Green beans and beetroot come together as the basis of this colourful main meal salad. Fuss free, the balsamic and ginger dressing doubles as the marinade for tender cubes of chicken breast, and lightly toasted pumpkin seeds add a little textural crunch. Serve up generous portions for an easy summer dinner, or pack it for a picnic, or for a lunch on the road.Jump to Recipe
CHICKEN, GREEN BEAN AND BEETROOT SALAD, WITH A GINGER BALSAMIC DRESSING – A MAIN MEAL IN A BOWL
Easy, lazy, relaxed, the essence of summer. Geranium-red nail polish, dusty feet from barefoot tramplings, the late afternoon lullaby of crickets and invisible insects. Getting as naked as possible to soak up the Vitamin D. Wiggling to lounge music in the kitchen. Wild plums, cherry tomatoes, figs and berries, straight off the branch or the vine and into the bloodstream: simple blessings.
We’re in a state of full appreciation. Being some distance from the equator, the summer season is too short, and we’re lucky: my father’s place in the hills not having been sold, we can escape the stifling humidity of the valley. Down there, people are wishing away the days, anxious for the meteorological shift that’ll bring respite from the heavy pressure systems that drift up from Africa. When that heat settles in, it’s sticky for days on end. Venice is ok – where there’s water, there’s fresh and moving air. But in the valley, it’s either air con, or simmering sufference, and tempers run short.
Not up here. It’s amazing, the difference of 600 meters. It’s a pleasure to be outdoors. We’re sleeping under a very light duvet, which means we’re sleeping deep and long. Everything has switched into slow. Walks are uphill, and when they go down the tracks are rough, so footsteps are mindful. Unless there are real deadlines, it’s best to let go of time-based concerns. Whether you head up towards Folgaria, down to the beautiful village, or in towards Murari where my father was born, you’re bound to be stopped. A cousin, bringing in the hay by hand because it’s too steep for machines, will use your company as an excuse for a smoko. The women in the contrada will want to know how you got on last week when you locked yourself out, with all the windows closed. At the very least, the stunning palomino will trot over to you, an image from an adolescent girls’ dream, followed by her roly poly donkey friend, both of them hoping for an apple and a scratch behind the ears.
I can’t bring myself to prepare complicated meals. ‘One’ seems to predominate in my food preparation vocabulary. One pan, one pot, one bowl. As little washing up as necessary is the main motivation, along with the ease of being able to carry the meal outdoors. The only requirement is to get all three macros, lots of fat, moderate protein and a little vegetable based carb, into whatever container, all at the same time, and for the combination to be delicious. This Chicken, Green Bean and Beetroot Salad hits the spot. The big decision is whether to pack in more fat, by adding, say, a perfectly ripe avocado, or to leave it scarce so as to lush out afterwards with coconut cream and freshly foraged berries. It’s a tough call. Last night, we went for the latter.
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Chicken, Green Bean and Beetroot Salad, with a Ginger Balsamic Dressing
- 500 grams green beans topped and tailed
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger finely minced
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 tsp sea salt freshly ground
- 350 grams chicken breast cut into 2 cm cubes
- 4 medium beetroot precooked and cut into 2 cm cubes
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in half
- 1 avocado perfectly mature, cut into 2 cm cubes
- Steam or blanch the green beans for 6 minutes, then set aside and allow to cool.
- Place the pumpkin seeds into a small pan and lightly toast over a medium heat for a few minutes shaking and tossing at intervals, until they begin to release their oil and start to split. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- Add the ginger, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt into a medium bowl and whisk until emulsified and thick. Place ⅔ of the dressing/marinade into a large bowl.
- Add the diced chicken to the smaller bowl, toss to coat with the marinade, and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes. Add the beetroot, cherry tomatoes and green beans to the other bowl, and toss well to coat.
- Heat a non-stick fry pan. Add the chicken and cook over a medium heat, stirring and tossing occasionally, until all liquids have evaporated and the chicken pieces start to turn golden around the edges. Allow to cool.
- Add the chicken and, if using, the avocado, to the salad bowl. Toss thoroughly to combine all ingredients. Sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds.