Strawberries are available year-round in California but the peak season is just approaching. As it gets closer and closer to April, the strawberries sold are becoming larger, redder, juicier, and they even smell sweeter. To welcome one of my favorite fruits into the season, I'm recreating a great blackened chicken and strawberry salad I had at the Alcove. The Alcove is a local restaurant in Los Angeles that serves typical California cuisine with salads, sandwiches, and freshly baked goods. I've only been there once but after trying their salad, I can confidently say that I will be returning. Here is my take on their creation.
Blackened Chicken and Strawberry Salad
- 1 lb strawberries halved
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- juice of ½ lemon
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 chicken breasts
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 8 cups spinach
- 8 ounces crumbled feta
- 1 lb strawberries sliced
- 1 ⅓ cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup toasted pecans chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until strawberries have softened about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer strawberries to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the mixture. Cool.
- Whisk together the pureed strawberries with balsamic vinegar. Slowly add olive oil, whisking constantly. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Combine seasoning for chicken from paprika - onion powder. Liberally sprinkle seasoning mixture onto both sides of the chicken.
- Heat oil in saute pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and sear on both sides, about 1 minute on each side. Transfer to a baking sheet. Finish cooking chicken in the oven until juices run clear, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes before slicing.
- Toss together spinach with feta, sliced strawberries, cranberries, toasted pecans, and salad dressing. Portion on four plates and top with sliced chicken. Serve.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
There are only a couple of ingredients in this salad, but each one serves its purpose. You can substitute the chicken for salmon, shrimp, steak, or even tofu and this salad will still be great.
Start by making the vinaigrette. You can prepare this dressing several days in advance since it does require you to cook the strawberries first. I personally have never used frozen strawberries, but if you have had success using them, I would love to hear all about it!
If you want to mix it up, you also make a blackened chicken and peach version of this salad, preparing the salad dressing with peaches instead of berries. I can already taste the goodness!
For the chicken, do not be afraid of the spices. Season both sides of the chicken and sear it in a hot pan. The spices will form a crust on the chicken, thus the name, blackened chicken. Continue cooking in the oven until the juices run pink. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes then slice.
Toss all the ingredients together and serve. I can have this salad every day and never get bored of it. The combination of sweet cranberries and strawberries, creamy feta, earthy pecans, and savory chicken is heavenly. Fortunately, strawberries are available here in California so I can make this year-round!
For more salad inspiration check out this BLT salad recipe!