Restaurant diners hoping to lighten their load often go for salads. The usual suspects? The grilled chicken Caesar, the Cobb and Chinese chicken salad.
Here's the problem they're not always as light as one might think. At one popular national chain, the Chinese chicken salad has almost 25 grams of fat and the Cobb salad has 80 grams. You might as well just eat a cheesy pizza.
But don't write off the idea of a dinner salad just yet. This Valencia grilled chicken salad is a healthful reimagining of the Chinese chicken salad that can be prepared at home in less than half an hour.
AP Photo - - The Valencia Grilled Chicken Salad is a healthful re-imagining of the Chinese chicken salad that can be prepared at home in less than half an hour.
Start with Napa cabbage, which has yellow-green, ruffled leaves that are a lot more inviting than the standard, rather rubbery-looking green cabbage.
And Napa cabbage, besides being an excellent source for vitamins A and C, has a high water content, which makes it filling without lots of calories. The salad is enriched with a rainbow of other nutritious fruits and vegetables, such as wedges of Valencia orange, red bell pepper and carrots.
The dressing for this salad is key to keeping it light. Instead of going the traditional route of using a high-in-fat oil base, this uses sweet white miso, a fermented soybean paste that gives the dressing its body along with a mellow, sweet and salty flavor. Look for it along with other refrigerated Asian ingredients in the produce section.
Of course, the salad wouldn't be right without crunchy chow mein noodles on top. Choose carefully as some are fried and have considerably more fat and calories than baked varieties.
Valencia Grilled Chicken Salad
Start to finish: 25 minutes. Serves 4.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
4 Valencia or navel oranges
1/4 cup sweet white miso
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons peanut oil, preferably toasted
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons water
3 cups thinly shredded Napa cabbage
1 small red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced.
1 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup sliced scallions
1 cup chow mein noodles
Heat a gas grill to high or light a charcoal fire.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Grill until cooked through and 165 F at the center, about 5 minutes per side. Set aside to cool.
Slice both ends off the oranges. Holding the oranges over a bowl to collect the juices, use a sharp knife to remove the peel and white pith. Cut the orange segments from the surrounding membranes; discard the membranes. Set the collected juice aside and place the orange segments in a large serving bowl.
To the bowl with the reserved juice, add the miso, rice vinegar, peanut oil, honey, ginger and water. Whisk until smooth, then set aside.
To the bowl of oranges, add the cabbage, bell pepper, carrots and scallions. Add two-thirds of the dressing and toss to combine.
Shred the reserved chicken and toss with the remaining dressing.
To assemble the salads, place some of the cabbage mixture on each serving plate, then top with some of the shredded chicken mixture. Garnish with chow mein noodles before serving.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 391 calories; 118 calories from fat (30 percent of total calories); 13 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 66 mg cholesterol; 37 g carbohydrate; 32 g protein; 7 g fiber; 918 mg sodium.