Lemon Chicken Pasta Salad with Roasted Tomatoes
Last spring my sister introduced me to this Mediterranean Barley Salad and I made it often throughout the spring and summer. Sadly, I always ate it alone because I am apparently the only one in my family that likes barley. I know, I’m just as shocked as you are. Who doesn’t like barley? Well, maybe some people don’t. If you are one of them, don’t give up on barley entirely! In the meantime, maybe try this Lemon Chicken Pasta Salad instead. Among some other swaps and changes, whole wheat pasta takes the place of barley and grilled lemon chicken is added because my husband considers any meal without meat to just be an appetizer. Happily, it all worked and my new version is more family-friendly, at least for my family. I make no guarantees for yours. If there is one thing I know, it is that kids’ (and in my case, husband’s) tastes for things change by the hour and if you bet that they will like anything at any particular time, you will never ever win. The silver lining here is that I’ll keep making barley and maybe one day they’ll change their mind and eat it! I’m admittedly not holding my breath, so for the time being, I’ll just keep making this.
There are two things that I really love about this salad. First, you mix up one vinaigrette and use it to marinate the chicken, season the tomatoes, and dress the salad. Second, because arugula is a fairly firm green, the salad holds up well for a few days which is perfect for my Sunday meal prep day. I make up a batch on Sunday and then I have it around to eat in different portions for lunch, a side at dinner, even one of my mid-day snacks during the week.
Arugula has a peppery flavor which makes it (I think) a natural match for lemon. Roasting the tomatoes helps to concentrate their flavor, a handy trick during the winter and spring before home grown tomatoes show up in your garden. Or, if you have a brown thumb like me, your local farm market.
If you have never made a vinaigrette, you should know that you really need to stir the vinegar (or in this case, lemon juice) and other seasonings pretty vigorously while you slowly pour in the oil in order to emulsify it all together. Otherwise, the oil will separate back out and just sit on top of the other ingredients. I don’t have the coordination to whisk with one hand and pour with the other so I like to use a hand blender to mix all of the ingredients while I slowly pour in the oil. A larger blender or food processor works great too.
Makes 12 cups of salad or 8 lunch size portions (1.5 cups each)
- 2 lemons
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tsp. brown or dijon mustard
- 2 tsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
- 3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
- 6 oz. cooked whole wheat pasta
- 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast (I used chicken tenders)
- 14 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 8 oz. bag arugula
- Balsamic vinegar or syrup, optional
- 1. To make vinaigrette, zest and juice both lemons. Combine lemon zest, 1/3 cup of lemon juice, mustard, soy sauce, and pepper. Blend the lemon juice mixture, slowly pouring in the olive oil until it is completely incorporated.
- 2. Place chicken in a container or zip top bag. Add 1/4 cup of lemon vinaigrette and marinate for at least 4 hours. Remove chicken from marinade, grill, and set aside. Once cooled, chop chicken into small pieces. Discard any leftover marinade from chicken.
- 3. Coat tomatoes with 2 Tbl. of vinaigrette. Spread tomato halves in a rimmed baking pan coated with cooking spray. Roast tomatoes at 475 degrees for 15 minutes. If you would like them to have a bit more color, you could put the tomatoes under the broiler for a few minutes - just be sure to watch them so they don't burn!!
- 4. Combine cooked pasta, chickpeas, olives, feta, roasted tomatoes, and chicken. Pour in remaining vinaigrette and mix well. Add in arugula a few handfuls at a time until it is all incorporated.
- 5. If you like, serve salad drizzled with a little bit of balsamic syrup or vinegar on top!
- This salad holds up really well for several days in the refrigerator.