For a creative chicken salad, we were inspired by the flavors of Morocco: apricots, lemon and warm spices.
To give our dressing complex flavor, we reached for garam masala, a traditional spice blend of coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper. We also added a little more coriander, honey and smoked paprika for depth.
Blooming the spices in the microwave deepened their flavors for an even bolder dressing. Chickpeas further echoed the Moroccan theme and lent heartiness, and crisp romaine combined with slightly bitter watercress made the perfect bed of greens for our toppings. Reserving a bit of the dressing to drizzle on just before serving made the flavors pop.
MOROCCAN CHICKEN SALAD WITH APRICOTS AND ALMONDS
Start to finish: 1 hour
11/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch smoked paprika
1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
1 tablespoon honey
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed
3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped coarse
1 shallot, sliced thin
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 romaine lettuce hearts (12 ounces), cut into 1-inch pieces
4 ounces (4 cups) watercress
1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted and chopped coarse
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.
Brown chicken well on first side, 6-8 minutes. Flip chicken, add 1/2 cup water and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until chicken registers 160 degrees, 5-7 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board, let cool slightly, then slice 1/2 inch thick on bias. Let cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, microwave 1 tablespoon oil, the garam masala, coriander and paprika in a medium bowl until oil is hot and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk 3 tablespoons lemon juice, the honey, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper into spice mixture. Whisking constantly, drizzle in remaining oil.
In a large bowl, combine the cooled chicken, chickpeas, apricots, shallot, parsley and half of dressing, and toss to coat. Let mixture sit for 15-30 minutes. Whisk remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice into remaining dressing.
Toss the romaine, watercress and almonds together in a serving bowl. Drizzle remaining dressing over top, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with chicken mixture, and serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 588 calories; 344 calories from fat; 38 g fat (5 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 83 mg cholesterol; 364 mg sodium; 29 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 12 g sugar; 32 g protein.