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Chicken Salad with Tomatoes, Black Beans and Cilantro

The bold taste of cilantro contains hints of citrus, pepper and herbaceous green grass. In this recipe, cilantro stems season the chicken cooking liquid and the leaves are tossed into the salad. The mild flavors of the chicken and black beans are sharpened by ripe heirloom tomatoes and tart lime juice for a bright, tasty summer dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 white onion 
  • 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro 
  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, each about 3/4 lb.  
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed, plus 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste  
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lime juice 
  • 1 jalapeño chili, seeded and minced 
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste 
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes, preferably 1 red and 1 yellow or green, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice 
  • 1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed  
  • 1 head butter or Bibb lettuce, separated into leaves 

Directions:

Cut the onion in half lengthwise. Cut half of the onion into thin half moon-shaped slices. Finely chop the remaining half and measure out 1/4 cup. Pluck the leaves from the cilantro sprigs; reserve both the stems and the leaves.

Place the chicken breasts in a large saucepan and add the cilantro stems, onion slices, crushed garlic and 1 tsp. of the salt. Add water to barely cover the chicken. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Cover and let stand until the breasts show no sign of pink when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife near the bone, about 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and let cool. (Discard the stock or save for another use.)

Remove and discard the skin and bones from the chicken breasts and shred the meat into bite-size pieces. Coarsely chop the reserved cilantro leaves (you should have about 2 Tbs.).

In a large nonreactive bowl, combine the lime juice, half of the minced jalapeño, the minced garlic, the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and the 1/4 tsp. pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Add the chicken, tomatoes, the 1/4 cup chopped onion, the chopped cilantro and black beans and stir gently to combine. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper, then add as much of the remaining jalapeño as needed to achieve the desired spiciness. Cover and refrigerate to chill slightly, at least 20 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Arrange a couple of lettuce leaves on each plate. Spoon the salad on top, dividing evenly, and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Chicken, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2008).