Two summers ago, I went to visit Christie in Rochester and she was raving about the Strawberry, Poppy Seed and Chicken Salad at Panera Bread. It seemed simple enough to make at home, and since she had just given birth and eating an entire meal out was a bit difficult, we went to the grocery store and picked up chicken, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, walnuts, lettuce, and poppy seed dressing. (The Panera version uses pecans, but we both prefer walnuts, so we made the switch.) We cooked the chicken on the grill and then added it to a salad made with the rest of the ingredients. It was delightful—the perfect meal for a sweltering summer evening. When I returned home, I made the salad again for Johnny, who ranked it as one of the top meals I’ve ever made for him, so I knew I was on to something. Once the weather began to warm up this year, he asked me when I’d be adding the “salad with the chicken and fruit” back into our dinner rotation. The answer, my dear, is tonight. Strawberries are in season and plentiful and I picked up some fresh spinach, which I used as my base, though you can use whatever type of lettuce you like. While I prefer fresh pineapple, the thought of carrying a whole one home in my overflowing grocery sack and then cutting it up was not appealing, so I used canned. You can too. I won’t tell anyone. Trader Joe’s makes an excellent version of poppy seed dressing, but if you don’t have one nearby, look for Brianna’s Rich Poppy Seed dressing at your grocery store. It’s delicious.
I marinated chicken tenders all day in barbecue sauce, cooked them on my grill pan, and added them to the salad:
Yum, yum, and yum! And now that Picnik is back up, I was able to download a picture of yesterday’s cherry cobbler. It tastes even better today:
Oh summer bounty, how I love you!