The other day while shopping at Whole Foods (always fueling my kitchen creativity), the mock chicken salad caught my eye. Even though I stopped eating meat years ago, tofu and fake meat dishes have never appealed to me. The sweet woman behind the counter must have read my mind because she randomly gave me a small container and said "You have to try this, on us. It's amazing" It became apparent that the universe wanted me to give fake meat a chance.
Saying I loved it would be an understatement. It was exquisite. I finished the container in two days and bought more. I kept rereading the ingredients, baffled that fake chicken salad could taste so similar to real chicken salad. I immediately started scheming adaptations to the recipe, and remembered a recipe for chicken and arugula pesto salad that I watched Giada make a few weeks ago, resigned to the fact that I would never be able to try it (so I thought).
Using inspiration from both Whole Foods' mock chicken salad and Giada's chicken and arugula pesto salad, I made my own arugula pesto chicken salad. It's rich from the olive oil, zingy from the lemon, and nutty from the arugula and parmesan. Making homemade french-inspired mayonnaise made all the difference, especially since I have a thing about mayonnaise. Words cannot do this "chicken" salad justice. (If you are not a vegetarian, the only change you'd have to make to this recipe is using real chicken instead of fake chicken. Just to be clear.)
1. Cook chicken/fake chicken however you prefer (I bought Quorn's meatless soy-free naked chicken cutlets and roasted them in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper).
2. Make arugula pesto, by mixing 2 cups arugula, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup parmesan, 1 clove garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor.
3. Make homemade mayonnaise by whisking 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard, salt, pepper, and slowly adding about a half cup of oil (sunflower, safflower, grapeseed, or olive) as you whisk.
4. Combine all ingredients, adding zest and juice from one lemon.
5. Serve however you'd like - on a slice of toasted sourdough, over arugula with roasted baby heirlooms, as a plain old sandwich - the possibilities are endless.