Sometimes it's just too hot. Salads of all kinds are the mainstay of a lot of my summer meals. Salads that are the meal.
Tortellini Salad with Grilled Chicken
this is a fine salad even without the grilled chicken, so don't hesitate to enjoy it that way
3 packages refrigerated cheese tortellini
1 zucchini, blanched, then plunged into ice water
1 yellow squash, blanched, then plunged into ice water
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 red bell peppers, cut into fine strips
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
2-3 cups washed, dried, and chilled fresh baby spinach
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup very fine olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
shredded parmesan cheese
pint package of fresh grape tomatos, washed, dried, and chilled
2 or 3 boneless chicken breast halves, washed and patted dry
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Cook the tortellini per package directions for aldente pasta. Drain, then rinse immediately under very cold running water. Drain very well, then place in a very large mixing bowl (I use a stock pot). Remove the zucchini and yellow squash from the ice water and slice into very thin wheels. Cut the wheels in half, then add to the pasta. Add the red onion, red bell pepper, celery, and dill toss the mixture to blend well.
For the dressing, mix together the white wine vinegar, mayonnaise, and mustard in a deep bowl. Whisk in the olive oil very slowly in a thin stream until it is completely incorporated and emulsified. Season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste.
In another bowl, add the spinach and toss with a very small amount of the dressing, just enough to barely coat it. Sprinkle with a tablespoon or so of the shredded parmesan cheese. Arrange the spinach along the bottom and sides of a large shallow serving bowl/dish.
Set aside a 2-3 tablespoons of dressing. Toss the tortellini salad with the remaining dressing, adding an ounce or so of the shredded parmesan. Refrigerate, covered, for six hours or overnight.
Prepare the chicken: On a very hot grill, cook the chicken breasts that have been seasoned with salt and pepper for 8 to 10 minutes per side. Remove from grill to a dish, then sprinkle with the lemon juice and set aside, covered, for 10 minutes or so. Slice the chicken against the grain into thin slices.
To serve as an entree: Spoon entree-sized portions into individual serving bowls or plates and top the salad with the slices of the warm grilled chicken. Garnish with some of the grape tomatoes, drizzling with some of the reserved dressing. Garnish with more parmesan, and finely chopped dill, if desired.
To serve as a side salad: Garnish the top of the salad with grape tomatoes, and a little finely chopped dill and parmesan, if desired. I usually do not add grilled chicken when I make this as a side. It's a great picnic salad for a crowd.
Serves 6 or so as an entree, or 12-15 as a side salad.