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Sunday, September 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Leftovers: Mandarin teriyaki chicken pasta salad is a mouthful in the best ways possible

By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

Grilled chicken is the unsung hero of summer. It’s versatile, it can feed a crowd at a moment’s notice, and it’s delicious whether it’s been soaking in a marinade for hours or seasoned with just a sprinkle of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy grilled chicken is to marinate it for a few hours in a bath of pickle juice and milk (no, I’m not joking). Once you’re ready to grill, you take the chicken out of the marinade and sprinkle on a simple rub of powdered sugar (again, not joking), salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and seasoned salt.

The chicken ends up tender, spicy and full of flavor – to die for.

Last week, I made a huge amount of that particular grilled chicken knowing that the delicious leftovers would work in about a million recipes over the next few days. And the meal I used it for the next night did not disappoint.

Allow me to introduce you to your next favorite summer meal: Mandarin teriyaki chicken pasta salad. The title might seem like a mouthful, and so is the salad – in the best way possible. It’s chock-full of healthy ingredients, delightful textures and a few delicious splurges. One of the great pleasures of eating this salad is loading up your fork with the perfectly balanced bite.

Al dente bowtie pasta and fresh baby spinach are layered with chewy, tangy dried cranberries; sweet mandarin oranges; crunchy water chestnuts; flavorful green onions; salty roasted cashews, and the aforementioned grilled chicken, which has been diced and tossed with a bit of teriyaki sauce for even more flavor.

Speaking of teriyaki, the dressing couldn’t be simpler to make and packs a huge flavor punch. Pull out the blender or whisk if you’re wanting to make more dirty dishes for yourself. Otherwise, pour the dressing ingredients into a jar, top with a lid and shake until everything is nicely combined.

Tangy and tart with a hint of sweet, the dressing is what makes this salad utterly mouth-watering. Mandarin teriyaki chicken pasta salad is perfect for a light dinner after a hot day at the lake, where you may or may not have ingested more than a normal amount of Cheetos and soda and need something more suitable for a grown-up palate at the end of the day.

It’s also a winner at potlucks and other social gatherings we’re not supposed to have right now. When you do serve it, remember to hold off on drizzling the dressing on top until right before serving, or let people dish out their individual portions and pour on the dressing themselves. Like most salads, this one will get soggy fast if it’s allowed to hang out with its dressing too long.

Mandarin Teriyaki Chicken Pasta Salad

Adapted from melskitchencafe.com

Teriyaki dressing:

⅓ cup vegetable oil

⅓ cup teriyaki sauce

⅓ cup rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Pinch of black pepper

Salad:

8 ounces bowtie pasta, cooked, drained and cooled

4 packed cups fresh baby spinach

¾ cup dried cranberries

2 cans (11 ounces each) mandarin oranges, drained

1 can (8 ounces) water chestnuts, drained and slivered

2 green onions, thinly sliced

¾ cup roasted cashews

2 cups grilled chicken, diced and tossed with 2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar, cap with a lid and shake until well combined.

Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the top and lightly toss. Serve immediately.

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