Sometimes I have no idea what I’ll do next with chicken. I think I’ve done all I can with nature’s blandest white meat. I’m plum clucked out. Interestingly, these are usually the times when chicken breast is a steal at the market. At the very sight of a flashy sale sign, I elbow kindly 74 year olds out of the way, dig deep into that chilled chest of poultry, and emerge with five styrofoam packs. Triumph. Give me an inch, Stop and Shop, and I’ll take a mile.
Thinking I’ve just won the chicken lottery, I get home and find myself questioning two things: 1) my irreverence for the elderly, and 2) what the hell am I going to do with 5 packs of chicken? I wrack my brain for all of five minutes, scanning my mental recipe files for the last frontier of chicken dishes, then decide it’s hopeless. I consult a dear friend.
End pieces know best.
Ahh. Mental clarity. “If you just marinate the chicken, the recipe will come.” Sound advice. Similar to how I operate my bank account: spend it and the money will come. Hasn’t worked yet, but I’m hopeful.
But this brings me to yet another question: which marinade should I use? … Hmm. I suppose it should be some sort of all-purpose sauce. A flavor profile that would suit a wide range of dishes. Fearing that if I don’t make the decision soon I’d resort to yet another friend:
I make the fastest decision I can. The most recent marinade I whipped up. Remember the chicken souvlaki I made last week? That delicious Greek marinade that incorporated flavors of oregano, thyme, and bright lemon? The one that left the chicken so moist and juicy that I thought about regressing to infancy and sporting a bib? That one.
I whisked up the marinade, sent the chicken off for a dip in the Mediterranean, and went about my day. By dinnertime the next evening, wouldn’t you know it, a recipe came to me. A simple Greek pasta salad that marries tart lemon, garlic infused olive oil, salty kalamata olives, creamy feta, and those tender pieces of chicken. Eaten hot or cold.
Greek Pasta Salad with Chicken, Feta, and Olives (marinade adapted from this Chicken Souvlaki recipe, Real Simple)
For Chicken and Marinade:
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into pieces
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 big handfuls of fresh baby spinach
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
- 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 4 cups cooked penne pasta (preferably whole wheat)
- fresh lemon slices, for garnish
In a large bowl, whisk together all marinade ingredients.
Add the chicken breast and toss to evenly coat it in the sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
When you’re ready to cook the meal, heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
Add the minced garlic and saute for 1 minute, stirring constantly so that the garlic does not burn. Overbrowning the garlic will give the whole dish a bitter flavor and will disturb the taste balance significantly.
Add the spinach. Just toss it in the pan and stir it around. It will begin to wilt almost immediately. It cooks down quite a bit, so don’t be overwhelmed and thinking you’re adding too much of the green stuff.
During this time, you should have been boiling penne in a large ot of water. Drain it and set it aside for a few moments.
Continue to stir the mixture in the pan for another minute, until the spinach is a deeper, more vibrant green, and the chicken is cooked through.
Add the cooked penne.