes me longer to shop at the supermarket, despite the design for speed and efficiency. My focus concentrates on what I absolutely need, while my inner thoughts say, “Damn, this is what I have to choose from?” Then, I must hunt for the perfect food. The supermarket may call the pre-packaged produce as “Grab and Go,” I call it wasteful and a ripoff. There is no need to encourage me to spend more money, I do a pretty good job at that already. All I want is fresh food at a reasonable price, that is ripe, flavorful, and I can select as I please without the extra waste.
I will be honest, I procrastinate going to the grocery store. It is a lot easier to procrastinate now that there are only two of us living under one roof. There are times when 5:30 rolls around after a day of work and I realize that there is nothing planned or prepared for dinner. On these days, leftovers and a well stocked pantry come to the rescue. I do plan for leftovers and count on them two days a week. As my dependence on leftover grows, I am more insistent about keeping sticky fingers from grazing or helping themselves to seconds.
When I was a kid leftovers was a sentence to eating the dregs scraped off the bottom on the pan. When mom announced leftovers of dinner, we answered her with groans, rolled eyes, and exasperated reactions. I vaguely remember my own children giving me the same reaction as well, but it was possibly more directed to the amount of times we had chicken for dinner. “Chicken! Again! Can’t we have something different for a change? Why must we always have chicken? Ugh. ”
Leftovers do not have to be the dregs, as long as there are some fresh vegetables available, last nights dinner can become new again. My inspiration for this leftover meal came about because I had more avocados than I knew what to do with, some homemade yogurt that I am in love with, and enough leftover grilled chicken to stretch into a salad for two. Add the finishing touches once the foundation is set. The avocado and yogurt dressing was inspired from a recipe of Mark Bittman’s of which I added a tomatillo and poblano pepper, (the leftovers from another meal). Avocado, tomatillo and poblano chili pepper make a perfect marriage of complimentary flavors.
Avocado and Yogurt Dressing
Look in your fridge and pantry, hidden inside are some odd and end gems of produce and proteins ready to freshen up last nights dinner. These easy dinners can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. No tantrums with this fresh take on leftovers. You never know, an inspired leftover meal could be your next family favorite.
What is your favorite way to use up leftovers?
What to do with your leftover avocado?
Avocado toast on whole grain bread with a poached or fried egg.
My standby lunch of open-face sandwich with avocado, salsa and cheese, melted under the broiler.
Inspired Leftover Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing
Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad
- 2 grilled boneless and skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 cucumber
- 2 scallions
- 4-5 springs of cilanto chopped
- Avocado Yogurt dressing
- 2 large handfuls of cleaned fresh spinach
- Fresh blueberries or strawberries optional
- 1/2 Haas avocado
- 2 -3 Tbl plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 small tomatillo peeled and chopped
- 1/4 of a plablano pepper -seeds and stem removed and choped
- 1/2 of a shallot minced
- 1 garlic clove
- Juice of one lemon and zest of half a lemon
- Kosher salt to taste
Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad
Chop the grilled chicken breasts in to bite size pieces about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch. Place the chicken in a medium mixing bowl.
Cut the half of cucumber in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut each of the 4 seedless sections in each half lengthwise to create 8 long cucumber pieces. Cut the cucumber pieces into 1/2 inch chunks and add to the mixing bowl with the chicken.
Cut the root off the scallion and cut into thin slivers, then add to mixing bowl.
Trim the cilantro leaves from the long stems and gather the leaves into a tight pile, holding the pile together with your non-working hand. Cut across the cilantro pile to mince the cilantro. Add cilantro to mixing bowl.
Mix all the ingredients together until evenly combined.
Avocado and Yogurt Dressing
Place the minced shallot in a small bowl and add the juice of half a lemon to the bowl. Let the shallots macerate in the lemon juice for a few minutes.
Peel the garlic clove and remove the green germ from the center. Mince the garlic then add to the lemon juice and shallots.
Scoop out the avocado meat from the peal and add the avocado to a food processor. Add 2 heaping tablespoons of yogurt to the avocado along with the peeled and chopped tomatillo, and chopped plablano pepper.
Add a pinch of Kosher salt, about 1/4 teaspoon, and lemon zets to the avocado mixture and turn on the food processor and puree the ingredients until combined.
Add the orange juice and scallion, garlic and lemon juice mixture to the avocado mixture. Turn on the processor and blend until the dressing is smooth. Taste and correct the seasoning to suit your preference. Add the remaining lemon juice and a little salt if you think it is needed.
Blend in the food processor until desired consistency.
Putting in all together
Pour half the avocado and yogurt dressing in the bowl with the grilled chicken and cucumbers. Stir until well combined. Taste the salad and add more dressing as you desire. I have used all of the dressing on one occasion and three-quarters of the dressing on another. (If you have any leftover dressing, use it as a dip with chips or vegetables, that same night, as a light and easy appetizer before dinner).
Arrange the salad on a plate with a handful of fresh spinach. Drizzle the spinach and chicken with your best quality of extra virgin olive oil and a few fresh berries.
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