Weeknight Shorts: Salad Days

Hot and humid weather leaves all of us feeling a bit wilted. The last thing we want to do on days like that is fire up the oven. Never fear — these are salad days. Before you roll your eyes, I'm not suggesting that you subsist on an anemic piece of lettuce. How does this look to you:

Assembling salads that will have your family singing the praises of salad isn't that hard. What you do want to remember is that you can present a combination of great colors, textures, and flavors in a salad. You'll want crisp, green vegetables like the lightly steamed asparagus, crunchy cucumber coins, and torn lettuce. You'll want some protein to make your salad filling and to round out flavors and textures. In this salad, those roles are filled by crispy bacon and tender chunks of chicken. And there's something nice about a unifying ingredient that ties everything together. Here, finely grated parmesan marries what might otherwise be very different items together on a plate that will have your family smiling. So, look in your refrigerator and pantry. Chances are, you've got the makings of a great salad waiting for you.

Now, when it comes to pairing this salad with other items to make it a meal, I like to keep things simple. On a hot day, just add a loaf of crusty bread and glasses of iced tea or lemonade. You can even make dessert laid back and cool by tossing grapes into the freezer when you begin making dinner. They will be juicy sorbet-like orbs by the time you're clearing the dinner table. So take it easy and keep cool. Salad days are here again!

Chicken-Bacon-Asparagus Salad

  • 8 oz. fresh asparagus, ends removed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 slices thick-cut smoked bacon
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 3 mini cucumbers, ends removed and sliced into coins
  • 12 oz. torn iceberg lettuce
  • 2-3 T. finely grated parmesan cheese

Lightly steam the asparagus for 5-8 minutes or until crisp-tender. To stop the cooking process, plunge the freshly steamed asparagus into cold water, drain, and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

While the asparagus is steaming, fry the bacon in a skillet until it's crisp. Remove to cool and drain. Crumble and set aside. In the rendered bacon fat, saute the chicken breast. Slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

In a large serving bowl, toss the asparagus, crumbled bacon, chicken pieces, cucumbers, lettuce and parmesan cheese. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

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