Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summery Spinach and Chicken Salad


Sitting in front of a large bowl of salad like this one, I felt very present.  The flavors are somewhat Asian inspired, but not overly so.  There is soy sauce mixed with lemon juice, sort of an unusual combination, and the taste brought me back, the way food often does, over 25 years to when my mother used to make a salad very similar to this one.

I've read a bit about mindfulness and mindful eating; concepts that seem to be edging their way into mylife.  I am drawn to the tenets of paying attention, being aware in each moment and finding balance.

The principles of mindfulness allowed me to appreciate the soft and unfamiliar texture of the iceberg lettuce, paired smartly with healthier baby spinach.  The way a few sesame seeds clung to my molars and the snow peas and red peppers snapped, each releasing their own bright flavors.

If I extend these teachings to the rest of my day, they allowed me feel myself laughing out loud as Roman danced a jig to the jovial sounds of the accordion in Bryant Park, to have the fortitude to turn around an episode when he protested to my making dinner, and then to watch closely as sleep crept gently up on him as he hugged his yellow taxi under one arm and his blue elephant under the other.  And for the next 11 weeks, each kick, bump, thump and wiggle in my swelling belly gets my immediate attention.  These are the days, the tastes, the sights, the sounds and sensations that will not be around long. 

Summery Spinach and Chicken Salad
Serves 4 (large servings)

Plan ahead as this recipe requires chilling in between steps. Also be sure to eat it immediately after you combine all the greens so that they don't wilt. I drastically reduced the amount of oil that my mother used in this salad and I didn't notice a change in flavor- there still seemed to be plenty of moisture for the salad.  If you need more, add more.  Delicious summer dinner.

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1 clove garlic, scored
1 lemon (both zest and juice)
1 ten-ounce package of fresh baby spinach
1 large head of iceberg lettuce
1 organic red pepper (conventionally grown are highly sprayed.)
a few handfuls of fresh snow peas
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
coarse salt to taste

Cut the chicken into 2-inch strips and place in a bowl.  Add 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of oil and the garlic clove and the zest of half a lemon. Mix well and chill several hours.

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a skillet.  Add the chicken strips a few at a time and sauté 3 - 5 minutes or until they become firm.  Don't overcook.  Discard garlic clove.

Combine cooked chicken and remaining oil, soy sauce, lemon zest and lemon juice in a large bowl and chill thoroughly.

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for several minutes.

Pick the stems off the spinach, wash and drain.  Chop or tear the spinach with your fingers, shred the iceberg lettuce. Make sure these are both chilled.  When ready to serve, toss the greens, snow peas and red pepper with the chicken mixture and dressing. Sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds and salt and serve immediately.


  1. Nicole: this is a very tender, fully present and wonderfully written post. I am intrigued by the mindful eating. Mindfulness is a way of life, a daily practice and it makes sense that it should enter every aspect of our living experience, including food and nutrition. It's true that these times will not be around long, because nothing lasts forever... so it is rather special that you are savoring them, bite after bite. The salad is also tender, as it has memory as a secret ingredient.

    1. Hi Amelia,
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I am not so good at responding to comments (and don't know if people check to see if I've replied...) but it's so wonderful to have friends like you reading. :)

  2. I'm thinking my dinner was a bit of a missed opportunity. I will eat breakfast differently. Thank you for the inspiration.

    1. Denise, I have missed many opportunities- standing up in my kitchen wolfing something down! It's something I'm working hard to change!!

  3. A gentle reminder to live in the moments of our lives and appreciate them--a baby's kick or a lovely salad.

  4. Great post! I would like to try this recipe. I think the reason why the world has bloating obesity problem is because many people are not mindful with what they eat. I am guilty of that. Thanks for sharing this c")

    1. Caryl,
      Thanks for reading and commenting! It's an important topic- we have so much food available and its easy to overeat and under appreciate!

  5. So true, carpe diem! These things go so fast, whether a delicious meal or your child growing up. We must enjoy every second, every little part of a whole.

  6. I need to constantly remind myself to do things mindfully, all things, because it is so important to savor every experience we have, from the most amazing to the most mundane. This post will be my reminder for today, thank you.

  7. a lovely post. that practice will certainly bring you more balance and enjoyment to your meals, and spill over into all aspects of your life.


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