After that gut busting grilled cheese on Friday, here’s some healthy and delicious moderation. I have to say this is my preferred style of eating – not all salad — all the time, but a balancing act with a constant supply of wholesome foods and a few indulgences thrown in for good measure. This Chicken Kale Farro Salad with Honey Balsamic Dressing has a ton of flavor and it’s good for you too!
What makes this salad so inviting are the little treats you find along the way. A nugget of fresh mozzarella, a briny bite of kalamata olive and chewy hearty bits of farro. A satisfying blend of flavors and textures tossed into one bowl.
Many people avoid kale, saying it’s too fibrous and hard to eat — which reminds me of a thing my Mom used to say when I was a kid. I’d save my money to buy a pack of Bubble Yum bubble gum — you remember those giant wads, don’t you? I’d happily shove a piece of that over-sized gum into my mouth — chew, slurp and attempt to break it down into something I could blow a bubble with. She’d always say, “You look like a cow chewing its cud.” Ouch!!! But she was right.
If that’s been your experience, let me share with you the key to tender kale — massaging and mincing. With your hands you literally rub and massage the kale aggressively for 1-2 minutes to break down the fibers — it makes the kale soft and very fragrant. Then bunch up as much kale and you can into a tight ball and use a very sharp knife to finely chop it. That’s it – think of it as pre-chewing your cud. Too graphic???
In this salad I used about two cups of leftover chicken for some protein. I happened to have a grilled chicken breast from the previous night’s dinner, but some rotisserie chicken or leftover pork or shrimp would work equally well. For a vegetarian salad, swap out the meat for garbanzo beans or maybe some grilled tofu. For vegan, eliminate the mozzarella and maybe toss in some toasted nuts.
The honey balsamic dressing comes together quickly and it’s packed with flavor from the pungent garlic, creamy dijon, floral honey and tangy balsamic vinegar. It takes about 5 minutes to put together and is way better than any store bought dressing. WAAAYYYYY!!!!!!
The ingredients in this salad can hold up for a few days in the fridge without going limp, so it’s perfect for make-ahead lunches during the week, provided you have a refrigerator at work or a freezer pack in your lunchbox to keep things cool. I have a feeling this will be in our regular work week rotation! Enjoy!
Chicken Kale and Farro Salad
- 3/4 cup farro
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4-5 large curly kale leaves tough stems removed
- 2 cups leftover cooked chicken sliced or cut into cubes
- 1 bell pepper diced
- 2 plum tomatoes seeded and diced
- 3/4 cup sliced cucumber I used baby English cucumbers from Costco
- 1 cup cubed fresh mozzarella packed in water
- 1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives
For the dressing
- 3/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 large clove garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Fill a medium pot halfway with water and heat to boiling. Add salt and then stir in the farro. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the farro until tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain the farro and let cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, place the kale leaves on a cutting board and massage them firmly with your hands, kneading the leaves until they smell fresh and grassy. Ball the kale into a tight ball and thinly slice the kale with a sharp knife. Transfer kale to a large bowl. Add the bell pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, mozzarella, kalamata olives and set aside.
In a small bowl combine the dijon mustard, minced garlic, honey, balsamic, olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. Whisk to emulsify.
Add the cooled farro and the dressing to the salad and toss to combine completely. If you're serving the chicken sliced -- fan it out over the top of the salad and serve. If you've diced the chicken add it to the salad and toss to coat with dressing.