Temperatures have been hovering in the 70’s and 80’s for the past few days in Chicago so I think it is safe to say that barbeque and cookout weather is upon us. Even though I’ve never been a confident griller, I look forward to these warm weather get togethers. I love spending the afternoon in someone’s backyard with the intoxicating aroma of a lit grill and the bounty of a folding table stocked with things to nosh on and treats to tame my sweet tooth. Because I’m not much of a meat eater, my plate is usually built around the side dishes – buttered sweet corn, potato salad, veggies and dip, and my personal favorite, pasta salad. The variations are almost endless, but every summer I find myself going back to a tried and true recipe – my father’s pasta salad. This salad is one of the few ways you’ll get me to eat chicken.
I prepared the bird using Ina Garten’s recipe for Perfect Roast Chicken (It really did live up to its name.) and tossed it with grapes, celery, scallions, cheddar cheese, cashews and pasta. I added my own spin with the dressing. My father’s version is usually mayonnaise spiked with a little vinegar to give it tang and sometimes sugar or honey for sweetness. It just so happens that as I was gathering ingredients for the salad Whole Foods was having a great sale on avocados (5 for $4) so I decided to add some to my dressing. Pureed with low fat mayo, nonfat greek yogurt, honey and lime juice, avocados make for a rich dressing that nicely balances sweet and sour. Delicious yet unfussy, this is a great salad to bring to a cookout or to add to your lunchbox.
Serves 8-12 as a side dish
-1 1/3 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
-1 cup halved seedless grapes
-1/3 cup finely diced celery
-1/4 cup chopped scallions (white and light green parts)
-4 ounces cheddar cheese (I used a goat’s milk cheddar), chopped into bite-size cubes
-1/4 cup salted roasted cashews
-8 ounces dry pasta, cooked according to package directions
-1 avocado, peeled and seeded
-1/3 cup low fat mayonnaise
-1/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
-2 teaspoons honey
-Juice of one lime
-Salt and pepper to taste
Combine salad ingredients (chicken through pasta) in a bowl, stirring well to distribute the ingredients evenly. Meanwhile, place the dressing ingredients (avocado through lime juice) in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add dressing to salad ingredients stirring well to distribute the dressing evenly.
I’m also submitting this dish to Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice’s June Side Dish Showdown.