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chicken feta and melon salad

Updated: Fri, 10 September, 2021

⯆ JUMP TO RECIPE
Roast chicken breast, sliced and sprinkled with fresh tarragon + melon balls or chunks + feta cheese + crunchy seeds and filo crumbs = an excellent salad.

chicken and melon salad with feta cuisinefiend.com

What is a salad?

‘Salad’ is possibly the vaguest and the most blanket culinary notion. Compare a chicken salad with mayo and pasta in it with green leaf salad and you’ll see my point.

You could say that it is a combination of assorted foods served cold, but there are warm salads too. It should be a savoury dish by definition – the word comes from Latin salata meaning ‘salted’ – but what about fruit salad?

There are raw salads and cooked salads, meat salads and vegetarian salads, pasta salads and seafood salads. If I wanted to list most common types of salad it would still take me all day.

I could settle on a definition of ‘mixed foods cut into pieces served combined together’ but I risk being countered with a garden salad of whole green leaves. It’s a real salad bowl of problems!

chicken melon and feta salad with crunchy seeds cuisinefiend.com

Bad salad, good salad

It is easy to produce a bad salad. Pile a bunch of rocket leaves and pretend it’s a salad. Slather a coleslaw in so much mayo it feels gloopy or, on the contrary, mix some greens and tomatoes without a drop of dressing. Get the textures wrong – overcooked pasta in a salad – or mix too many ingredients together, as if it was a rubbish bin.

But it’s just as easy to make a very good salad. In my books it needs a balance of soft and crunchy, juicy and dry, sweet and sharp. Can you invent a new salad?

Of course you can: it is the best kind of dish to be creative about. But it is important to note that the right combination is the secret, hence the classic pairings of tomatoes and soft cheese, feta and cucumbers, walnuts and apple, anchovies and Parmesan.

Just imagine you had your chosen ingredients together on a plate and decide whether it would look, sound and smell appetising.

chicken and melon salad ingredients cuisinefiend.com

How I composed my chicken and melon salad

My chicken and melon salad came about the usual way: chicken, melon and avocado was what I had in the fridge and I was in need of dinner.

I started with a chicken fillet; all right as chicken fillets go and boring as hell. I didn’t fancy another creamy chicken; it was too hot for fried, and I wanted to minimise cooking.

I roasted the chicken then with some sharp flavours on it. What next? I was bored senseless of the polite sliced chicken sitting atop green lettuce, with a tomato half here and there for only company.

But I also had a melon and some feta, plus a just-ripening avocado in the fruit bowl. Why not, I thought. Feta and watermelon is a done thing in Greece so melon wouldn’t be far off.

And I assumed, perhaps sweepingly, that since both the melon (cantaloupe) and avocado were green, they would go together well.

how to make chicken and melon salad cuisinefiend.com

How to season a chicken salad?

Unless smothered in mayo, roast chicken fillet will only sing if paired with tarragon; it’s such a good flavour. Freshly chopped tarragon leaves on warm, just cooked chicken work wonders. And then the feta which warms up a little from the warm chicken, and the green elements: fancy-balled or just diced.

The melon juice makes the dressing. The crunch, which in my view is obligatory on a salad, is provided in an ordinary manner by toasted pumpkin seeds and extraordinarily well by filo crumble.

(The latter is such a good simple invention I’ll be writing about it much, much more on another, perhaps sweet, occasions.)

filo crumbs cuisinefiend.com

And so an apparently random salad turned out so well I have been making it again and again.

More chicken salad recipes

Caesar salad, the classic, or my twisted version with chicken nuggets must be mentioned as first. It’s one chicken dish I’ll never get bored of.

A wholesome, filling and satisfying dish which is also good for weight loss – that’s chicken couscous salad. Use leftover roast chicken, rotisserie-bought one permitted.

roast chicken breast and melon salad cuisinefiend.com

More melon recipes

Smoked salmon with melon is a less common and as good a match as Parma ham and melon combo.

And a no-recipe recipe: try ripe melon slices with whipped cream and a drizzle of honey – it’s astonishing!

More feta salad recipes

Chicken and feta again, this time with sweetcorn for company. It really is three recipes in one: dive in if you’re intrigued.

Feta, grapes and walnuts. No more to say, you just have to try for yourself.

And you can whip feta into a gorgeous dip which is double-gorgeous served with ripe tomatoes.



chicken feta and melon salad

Servings: 4 as a starter, 2 as a main courseTime: 1 hour

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g (just over a pound) chicken breast fillets
  • 1 tsp mild chili powder
  • 3 tbsp. sweet chili sauce
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 sheets filo pastry
  • olive oil, for brushing
  • a small bunch of rocket leaves (optional)
  • a few sprigs of fresh tarragon, leaves stripped
  • 3 small cucumbers
  • 1 medium cantaloupe melon, chilled
  • 1 medium Haas avocado
  • 3 tbsp. pumpkin seeds
  • 150g (5 oz.) feta cheese
  • 2-3 tbsp. walnut or olive oil


METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5.

2. Season the chicken fillets with the chili powder, sweet chili sauce and juice from ½ lemon; reserve the other half. Place on a baking tray and roast for 30-40 minutes. Let them rest while you prepare the other salad ingredients.

3. Brush the filo sheets with oil and layer one on the other; fold them in half. Bake on a dry baking sheet for about 10 minutes until golden and crisp throughout. Let it cool completely, then crumble the pastry into a bowl.

4. Spread the rocket leaves, if using, over the bottom of a large serving dish – arguably the salad can happily do with no leaves at all but if you like leaves in your salads, go for it.

5. Chop the tarragon leaves finely. Slice the cucumbers. Halve the melon horizontally, remove the seeds and scoop balls with a melon baller or just dice the flesh, trying to collect the juice in the skin while you do it. Cut balls or dice out of the avocado.

6. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan until scorched and fragrant.

7. To assemble the salad, slice the chicken breasts, preferably when still warm, and arrange over the rocket/platter. Sprinkle with tarragon. Crumble feta over the chicken, follow with cucumber slices, avocado balls and melon balls.

8. Drizzle the salad with walnut oil, juice from the remaining ½ lemon and any melon juice collected in the empty shell.

9. Scatter the pumpkin seeds over the salad and serve, with the filo crumbs in a small bowl, to add directly onto plates; otherwise they too quickly turn soggy.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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