Southwestern Grilled Chicken Salad with Tomato and Black Bean Salsa

Does anyone out there have a bit of spring fever? I certainly do! There have been little hints of spring here and there lately and it’s getting the better of me! I’m starting to think about long bike rides with just a light T-shirt in place of the thick layers of clothing that I am now sporting each time I climb on my two-wheeled steed. I also have visions of endless walks on sandy seashores with seagulls circling above my head and sparkling waves crashing and dancing at my feet. I can almost smell hamburgers on the backyard grille and hear the sweet voices of family and friends gathering for a summer picnic.

But alas, as I imagine these wonderful days of spring and summer I am jolted into the reality of this thought: Will my clothes from last summer even fit? Will I look like I am trying to stuff ten pounds of potatoes into a five pound sack? Have all the winter “comfort foods” I have enjoyed made me comfortably plump? I am realizing that I need to shape up, (literally) or I will be shipping out to buy a new summer wardrobe! 
Honestly, I’m too cheap to go out and buy new clothes when I really don’t have to. Therefore, you will be seeing more salads and ideas for healthy dinners as we draw closer and closer to swimsuit season! Oh, don’t worry – there will be splurges and treats from time to time, but my focus will be on lighter, seasonal meals featuring all the fabulous produce that the warm months offer. 
The salad featured today is both healthy and nutritious. If you follow me for very long, you will see that I love to cook a variety of international cuisines. There are so many fun flavors to explore without adding a lot of fat and/or calories. This Southwestern Salad is the perfect example. The chicken is grilled with a rub of chili powder, cumin and a bit of brown sugar.  The salad incorporates yummy butter lettuce, tomatoes and avocados while the honey lime dressing perfectly ties it all together.

I like to grill extra chicken and use it the following day in a quesadilla served with a mango or pineapple salsa. Voilá! Two delicious dinners!  If you live in a part of the country where your grill is still covered with “the white stuff” or you don’t have a grille, feel free to cook the chicken in a saute or grill pan. Check back in tomorrow for the quesadilla and salsa recipe!
  • Southwestern Grilled Chicken Salad with Tomato and Black Bean Salsa
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast half (6 to 7 oz.), trimmed
  • ½ tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon light or dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for the grill
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Green Tabasco (optional)
  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 ounces small cherry or grape tomatoes or plum tomatoes cut in half and quartered, quartered or halved (about 3/4 cup)
  • ¼ cup yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 package butter lettuce, pre-washed
  • 1-2 medium firm-ripe avocado, diced
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
1.Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire.
2.Trim and then slice the chicken horizontally in half.
3.Combine the chili powder, brown sugar, coriander, cumin, and 3/4 tsp. salt in a small bowl. Rub some of the spice mix over both sides of the chicken breast (you may not need it all) and let sit while the grill heats.
4.Clean and oil the grill grate. Grill the breast until the edges of the top side are white, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until just done, 1 to 2 minutes more. Let the chicken rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
5.In a small bowl or a glass jar with a tight lid, combine the olive oil, lime juice, 1Tbs. of the cilantro, the honey, the garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a few shakes of green Tabasco (if using). Whisk or shake well to combine.
6.Combine the black beans, tomatoes, scallion, the remaining 2 tsp. cilantro, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Add 2 Tbs. of the dressing and toss gently.
7.Put the lettuce in a bowl, season with a little salt, and toss with just enough of the dressing to lightly coat. (Reserve a little to drizzle on the chicken.) Arrange the lettuce on a platter or four dinner plates. Slice the chicken breast very thinly. Pit and slice the avocado. Arrange the chicken, avocado, and salsa on the lettuce. Drizzle a little of the remaining dressing over the chicken and avocado. Garnish with the pine nuts and the cilantro leaves.

Adapted from a recipe by Fine Cooking Magazine

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