Ever since I attended the Foodbuzz Festival Blogger Festival last year I’ve been dying for the chance to go back. Not only do I always appreciate an opportunity to spend a weekend in one of my favorite cities in the world, but I met so many new blogging friends. I often say that one of the reasons I most love blogging is the connections you make with other people, and never was it more true than there.
So when Nature’s Pride announced they would be holding another recipe contest this year, the winners of which get to travel to the festival for free, I knew I had to enter something fantastic. Our challenge: to create an original recipe using one of their breads of our choosing. I actually also entered my Harvest Bread Salad last year, but the competition was fierce and in the end it was no match for some of the other entries, like Shannon’s fantastic Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding and Sabrina’s Egg White Vegetable Frittata Muffins.
This time, I found myself craving a chicken salad sandwich, so I decided to use it as the muse for a new recipe. I’m a huge fan of more traditional versions, like Ina Garten’s Chicken Salad Sandwiches, but I knew that a simple preparation wouldn’t necessarily be worthy of a ticket to San Francisco. Instead I found myself channeling other ethnic flavors, searching for those that would elevate the humble chicken sandwich. As is often the case when I’m developing recipes, too many ideas flooded my head. Maybe chicken salad laced with a Thai-Inspired peanut sauce? What about using an Indian spice mixture?
With so much chaos going on in my brain I pulled open the fridge to try to ground myself in what ingredients I already had on hand. As my eyes flickered over a bottle of pomegranate juice a definitive idea finally hit me. I’d always loved Muhammara, a delicious Middle Eastern dip that involves walnuts, roasted peppers, and pomegranate molasses, among other ingredients. I could use those flavors to create the binder for my chicken salad in place of a more tradition mayonnaise and mustard base.
My Pomegranate-Walnut Chicken Salad Sandwiches combine tender chicken, golden raisins, and celery with a dressing made from pureeing together roasted red peppers, walnuts, garlic, pomegranate molasses, cumin, yogurt, and a touch of red pepper flakes. The result is a sandwich that has a beautiful balance of sweet, savory, and nutty. If you’re feeling a little fancy, as I was when I tested this recipe, you can serve them up as little open faced sandwiches by cutting your bread into 1 1/2 inch circles and topping with a generous scoop of the chicken salad. You can even drizzle a little extra pomegranate molasses on top. However, this chicken salad is also great more simply layered between two slices of bread (as I did for lunch today). I used Nature’s Pride 100% Whole Wheat Bread, since I think the nuttiness of the whole grains compliments the chicken salad well, but this would also be great on a fluffy deli roll with some fresh greens and tomato.
-2 cups chopped or shredded chicken breast
-1/4 cup golden raisins
-1 stalk celery, sliced
-1 cup toasted walnut pieces, divided
-1 1/2 whole roasted red bell peppers (Jarred is fine)
-1 garlic clove
-1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
-1 pinch red pepper flakes
-1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon pomegranate molasses (This can be purchased in Middle Eastern grocery stores and some gourmet and specialty food stores, though I’ve included a recipe below)
-6 ounces plain fat free or low fat yogurt
-Salt and pepper to taste
-8 slices Nature’s Pride 100% Whole Wheat Bread
-Additional pomegranate molasses for drizzling, if desired
In a medium-sized bowl, stir together chicken, raisins, celery, and 1/4 cup walnuts. Set aside.
To make the dressing, add remaining walnuts, roasted red bell pepper, garlic clove, cumin, red pepper flakes, pomegranate molasses, and yogurt to the bowl of a food processor. Puree until the mixture is relatively smooth (depending on the strenth of your food processor you may still have some very small walnut pieces).
Add the dressing to the chicken mixture, stiring well until chicken, raisins, celery, and walnuts are all well coated by the dressing. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
To make your sandwiches, you have a couple of choices. Either cut small circles from your bread slices using a cookie cutter or a glass and top with a generous scoop of chicken salad and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses. Or, you can more simply spread the chicken salad onto four slices of bread and top with the remaining bread slices.
Homemade Pomegranate Molasses
Yields about 1/3 cup
-1 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice
-2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
-2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
In a saucepan over medium heat, bring all three ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the mixture has reduced to 1/3 cup. It will be lightly thick and syrupy once cooled.
Note: To create this recipe, I was able to try a loaf of Nature’s Pride bread for free through the Foodbuzz Tastemaker’s Program, but as always the recipes and ideas are my own.