Simple and healthy dinners of grilled boneless skinless chicken breast can get pretty boring. Adding rarely used ingredients like hearts of palm and rich flavors like balsamic vinegar can help make a normal Tuesday night meal into something much more exciting. My Balsamic Chicken with Hearts of Palm & Avocado Salad is inspired by one of my favorite dishes at a great little lunch spot in Dallas, Texas, it was one of those restaurants where we could pretend that we were “ladies who lunched” nibbling on $18 salads and fruity cocktails in the middle of the day. Ah those were the days, before responsibility and the recession.

If you don’t buy hearts of palm often they are wonderfully tasty with a mild briny flavor and firm smooth flesh that has a great texture.  Add them to any salad and for an extra boost of potassium and vitamin A.  You will find them in your canned vegetable aisle, near the jars of asparagus.  If you don’t enjoy the hearts of palm or just can’t be bothered to head to the grocery store to find them you could replace them with anything from thinly sliced celery to English cucumber.

Balsamic Chicken with Hearts of Palm & Avocado Salad - Cook Better Than Most Restaurants
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Balsamic Chicken with Hearts of Palm & Avocado Salad

Ingredients

For the Chicken

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs mixed dry Italian herbs
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon

For the Salad

  • 3 ripe tomatoes
  • 1-2 onions
  • ½ cup hearts of palm
  • 3 avocados
  • 2 tbs fresh parsley
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1-2 tbs of balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Instructions

For the Chicken

  1. Place you boneless skinless chicken breasts into a non-reactive container and dust all sides of the chicken with a generous amount of salt, pepper and Italian herbs. Then drizzle with balsamic vinegar, tossing the breasts to coat well. Leave them in the marinade for at least an hour or as long as a full day.
  2. Bring the chicken up to room temperature before you plan to cook it, this helps it cook more evenly and faster. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel to remove the excess marinade then coat lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. The chicken can either be baked in a 350 degree oven or grilled on a grill pan or BBQ. In the oven the chicken will take about 20 minutes on the grill about 15 minutes. Just check the inside temperature with a digital meat thermometer, it should reach 165 degrees. While the chicken cooks build your salad.

For the Salad

  1. Start by slicing the onion into quarters through the root end and tossing it with olive oil and salt before putting it on the grill for a few minutes on each side to lightly cook it. If you are not going to use a grill pan or BBQ to cook your chicken you could roast the onion in a 425 degree oven just until the edges brown for the same flavor. The onion can be cooked before the chicken if you like so it’s nice a cool when you slice it up for the salad.
  2. Slice the tomatoes and hearts of palm into bite sized pieces, if the tomatoes are really gooey you may want to discard the seeds and some of the watery pulp. Dice the parsley and add it to the mix. Squeeze in the juice of the half a lemon, a dash of salt, and a drizzle of both the olive oil and balsamic to the bowl. Wait on adding the onions to the mix until they are room temperature. This will keep them from wilting the parsley and stop you from burning yourself when you slice them into bite size pieces.

Complete the Meal

  1. Once you have removed the chicken from the oven/grill slice the avocado and add it into the salad, mix it all together gently. Squeeze the other half of the lemon over the hot chicken and decided if the meat needs more salt or pepper.
  2. Serve the salad either on the side or over the top of the chicken, it’s a salad, relish and condiment all in one. This is a light and refreshing meal in the summer and if you add a crusty bread and white wine it could even work for a simple dinner party meal.
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