Recipe: Chicken and Veggie Pesto Salad

Recipe: Chicken and Veggie Pesto Salad

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Kelli Foster
Jul 5, 2017
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Now that the summer farmers market season is in full swing, I know I can count on a steady stream of ripe seasonal produce and fresh herbs to make a roster of salads that are anything but boring. Full of a robust assortment of the freshest veggies, strips of juicy chicken, and tossed with a bright, herby pesto, this no-lettuce summer salad comes together with a single trip to the farmers market.

Zucchini Ribbons Make Salad More Interesting

Sometimes the easiest way to make salad more fun and interesting to simply change the way you prep the vegetables. Instead of the usual coins, half-moons, chunks, or spears, this version starts by slicing zucchini into paper-thin ribbons. Wavy zucchini ribbons instantly make salad feel fancy and they're super easy to pull off using a mandoline, regular vegetable peeler, or, our favorite, a Y-peeler.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Here's What to Pick Up at the Farmers Market

Even though not all farmers markets offer the same selection, this salad includes a list of basic ingredients that you can probably get there in a single trip. You can pick up the basil, arugula, and garlic for the pesto, along with the zucchini, green beans, tomato, and onion for the salad. Depending on your market you might even be able to get the cheese and chicken. The remaining few ingredients are all pantry staples that you likely already have at home.

Chicken and Veggie Pesto Salad

Serves 4

For the pesto:
1 loosely packed cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 loosely packed cup arugula
2 tablespoons toasted nuts, such as pine nuts, walnuts, or cashews
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil

For the salad:
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces green beans, trimmed
4 small to medium zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds total), trimmed
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Make the pesto: Place the basil, arugula, nuts, cheese, garlic, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment or blender. Process until finely chopped, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the machine running, stream in the oil, blending until the pesto looks uniform; set aside.

Make the salad: Place the onion in a large bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the pesto, and stir to combine; set aside.

Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. Generously season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook undisturbed until browned on the bottom, 6 to 9 minutes. Flip and cook until browned on the second side and the internal temperature registers 165°F, 6 to 9 minutes. Transfer to a clean cutting board and tent with aluminum foil.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Use a vegetable peeler, Y-peeler, or mandoline to slice the zucchini from top to bottom into ribbons about 1/16th of an inch thick. Add to the bowl with the onions. Add about 1/3 of the remaining pesto and toss to coat.

Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes. Add remaining pesto, chicken, green beans, and tomatoes to the bowl or vegetables and gently toss until everything is evenly coated. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Recipe Notes

  • Make ahead: The pesto can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The chicken can be cooked up to 1 day in advance and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before preparing the salad.
  • Storage: Leftovers can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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