Chicken Salad is great and all, but it's definitely been done. You can vary the ingredients a little bit—grapes and slivered almonds is one of my favorites—but the basic chicken + mayo base doesn't change much. And frankly, it gets a little boring.
Which is why this recipe from Patricia Wells is so intriguing. It looks like a regular chicken salad but there's no mayo in sight. The creamy sauce is made from blended tahini (sesame paste often found in hummus) and yogurt. It's therefore much lower in fat but has most of mayo's richness and, I think, a much better flavor.
The recipe (from her recent book Salad as a Meal) keeps things simple with some blanched green beans and slivers of celery, but the sauce is the real story here. You could adapt this in a hundred different ways. I may never go back to mayo again.
- 2 plump, moist garlic cloves, peeled, halved, and green germ removed
- 1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- 8 ounces green beans, trimmed at both ends and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 pound cubed cooked chicken
- 3 ribs celery, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
- 1/2 cup finely minced fresh cilantro or parsley
In a small food processor, mince the garlic. Add the tahini, yogurt, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and blend well to form a creamy dressing (alternatively, mince the garlic by hand and whisk in the remaining ingredients. Set the dressing aside.
Bring a large sauce pan of salted water to boil. Add the green beans and cook until just tender, then drain and plunge into ice water to cool quickly. Dry on kitchen towels.
Combine the cooked chicken, green beans, celery, and yogurt and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro and parsley. Serve on a bed of greens with extra dressing drizzled on top, in a sandwich, or on its own.