We’ve been enjoying cherries here like they’re going out of style. My P.S. (Produce Shopper/Spouse) remarked that on a recent trip to the store he’d bought almost $20 of cherries. I gasped and asked how many he bought! He just shrugged. Apparently they weren’t very low-priced, he was just feeding our cherry frenzy.
We usually eat the cherries after our evening meal. It’s that nice balance of fresh fruit and natural sugar that gives us the feeling of having had dessert, but it was a healthy one. Unlike the Klondike bars in the freezer calling our names. Balance, people! It’s all about a healthy balance.
I had leftover grilled chicken and another container of leftover rotisserie chicken I’d picked up at the grocery to add to it for dinner. I wanted to make a pasta salad with a lot of cubed chicken, and add some cherries to it. I know, again with the adding unusual fruit to a salad. As if playing with watermelon and cantaloupe recently weren’t enough, I had to go there. I HAD to venture into cherry territory.! It wasn’t all that unusual; I found plenty of recipes online that used cherries with chicken salad. And I found a way to use cherry territory in a sentence. Score two for me!
My favorite chicken salad with cherries recipe used tarragon to season the salad dressing. I thought that would be a nice balance to the strong flavor of the cherries. The cherries were ripe but not particularly sweet; I like them a little more tart unless they’re in a pie, don’t you? So I used the tarragon but didn’t follow any one recipe that I’d found. I combined them all and invented a new salad.
I was out of green onions and shallots for once, so I added the celery for a crunch of green instead. And of course I had to add sweet bell peppers. I used a small yellow one just for a color change; you could use any color you happen to have. I would think green would be too strong for this salad. Green peppers are usually more bitter and might overshadow the chicken flavor too much. I left the bitter/tart duty to the cherries.
Opening my pasta cupboard (the one over the stove that I have to jump to reach), I had radiatore in front and so it became my pasta of choice. I used half a box, thinking I didn’t want to have a huge amount of salad leftover. I was using up leftovers, not wanting to create more!
I put my salted water on to boil and cooked the pasta until it was al dente. I ran cold water over the pasta to bring the temp down and stop the cooking. I set the pasta aside in a bowl and pulled my veggies and chicken out of the fridge to chop up.
The chicken was all white meat, which I prefer. I diced it and put it into the big bowl with the pasta. I diced the celery and pepper and added them to the bowl. Then I looked at the cherries and couldn’t remember ever doing anything with them before. I was pretty sure I probably had a cherry pitter somewhere, courtesy of my P.S. who collects those odd things. But I gamely used a paring knife, cut them all in half around the pit, then put the knife aside and pried each cherry open and removed the pit. It really wasn’t that labor intensive. I had pretty scarlet fingers until I washed them. Not too messy.
Then I was ready to mix up a salad dressing, I used mayo, Dijon and a handful of my favorite seasonings. It needed to be a bit more liquid so I added some milk and tossed it all together with the rest of the ingredients in the bowl. I sampled it and mmmm it was great! The dressing was just enough to very sparely coat the pasta. I wasn’t looking for a heavy sauce that would take attention away from the chicken and cherries. Finally, I stirred in some parmesan and the salad was mixed.
I chilled the salad for about 30 minutes then served it for dinner with fresh little rolls I’d picked up at the grocery. I’d had ideas of making the chicken salad as sliders but changed my mind earlier in the day and went the pasta route. It’s summer, pasta salads must happen.
We loved the flavors. I omitted the sugar called for in a lot of the recipes, preferring to not have any extra sweetness. The cherries and the bell pepper provided plenty of sweetness. The Dijon was a perfect touch, adding a bit of a zip that went well with tarragon. My slight bit of cayenne wasn’t noticeable until you looked for it; usually it just serves to perk a dish up without announcing itself boldly.
I think I would have liked to have green onions or shallots in the salad instead of the celery, not being much of a celery fan. I didn’t write green onions into the recipe but you might want to add them or substitute them. You certainly could have both green onion and celery in the salad if you prefer.
Chicken Cherry Pasta Salad
½ box radiatore; prepared according to box directions
1 cup diced chicken
1 cup cherries; halved and pitted
2 ribs celery; diced
½ yellow bell pepper; diced
1 cup mayo
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon tarragon
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ cup milk
½ cup shredded parmesan
Cook pasta in salted water according to box directions until al dente. Drain and run under cold water to stop cooking and cool somewhat.
Place pasta, chicken, cherries, celery and peppers into a large bowl.
Mix mayo, Dijon, seasonings and milk in a separate bowl, then add to veggies. Mix well, add parmesan and mix well again, then refrigerate until serving.