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      RECIPE TITLE "Chicken Salad with Peaches and Hazelnuts (SALADE DE POULET, PÊCHES & NOISETTES) "
    Excerpted from: Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen

    yields Serves 4 as a main course, 6 to 8 as a starter time --- difficulty easy

    When I still worked in an office — before I joined the pajama workforce — I often brought my own lunch. It was a habit I had formed when I lived in the States and this was a widespread custom: I would join my coworkers in the bright orange company kitchen, and we would munch on our respective meals over a game of Boggle (I never once won, but it did enrich my English vocabulary with three– and four–letter words).

    At my French office it was less common, and most of my colleagues walked to a nearby bistro for the plat du jour. This was quite pleasant and I joined them from time to time to catch up on office gossip, but for reasons of nutrition, cost, and variety, I still enjoyed putting together my little picnic in the morning.

    In the summer, I liked to pack colorful salads and escape to the nearby Parc Montsouris at lunchtime. As I entered the park I would pass by a gastronomic restaurant set in a handsome pavilion and pore over the daily menu in lieu of an appetizer. I would walk on to sit by the little lake, where a handful of ducks swam about, in the vague hope that someone might throw stale bits of baguette their way.

    A fork in my right hand, a book in the left, and the container of salad propped up against me with my left wrist — a technique that took years to refine — I would dig in happily, comfortable in my delicious solitude. And after a little post–lunch walk I would return to the office, refreshed and sated.

    This salad is a staple from those days, and I still prepare it now for quick lunches, simple dinners, or party buffets. It is an excellent use for leftover roasted chicken, which I like to buy at a rotisserie on rue des Abbesses, where the farm-raised chickens are plump and delectable, and where the lady looks strikingly like the famous French actress Marie–Anne Chazel.

      RECIPE INGREDIENTS

    • 3 ripe yellow peaches, about 7 ounces each (substitute yellow nectarines)
    • 3 tablespoons hazlenut oil (substitute walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil)
    • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    • 1 pound cooked chicken meat cut into strips, from a store-bought rotisserie chicken or a home-roasted chicken, about 3 cups
    • 2/3 cup shelled hazlenuts, toasted, husked, and roughly chopped
    • 1/2 cup (loosely packed) fresh cilantro leaves (substitute fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves)
    • Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 8 cups (packed) baby spinach leaves, about 8 ounces

      RECIPE METHOD

    1. Peel the peaches: this is easier if you blanch them first by putting them in a pan of simmering water for a minute. (If you use nectarines, it is unnecessary to peel them.)

    2. In a medium salad bowl, whisk together the oil and vinegar. Add the chicken, peaches, hazelnuts, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Add the spinach leaves and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to a day; it gets better as it sits. Remove from the fridge half an hour before eating.

    NOTE If you prepare the salad in advance, the vinegar will wilt the greens a little. It will still taste good, but may not look as presentable: if you make it ahead for company, add the spinach at the last minute.

    VARIATION Use fresh (or dried) apricots and almonds instead of peaches and hazelnuts.

    WINE WEIN & SEKTGUT THIELEN MERLEN FETTGARTEN 2003 RIESLING SPATLESE (Germany, Mosel–Saar–Ruwer, white) A light–bodied wine with stone fruit flavors that reinforce the peach in the salad. Excellent balance between sweetness, to complement the slightly bitter nuts, and acidity, to stand up to the balsamic vinegar.


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