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Grilled Chicken Salad with Freekeh, Preserved Lemon & Dried Cherries
“Dried cherries add color and sweet and tart flavor, while mint and parsley give this healthy grain salad recipe fresh notes. If fresh sweet cherries are available, you could add those instead. Serve this chicken salad recipe with tzatziki sauce and mixed greens on the side. ”
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1¼ pounds; see Tip), trimmed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, grated or minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
½ cup dried tart cherries
¾ cup freekeh (see Tips)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
1½ tablespoons chopped preserved lemon rind (see Tips), or more to taste
½ cup torn fresh mint leaves, divided
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
1To marinate chicken: If you are using chicken breasts, cut them in half crosswise or, if they're particularly thick, cut them in half horizontally. Mix ¼ cup each oil and lemon juice, garlic and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper in a dish (or gallon-size sealable plastic bag). Add the chicken and turn the pieces to coat. Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. About 30 minutes before you're ready to cook, remove the chicken from the refrigerator.
2To prepare salad: Put cherries in a small saucepan and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let stand until plump, about 30 minutes. Drain.
3Put freekeh in a medium saucepan, cover with 2 inches water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until just tender, about 25 minutes. Drain.
4Whisk oil, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, cinnamon, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the freekeh, the cherries, preserved lemon and all but 1 tablespoon each of the herbs; stir until combined.
5To prepare chicken: Heat a ridged grill pan over medium-high heat until it is very hot or preheat a grill to medium-high.
6Remove the chicken from the marinade. For a grill pan: Cook for 2 minutes on each side, then reduce heat to medium and cook, turning once or twice more, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165°F, 4 to 6 minutes more. For a grill: Grill for 5 to 7 minutes per side. Serve the chicken on top of the salad, garnished with the remaining 1 tablespoon each mint and parsley.
Make Ahead Tip: Marinate chicken (Step 1) for up to 4 hours.
It's tricky to find individual chicken breasts small enough for one portion. Removing the thin strip of meat from the underside of a 5-ounce breast—the chicken tender—removes about 1 ounce of meat and yields a perfect 4-ounce portion. Wrap and freeze the tenders and when you have gathered enough, use them in a stir-fry or for oven-baked chicken fingers. If you can only find large chicken breasts, you'll need just 1 breast for 2 servings—remove the tender and cut it in half crosswise before cooking.
Freekeh is wheat that's been harvested when it's still young, roasted and then cracked into a grain that looks similar to bulgur. Relatively new to the U.S., the chewy whole grain has a mild nutty flavor and is higher in fiber, protein and minerals than grains that are harvested once fully mature. Look for it in well-stocked supermarkets and natural-foods stores.
Preserved lemons—lemons that have been soaked in a salt-lemon mixture for at least 30 days—add a distinctive salty-sour flavor common in North African salads, soups and stews. Look for them in specialty food stores.