Summer is the time for quick meals that are a little on the lighter side, and meant to be enjoyed outside on the back deck. This Strawberry Chicken Salad with Pecans, Feta, and Toasted Farro ticks all those boxes, and then some!
I am SO HAPPY it’s summer, and love everything that comes with it. Floating in my kids little pool on a hot day (because I have no shame), spending hours doing nothing but reading books on our backyard daybed. Drinking a
lot teeny bit more wine because it just goes so good with everything (rosé all day, am I right!). Ok, that’s a lie. It’s because I have three kids home with me 24/7 now that school’s out. That’s why the wine intake has increased (relax, it’s only at night once they’re in bed, sheesh).
It’s all about balance!
Did you notice what wasn’t mentioned in the last paragraph? Any form of exercise. I mean, technically I am WALKING to the backyard to lay down on the daybed. That’s a solid 25 steps from the kitchen (shit, it’s only 12 steps, I went and checked). My point is, to make up for the lack of any of the healthy habits I maintain September through June, I’m adding more light and healthy meals to our routine. Balance, it’s all about balance.
My strawberry chicken salad isn’t just a salad though, it is a MEAL. I’m tricky when it comes to salad. The plainer it is, the less I like it. If it only has lettuce and maybe a couple of tomatoes in it, I’m turning my nose up at it. Load it up with ALL THE THINGS though and I will go back for seconds, thirds, fourths… basically until the bowl is gone.
Seeing as we’re eating this as a meal, and I have a husband, there had to be some protein in it. I could eat it with or without the chicken, but it’s definitely more filling with it in there. If you don’t want to take the extra step of making the chicken yourself, you can just grab a bag of the ready-to-eat strips of chicken the grocery stores have now.
Strawberry Chicken Salad
Even The Guys Will Like!
On top of that delicious chicken, I’ve got tons of sliced strawberries. July is the best time of year to be making this too, because strawberries are fresh and ripe in season, and their flavour just can not be beat right now. We’re actually heading to the farm Tuesday for some strawberry picking. In my head, this is a super fun activity for me and the kids to do. In reality, Tuesday night will probably feature a wine o’clock hour. What can I say, I’m a realist.
What else goes into this strawberry chicken salad? Oh, just some crumbled chèvre cheese, but you could use feta too. Sliced onions, toasted pecans, and a spring salad mix round it all out. You could use baby spinach too, but that’s a total non-starter with the kids, so spring mix it is (and they have no idea there’s baby spinach in there too).
Underneath that gorgeous salad is a bed of toasted farro. Yes, you could leave that part out and just make the salad, but it is SO DELICIOUS. I’ll actually make just the toasted farro sometimes to snack on, I love it that much!
Let Me Tell You About Farro
The first time I made farro at home was a year ago, the first time I made this strawberry chicken salad. I’d had it in dishes at restaurants before, but it never really stood out. I do remember poking at it once and wondering what the hell it actually was. Once I made it like this though, toasted and seasoned, a little crispy and a little chewy, it took on a whole new life for me. Now I can’t get enough of it, and love making it instead of rice once in a while.
Cooking the farro takes 30 minutes of boiling time (check the package directions because that might change a bit depending on the brand). After it’s cooked, you can store it in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to five days. This is what I do so it’s ready to toast just before I put the salad together. I also let the toasted farro cool down to room temperature before putting the salad on top. If you don’t, you’ll end up with wilted salad.
Side note: I have also heard it rumored you can buy pre-cooked farro. This is not something I’ve seen, but sometimes we don’t get everything in Canada that there is in the US. That would make this even quicker!
Dressing It Up Without A Bottle
What this strawberry chicken salad doesn’t have is a traditional dressing. It also doesn’t need it because there is so much amazingness going on with the ingredients. Before adding the sliced strawberries, you toss them with a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, and some seasonings. After sitting for ten minutes, the berries have released a bit of their juices and mixed with the vinegar and oil. Tossing these into the rest of the salad is all you need!
Now, could you just use a bottled balsamic dressing? Yes. You do you. There are ways to cut corners in every recipe, and in this house, you don’t get judged for using them. Do I like to make everything from scratch? Yes, when I can, and when I feel like it. Sometimes I’m just really fucking hungry and want to eat ASAP. Cutting corners is great for those moments. So remember, to make this in like 10 minutes instead of 30: buy pre-cooked chicken, bottled balsamic vinaigrette, and pre-cooked farro if you can find it.
Strawberry Chicken Salad Recipe
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped, fresh thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4" slices
- 1 1/2 cups pre-cooked farrow (see notes)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon chopped, fresh thyme
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Pan Seared Chicken
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets
- 1 tsp olive oil
- kosher salt
- smoked paprika
- 4 cups spring salad mix (or baby spinach)
- 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
- 3 tablespoons roughly chopped pecans, toasted if you like
- 1/4 cup chèvre cheese, or feta cheese, crumbled
In a medium bowl, whisk together the 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp honey, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1/4 tsp pepper, and 1/4 tsp kosher salt. Add the sliced strawberries, and toss with a spoon. Set aside for 10 minutes to blend the flavours.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter, and once melted, add the cooked farro.
Sauté for 5 to 10 minutes until toasted. Off the heat, stir in 1 tsp thyme, 1/4 tsp kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Let cool slightly before serving, so it doesn't wilt the salad.
Pan Seared Chicken
While the farro is toasting, cook the chicken. Use your fingers to coat the chicken on both sides with oil. Lightly season both sides with kosher salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.
Heat a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium heat, and lightly spray with cooking spray. Cook the chicken for 3 minutes per side, or until done. Remove from the pan and let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing into strips.
Put the toasted farro on the bottom of your serving dish. I like to serve this salad on a big platter.
Put the spring mix on top of the farro. Evenly top the salad mix with the chicken, sliced onion, crumbled chèvre, and pecans. Add the sliced strawberry mixture on top of everything.
To save time, cook the farro according to the package directions ahead of time, then store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days.