A simple salad for the last days of summer with an Asian-inspired honey sesame dressing and marinade.
Every year I feel as though I’m hanging on to the last bits of summer, wishing the sun’s rays to remain warm and strong just a bit longer so as to delay the inevitable winter, the graying of the plants and the whiteness that will eventually come and blanket my little piece of the earth.
I appreciate the seasons. I suppose any true Minnesotan must, lest you drive yourself crazy. There’s a peace and calm that comes with the winter, a stillness as the world rests and waits to spring forth again, green and beautiful once more.
While it’s still here, though, I’m holding tight to the green, the lushness of the end of summer and the welcoming of winter, as leaves turn and the produce at the market changes from shades of bright berries and herbs to the warm colors of fall with its orange pumpkins and a rainbow of winter squash.
For now, we snap peas in the garden wearing jeans and sweaters instead of shorts and t-shirts. We snack on crisp apples rather than melon and berries and start backyard fires before the sun goes down for warmth.
Winter always brings a sense of melancholy for me, as I say goodbye to my garden and clear the yard to prepare for its snow blanket, but what I’ll miss most of the warm summer sun is the salads and meals thrown together with abandon, pulled from the ground and placed directly on the table for all to enjoy.
Our menu is changing with the seasons, but I’m not quite ready to give up with the last two days of summer left to celebrate. Here’s to tailgating, backyard campfires and a new season before us, but for now – today – I’ll enjoy a salad, fresh with greens, snow peas and a hint of orange to show that fall is here and winter is coming.
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons grape seed oil, divided
Sesame Crusted Almonds
1 tablespoon grape seed oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 cup raw almonds
2 large or 4 small chicken breasts
6 cups salad greens
1/2 cup snow peas, ends snipped
2 mandarin oranges, peeled and sectioned
3 green onions, diced
In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, honey, rice wine vinegar, garlic and ginger. Slowly drizzle the sesame oil and 1/2 cup grape seed oil into the bowl while whisking continuously until emulsified. Remove 1/3 cup of the marinade to a separate bowl. To that bowl drizzle and whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Set aside for dressing the salad. Separate 3 tablespoons of the marinade and set aside. Add chicken breasts to the remaining marinade.
In a small pan over medium heat, heat grape seed oil. Add sesame seeds and stir to coat in the oil. Toast for 30-60 seconds until lightly golden. Add in almonds and 3 tablespoons of the marinade mixture. Continue cooking until almonds and sesame seeds are caramelized, stirring frequently.
Heat grill to medium. Place chicken on the grill and cook for 4 minutes on each side. Turn once more and cook a final 3-4 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate, tent with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
While the chicken is resting, layer greens, snow peas, oranges and green onions in a bowl. Sprinkle almonds over the greens. Slice chicken breast thinly and place on top of the salad. Drizzle with honey sesame dressing and serve immediately.
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