Sweet and sour: Strawberry vinaigrette/yogurt grilled chicken and strawberry salad


Sweet and sour isn't exactly the right description for this week. More like bittersweet. It's always like that, a little, at the end of the school year. The  eagerly anticipated commencement of summer break comes with a warm and reluctant letting go that is as surprising as it is regular. Only it's never felt so pronounced and poignant as this year.

Wednesday afternoon at 5pm, Steph and I had pretty much boxed and packed out the entire classroom; everything had to come off the walls, out of cupboards and drawers, and be generally removed in preparation for a major renovation at the school this summer. It was such a preoccupying project, at such a busy time, the string of weeks preceding felt like nothing less than whirlwind. It didn't dawn on me until Janis signed off for packing duties how much security I'd been drawing from the distraction. Suddenly it hit with startling force, I'm looking ahead to a yearlong teaching leave, and I have no structure, no surefire expectations, and no clue what to do with a baby. It's not a swimming-against-the-current feeling, more like treading water in a fog.

But as usual, I'm rambling. The real point of this post--mostly--is this strawberry vinaigrette. As much as this week felt bittersweet, this dressing from Eating Well is beautifully balanced in sweet and tart. I tried it because I wanted to, but the timing was hastened because I needed something to give one of the fabulous school secretaries, Veronica. Who, by the way, is one of the most comfortingly wonderful people ever, and who, bafflingly, does not seem to overly care for chocolate or coffee, making tokens of appreciation more of a challenge. She does, however, love salad.

Thinking just four strawberries would make for a paltry present, I went and quadrupled the recipe...yielding 2 1/2 very good-sized jars of dressing, to give you a general idea. Luckily, this saucy little condiment is not one to tire of easily. It's great with spinach and any combination of fruit and nuts, maybe a little goat cheese, or with grilled chicken. Even better, we had it this week with all of these, adding cubes of yogurt-marinated grilled chicken (another easy winner from my Dinner: A Love Story cookbook) to spinach, thinly sliced red onion, sliced strawberries, sliced almonds, and crumbled goat cheese tossed with dressing.  Yum.

Yesterday late afternoon, we (finally) went to Target to start officially putting items on a registry. Already tired and overwhelmed from a solid chunk of house and baby organizing, I did toss a tiny bit of sourness into the week when it took a full 30 minutes to log on to our registry, and when thereafter I realized anew how little I know about what we really need, and are in store for. But then I remember that it's all part of the big picture, that being the tiny growing person who is tickling my ribs these days with increasing persistence. And that's sweet.

Strawberry vinaigrette (from Eating Well)

For 6 servings

  • 4 strawberries
  • 1 spring onion/scallion
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey (optional)
Puree all ingredients in a small food processor or blender.
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, pounded thin
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 minced clove of garlic
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Juice from two lemons
  • 1 good squeeze of honey
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • A very healthy dose of black pepper

Whisk ingredients together until emulsified. Then, pour into Ziploc storage bag, drop in the chicken, shake to coat, and seal. Put in refrigerator for a minimum of 3 hours.  When grill is ready (and oiled), cook about 3-4 minutes a side until flesh is firm but not rock hard.

* To make an amazing salad, mix spinach or mixed baby greens with sliced strawberries, thinly sliced red onion, nuts of choice, and crumbled goat cheese bowl. Toss the salad with the dressing. Top  (or toss) with grilled chicken cubes.