When June graduations and weddings call for creative menu planning, the biggest challenge can be finding casual yet elegant and attractive dishes that please everybody without stressing the cook.
Chicken salad is a good starting place, particularly if you use store-bought roasted chicken. This version, gourmet enough to impress guests and look pretty presented on a buffet, is inspired by Moroccan bistilla (or bastila), a dish served to honor guests and to mark special occasions.
Bistilla, an example of simple ingredients transformed into a unique dish, is a large pie built by layering minced pigeon or chicken and ground almonds between sheets of phyllo-like dough. The pie is bound together by adding eggs beaten with lemon juice. Baking turns bistilla into an exquisite disk of golden pastry filled with creamy, savory custard studded with nubs of pigeon and nuts and wafts the aromatic perfume of cinnamon, ginger and saffron. If your mouth is watering and you want to make bistilla, consider that it takes the better part of a day and much practice to keep the pastry layers crisp around the moist filling.
Deconstructed, bistilla becomes this bright chicken salad, rich with North African flavors and enticing textures. To serve, spoon it into romaine lettuce leaf boats or onto a generous platter, mound it onto a slice of whole-wheat toast, or chop more finely and spread it on thinly sliced bread for tea sandwiches.
P.S. If you are determined to tackle making a bistilla, drop in on Facebook�s Moroccan Cooking group led by Paula Wolfert, the doyenne of this exquisite cuisine, or visit your local library to browse her cookbook, The Food of Morocco.
Moroccan Chicken Salad
Makes 4 servings. Serving: Scant 1 cup.
- 2 large hard-cooked eggs
- 2 cups diced cooked chicken breast, in bite-size pieces
- 1 navel orange, peeled and chopped
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
- 4 Tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley, divided
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
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- Halve eggs. Place 1 yolk in small bowl and set aside; discard second yolk. Coarsely chop egg whites and place in medium mixing bowl. Add chicken, orange, almonds, raisins and 3 tablespoons parsley to egg whites. Using fork, toss to combine.
- For dressing, mix orange juice with egg yolk, mashing to combine. Whisk in cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and salt until blended. Add 4-5 grinds of pepper. Whisk in oil.
- Pour dressing over chicken mixture and toss with fork to combine. Let salad sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving to allow flavors to meld.
Nutritional Inforamation Per Serving:
12 g fat
2 g sat fat
15 g carbohydrates
27 g protein
2 g fiber
319 mg sodium