As a freelancer, I spend most of my working hours at home, creating recipes in my kitchen and writing blog posts on my laptop. I make sure to take a break during the day to exercise and to eat a healthy, nutritious meal. I keep the prep and cooking time to a minimum, so for lunch I make a salad with lots of fresh or cooked vegetables. The more colourful, the better because I want my food to taste good, but also to look good, like this Chicken Rainbow Salad with Grana Padano vinaigrette.
Rainbow salads are easy to make using a base layer of salad leaves or grains, topped with your favourite veggies, fruits, nuts and beans. For this salad I used grilled chicken, red cabbage, rocket salad, cherry tomatoes, spring onions, orange peppers, handfuls of croutons and pistachio kernels.
I am usually very lazy when it comes to salad dressing and simply use a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. This salad though called for something more, a creamy dressing to combine all the different ingredients together.
The Grana Padano vinaigrette is a simple dressing made with grated cheese, extra virgin olive oil, lemon and balsamic vinegar and it really makes this salad delicious.
Grana Padano is a semi-fat hard cheese that was first created by monks in the abbey of Chiaravalle in Italy nearly 1000 years ago. It is a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) product and it continues to be produced throughout the Po River Valley in northeastern Italy, just as it was centuries ago.
The PDO status is very important to protect this wonderful Italian cheese and to ensure its quality, authenticity and traceability.
Grana Padano is made with partially skimmed milk, and each wheel of cheese is ripened slowly for at least nine months. Time is an essential ingredient in the production of Grana Padano because as the cheese matures, the aromas and flavours evolve.
There are three different vintages of the cheese: Grana Padano is aged between 9 and 16 months and has a delicate and subtle flavour. Grana Padano ‘over 16 months’ has a distinctive salty flavour, but the consistency is still soft to break with your fingers. The Grana Padano ‘Riserva’ is aged for over 20 months and it has a grainy texture that causes it to fracture into slivers. Its flavour is rich and full and its hard consistency makes it perfect for grating over pasta and risotto.
It is important to know about the different maturation stages of the Grana Padano when you are looking for a cheese to use in your favourite recipes. For my Grana Padano vinaigrette I used the ‘over 16 months’ cheese because I wanted a rich flavour to jazz up my salad, but I also needed the soft consistency to make a creamy sauce.
Over the next few weeks I am going to share two more recipes featuring the three different Grana Padano vintages to show you just how versatile and delicious this cheese is.
For the salad
For the Grana Padano vinaigrette
Preheat the grill to 160°C. Wash and slice the peppers, place them over tin foil under the grill. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the peppers are soft. Remove from the oven and peel their skins off.
In a medium bowl combine the juice of half lemon, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. Slice the chicken breast into strips and leave them to soak in the juice for a few minutes. Cook the chicken in a frying pan on medium heat.
Combine the grilled pepper and the rocket salad in a large salad bowl, together with the finely sliced cabbage, chopped tomatoes and spring onions.
Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients in a pestle and mortar or food processor. Mix until you have the right consistency and the ingredients are fully combined. Add more olive oil or lemon juice if needed.
Add the grilled chicken over the salad and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Serve and eat immediately.
Disclaimer: this post was written in collaboration with Grana Padano. All opinions are my own.