Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Chicken salad (Κοτοσαλάτα)

A bit of meat added to a green salad makes a complete meal. You don't need much more than some sourdough bread to go with it, and if you are a drinker, a glass of wine. A salad with a little bit of meat can also constitute a light meal. It all depends on the dressing you choose to add to your salad. I like to make meat-and-greens salad with the chicken that I boil to make stock for pilafi (creamy Cretan rice). Boiled chicken always gets left over, since it's usually viewed as a sick person's food (light, good for the stomach, etc); at least that's how my husband thinks of it.

I wouldn't call chicken salad a wholly Greek kind of salad. The basic ingredients for a classic chicken salad can easily be found in Greek cuisine, but it is actually a recent addition to the culinary range in our kind of cooking. It is becoming more common to find meat added to a salad of leafy greens, like for example pork with spinach, rocket and lettuce leaves. Creamy dressings of the type often associated with chicken salad are also a novelty in Greek cuisine. Mayonnaise dressings have not really caught on in the dining-out trade, except as a dressing for something called 'chef's salad' (σαλάτα του σεφ) and 'Russian salad' (Ρώσσικη σαλάτα), which in Greece are both made with pretty much anything (you can empty out your fridge and larder this way), and dressed with so much mayonnaise hiding the ingredients that you'd think you were being served vanilla ice-cream rather than a salad. They are mainly served in pizzerias and fast-food chains. Such salads and dressings form a part of globalised cuisine than Greek cuisine.

One type of creamy dressing that seems to have caught on, if somewhat in trepidation, as it is not seen very often (people's taste buds are very much culturally attuned here) is the one containing Greek strained yoghurt. If you had some of the chicken salad I recently made, you would probably never go back to the classic mayonnaise dressing for a chicken salad. The yoghurt dressing is light and has a healthy taste. This chicken salad makes a complete meal, with the added bonus that it involves very little cooking, making it very easy to prepare.

chicken salad

To make enough salad for 2 large servings, you need:
1 large chicken breast, boiled till tender (I use the leftover boiled chicken after I make Cretan pilafi)
1 medium-sized head of lettuce (I like to use curly red and green lettuce, a type called 'lollo')
1 carrot, peeled and grated
a few rocket leaves (arugula)
100-150g Greek strained yoghurt
2-4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely (optional - if you do use it, your salad will taste a little like tzatziki)
salt and pepper

Chop the lettuce into shreds into a bowl. Tear the rocket leaves and add the carrot. Chop the chicken meat into small pieces and add it to the salad. Season with salt and pepper, and add the garlic if using. Add the yoghurt and mix well into all the salad ingredients. Then add the oil and mix well again. You don't want too much olive oil, just enough to help the salad take on an oily look.

This chicken lettuce salad is ready to eat as is, but it tastes even better if you leave it in the refrigerator for an hour so that all the tastes blend together. If you really want to keep things vegetarian, instead of chicken, add mushrooms (even better if they are lightly sauteed), walnuts and/or raisins/pomegranate seeds.

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