Restaurant diners hoping to lighten their load often go for salads. The usual suspects? The grilled chicken Caesar, the Cobb and Chinese chicken salad.
But they're not always as light as you might think. At one popular national chain, the Chinese chicken salad has almost 25 grams of fat and the Cobb salad has 80 grams. You might as well just eat a cheesy pizza.
This Valencia grilled chicken salad is a healthful reimagining of the Chinese chicken salad that can be prepared at home in under a half an hour. It has only 391 calories and 13 grams of fat.
We start with Napa cabbage, which has yellow-green, ruffled leaves and are an excellent source for vitamins A and C. The salad is enriched with a rainbow of other nutritious fruits and vegetables, such as wedges of Valencia orange.
The dressing for this salad is key to keeping it light. Instead of going the traditional route of using a high-in-fat oil base, we call for sweet white miso, a fermented soybean paste that gives the dressing its body along with a mellow, sweet and salty flavor. Look for it along with other refrigerated Asian ingredients in the produce section.
Of course, the salad wouldn't be right without crunchy chow mein noodles on top. When you buy them, choose carefully as some are fried and have considerably more fat and calories than baked varieties.
Valencia Grilled Chicken Salad
Start to finish: 25 minutes
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
4 Valencia or navel oranges
1/4 cup sweet white miso
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons peanut oil, preferably toasted
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons water
3 cups thinly shredded Napa cabbage
1 small red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced.
1 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup sliced scallions
1 cup chow mein noodles
Heat a gas grill to high or light a charcoal fire.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Grill until cooked through and 165 degrees Fahrenheit at the center, about 5 minutes per side. Set aside to cool.
Slice both ends off the oranges. Holding the oranges over a bowl to collect the juices, use a sharp knife to remove the peel and white pith. Cut the orange segments from the surrounding membranes; discard the membranes. Set the collected juice aside and place the orange segments in a large serving bowl.
To the bowl with the reserved juice, add the miso, rice vinegar, peanut oil, honey, ginger and water. Whisk until smooth, then set aside.
To the bowl of oranges, add the cabbage, bell pepper, carrots and scallions.
Add two-thirds of the dressing and toss to combine.
Shred the reserved chicken and toss with the remaining dressing.
To assemble the salads, place some of the cabbage mixture on each serving plate, then top with some of the shredded chicken mixture. Garnish with chow mein noodles before serving.