Quickly – before tomato season is over, make this salad. It’s gorgeous, much of it is make-ahead, and it’s way not the mayonnaise-type chicken salad that so often induces stultifying boredom. I found it in the old, classic Silver Palate Cookbook and did a little adjusting.
While I’m buying the tomatoes, I usually can pick out my green beans, too. I prefer the not-too-fat ones, but I’d rather have local regular beans than prepackaged haricots verts, so use your judgment, as is the case with so many of these things. You may use boned or bone-in chicken breasts, whatever is available. I also prefer to cook the chicken breasts in chicken broth; I then strain the remaining liquid and freeze it (marking it DOUBLE STRENGTH CHX BROTH) and reuse it for the next poach, and repeat the process, as it gets more flavorful each time. Sometimes the frozen broth gets used for a particularly succulent soup or risotto. Then the process starts again.
I’ve made this the day before, layering it in a container, seasoned chicken, then olives and capers and then the green beans. When it was time to eat, I shook it out into a bowl, added the just-cut-up tomatoes and lemon juice, tossed lightly, checked and adjusted the seasoning, and went at it. It certainly doesn’t need to be served cold. Unfortunately it was scarfed down so quickly I couldn’t get photos.
Chicken breasts – about 3 pounds or so
chicken broth or lightly salted water in which to poach them
1/3 c. olive oil
1 ½ tsp. dried oregano
¾ c. black olives, preferably Greek or Nicoise
2 heaping Tbs. capers
¼ lb. green beans
juice of 1 lemon
2 medium or large tomatoes, cut in wedges or large chunks
salt and pepper
Bring the poaching liquid of your choice to a boil. Add the chicken breasts, return to the boil, drop the heat to a simmer, partially cover the pan, and cook for 20 minutes, more for larger breasts, less for smaller. Remove from heat and set the pan, breasts and all, aside, covered, until it cools. When cool, remove the chicken from the liquid. Remove skin and bones if necessary, and tear chicken into bite-sized pieces. Cover the pieces with the olive oil. Rub the oregano between your fingers or in the palm of your hand and add it to the chicken. Stir to make sure the seasoned olive oil is on each piece of chicken and set aside for an hour. Make sure to save your cooking liquid if you’re planning to keep it.
While waiting, string the beans, and cut in smaller pieces if desired. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice water bath – I use a bowl with a half-dozen or so ice cubes in the water. Add the green beans and cook to desired tenderness. I like a little body to them, but not crunchy, so it seems to run about 5-6 minutes for medium-thickness beans. The way to check is to grab one, run it under cold water (or use the ice bath!) and bite. When ready, scoop them out of the boiling water and add them immediately to the ice bath so that they cool. Drain them when cool. If using them immediately, I pat them with a paper towel to dry somewhat.
Into the salad bowl, whether now or later, will go the beans, the chicken and its oregano-scented oil, the olives and the capers. Add the tomatoes and lemon juice if you’re serving it now, and mix. I do salt and pepper this moderately, but your taste is the best guide.
Serves 4 to 6, but as always, that just depends.