The inspiration for this salad came when I needed one for a ladies tea at my church. Since then I have used it to bless several large crowds; thus, it is written for ten servings which I in turn multiply; in this way, chefs write their recipes for restaurant use. You, however, may choose to prepare half this receipt. Don’t miss its simple pleasure.
The healer Jeanette, from my previous post, emphasizes the importance of color in her life-giving diet. I kept her instructions in mind as I chose this produce; thus, I included purple beets as opposed to multi-colored ones, which are light in pigment when cooked; bright yellow peppers provided a health-promoting, visual contrast.
Both this salad’s balsamic chicken and the balsamic vinaigrette (see vinaigrette recipe at 2016/08/22) may be made with real balsamic, which originated in Modena, Italy about 900 years ago. We, however, without knowing it often use a cheaper, imitation version of this. I will teach you the difference here, so you can shop wisely, if you want to invest in the best.
Wikipedia defines the aceto balsamico (balsamic vinegar), guarded by European agencies, as a very dark, concentrated, intensely flavored vinegar made wholly or partially from grape must. The word aceto balsamico is unregulated, but there are three of these protected balsamic vinegars; it is required that they come from the province of Modena and the wider Emilia region surrounding it. The two best of these always have the word tradizionale, traditional, in their names: Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia; both are made from reduced grape must and aged for numerous years in a series of wooden barrels. The third Aceto Balsamico di Modena is also made from grape must, but only partially, as it is blended with wine vinegar, making it less expensive.
The HuffPost explains how to discern these authentic versions, by looking for their place of origin and the words: grape must, aged grape must, Mosto d’Uva, or DOC in the list of ingredients. Without one of these words you will be getting imitation wine vinegar with coloring added to it.
The first two mentioned above, known as balsamico tradizionale, are dark in color and very costly, because they are aged to syrupy perfection for 12-100 years, under rigid restrictions. Expect to pay up to $400 a bottle. This traditional balsamic is not vinegar made from wine, but rather it is made from grape pressings that have never been permitted to ferment into wine. It begins with boiling down sweet white Trebbiano grape pressings to dark syrup, which is aged in an oaken keg with a vinegar “mother”. Over the years it graduates to smaller and smaller kegs of different kinds of wood, as moisture evaporates from it, further thickening the vinegar and concentrating the flavor; the varying woods, chestnut, cherry wood, ash, mulberry, and juniper, provide its great character. The result is extravagant taste. As with the world’s most expensive spice saffron, a little goes a long way.
Aceto Balsamico di Modena, the other regulated balsamic, is partially made with grape must and blended with wine vinegar, making it less costly. Its restrictions are that it has to be from the Modena or Emilia regions and carry a Protected Geographical Indication status, which comes from a different agency than that protecting the balsamico traditzionale.
Like with good wine, price often dictates quality. Surprises, however, sometimes occur: this authentic blended vinegar, complete with the authorized seal, is available at Trader Joe’s at a very moderate cost, as their excellent buyers shop globally, negotiating low prices, for the large quantities they are obtaining. This label is good, but even better may be experienced.
Explore the exciting world of vinegars; make this dressing with a high quality aceto balsamico, or get Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (aged 10 years at $3.99 for 8.5 ounces), which is also delicious. As a result, this salad will tantalize your taste buds!
Roasted Beet and Balsamic Chicken Salad Yields: 10 servings (may make half this recipe). Total prep time: 2 days (for sprouting quinoa)/ active prep time: 3/4 hr/ baking time (for beets): 1 hr.
Note: may substitute ready-made versions, or using my recipes, you may prepare ahead, for keeping on hand at all times: balsamic vinaigrette (2016/08/22), croutons (2016/08/15), and agave roasted nuts (2016/08/15).
1/2 c quinoa, sprouted 1-2 days in advance (Directions are below.)
2 lg purple beets
1 tbsp oil (Coconut or avocado oil is best; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)
1 lb chicken tenderloins, about 5 pieces
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
3 med/lg cloves of garlic, minced (Better yet, use 1 cube of frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s.)
1 yellow bell pepper (Organic is important, as bell peppers readily absorb pesticides.)
12 oz greens of your choice
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled (Do not use pre-crumbled feta, as it is treated with preservatives and not as tasty.)
Agave-roasted nuts, made ahead (See Healthy Green Salads, 2016/08/15.)
Croutons, made ahead (See Healthy Green Salads, 2016/08/15.)
Balsamic vinaigrette, made ahead (See 2016/08/22.)
- Using either a sprouting jar or a bowl, sprout quinoa 2 days in advance, by first soaking it in water for 6-8 hours (may make extra quinoa); then, draining off water well, let it sit for 1-2 days until sprouted, rinsing about every 12 hours. For long-term storage-up to 2 weeks-do the following: when 1/4 inch long legs have grown, spread prepared quinoa on a tray or large plate, which is covered with parchment paper (do not rinse prior to this); let dry for about 12 more hours. Store in a sealed storage bag or jar and refrigerate. For more detail on sprouting, see Sprouted Three Bean Dip (2017/06/26) and Sprouted Quinoa and Yam Salad (2016/09/05).
- If chicken is frozen, thaw in water.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash and lightly oil beets; wrap in aluminum foil, leaving closure upright to keep juices from spilling out; bake on cookie sheet for 3/4–1 1/4 hours, depending on size of beets. Open foil and cool in wrap for 10 minutes; peel skin off by rubbing with hands; cut in 1/4″ julienne slices; set aside. Meanwhile go to next step.
- Chop garlic, if using fresh, set aside.
- Heat tablespoon of oil in large skillet; place thawed tenderloins on paper towel, salting and peppering them extra well before cooking; when tiny piece of chicken sizzles in oil, add the rest. Pour balsamic over meat and add garlic; immediately turn tenderloins over in vinegar. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, turning over once mid-way.
- Starting with the smallest tenderloin, cut each piece in thirds with a spatula; as they are cooked, remove pieces to a bowl. Do not overcook-the meat will just be turning white inside when done. Pour juices from pan into bowl of meat, set aside.
- Wash and cut bell pepper in small strips.
- Place greens in a serving bowl; add chicken, with half the liquid, quinoa, beets, peppers, feta cheese, and nuts; toss with balsamic vinaigrette; serve with croutons. Delicious!