Monday, October 4, 2010

Falling For Grapes: Mesclun, Chicken, and Grape Autumn Salad

Mesclun, Chicken, and Grape Fall Salad

At the end of August, I posted on an Asian Chicken and Soba Noodle Salad that I called a "transitional salad" -- cool enough to eat on a steamy summer night yet satisfying enough to quell your hunger after a long day at work.

Four days into October, it's now time for full-fledged autumn salads. You know, the kind with thick slabs of roasted squash, wedges of spicy persimmons, and robust dressings made with maple syrup and heady herbs such as rosemary and sage.

While most fall salads include apples, pears, and fresh figs, not many include of one autumn's most popular fruits: grapes. Perhaps that's because like bananas, grapes are available in our supermarkets year-round and don't seem to have a specific season. Well, they do. Most grapes in the US are grown in California and are harvested between August and December. They're also available at San Diego farmers' markets right now.

locally grown organic grapes
Locally grown grapes from the Little Italy Mercato. 

I wish I could have you taste some of our local grapes. They're like nothing you've ever tasted from the supermarket. That's because no matter the variety -- Champagne, Thompson, Concord, Flame -- the grapes aren't picked until fully vine-ripened, which makes them dizzyingly plump, juicy, and flavorful. When you bite into some varieties, they release bursts of juice so intense, you'd think you're drinking wine.

Even if you can't get locally grown grapes, buy yourself the best ones you can find, and toss them into this Mesclun, Chicken, and Grape Autumn Salad. Sweet or tart grapes will get along deliciously with crisp pan-seared chicken, crunchy red bell peppers, and juicy heirloom tomatoes.

So next time you're at the market, reacquaint yourself with grapes. This long-time friend just might surprise you.

Mesclun, Chicken, and Grape Autumn Salad
Makes 4 servings
Printable recipe.

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1- 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
8-10 cups mesclun, preferably spicy
1 yellow tomato, cut into wedges
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 cup grapes of your choice

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped, lightly toasted pecans, pine nuts, or walnuts

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Add chicken; cook for 8-10 minutes, turning several times, until golden and cooked through.

2. Place mesclun, tomato, pepper, and grapes in a large bowl.

3. Whisk vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl.

4. Add chicken to salad and toss. Pour vinaigrette over salad, and toss until well coated. Sprinkle with nuts. Divide evenly among four plates.

You might also enjoy these fall/autumn salad recipes:
Roasted Pear Salad recipe from Kitchen Parade
Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Salad recipe from Dani Spies
Watercress, Seckel Pear, and Brie Salad recipe from Food Blogga
Dandelion, Persimmon, and Medjool Date Salad recipe from Food Blogga
Roasted Purple Cauliflower and Arugula Salad recipe from Food Blogga
Butternut Squash Salad with Curry-Apple Dressing recipe from This Mama Cooks!
Roasted Sweet Potato, Apple, and Spinach Salad recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod