In between rich pumpkin alfredo sauces and creamy macaroni and cheese, it’s nice to have a light, fresh salad. On the nights that I don’t cook, we frequently find ourselves with takeout from Panera. I’m a little bit in love with their Tomato and Mozzarella Panini and I’m constantly inspired by their delicious seasonal salads. On our most recent takeout evening, I had the pleasure of tasting their newest seasonal selection, an Orchard Harvest Chicken Salad. It was so delicious, that I couldn’t resist creating my own version at home. This perfectly-autumn salad features crisp spring greens topped with bites of fresh pear, dried cherries, crunchy pecans, gorgonzola crumbles, and chicken; all tossed in a delicious cherry-balsamic vinaigrette.
Since I’m not privy to Panera’s salad dressing recipes, I had to improvise. I started with a basic blend of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 100% Black Cherry Juice, found in the organic section of my grocery store, worked well for the cherry flavor. Some finely diced shallot, touch of garlic, salt, and pepper completed the sweet and tangy dressing. My result may not be identical to Panera’s, but it is fresh, delicious, and works wonderfully with the other ingredients in the salad!
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup Cherry Juice
1 Shallot, finely diced*
1/2 tsp Garlic, minced
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
*When cutting a shallot, treat it like a tiny onion. To see my photo guide to cutting onions, click here.
Combine all ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously, until well combined.
To assemble the salad, toss mixed spring greens in a small amount of cherry-balsamic vinaigrette. Top the dressed greens with small pieces of chopped pear, dried cherries, chopped pecans, and gorgonzola crumbles. To prevent the pears from browning, toss the chopped pieces in a bit of lemon juice. If desired, add some chopped pieces of cooked chicken to the salad. I used chicken tenderloins, baked for 15 minutes in a 400 degrees oven.
Apologies for the recent lackluster photography. Early sunsets and Syracuse gloom have been wreaking havoc on my lighting situation. Rest assured, a lighting solution should be arriving any day now!