By now you have figured out that I promote one meal for the whole family. I think there is a beautiful connectedness that comes from everyone sharing the same meal and sharing the same energy from that food. In addition, I believe that we help our children develop better eating habits when we expose them to a wide variety of foods during their lives and we encourage them to try new things. By giving in to the picky eater in the family and making him chicken tenders or buttered pasta every night because he won’t eat grown-up food, we are basically ensuring that he will grow up with only a taste for “kid cuisine” and the flavors associated with it. Not only that, who in the world has time to make more than one meal every night?
Mr. Picky is my 7-year-old and he is a challenge at mealtime even though I have done everything right. I am a great eater and I have set a good example for him (the most important thing.) I have exposed him to every vegetable and whole grain countless times. He has helped me prepare dozens of meals. We have gone shopping together at the supermarket and farmer’s markets. We have planted seeds and grown our own food. And he is still a total pain in the
ass neck and still quite picky, although he is slowly coming around. But I am not stressed out about it because Daughter #1 was the exact same way, even worse! Until one day something clicked and now she eats everything I eat from beet greens and bok choy to millet and muesli.
What does this have to do with chicken paillard and arugula salad when 99% of kids hate arugula? Of course they hate it. It is peppery and bitter and their tastebuds haven’t developed to the point that it tastes good to them. I didn’t like arugula when I was 7, but I am a maniac for it now. I even grow tons of it in my garden. So should I cater to the lowest common denominator in my family and prepare arugula-less meals? Heck no! I want arugula salads every now and then with a lemon vinaigrette and thinly pounded chicken breast. It’s one of my favorite quick-fix meals. But this is where I think flexibility should play a role. I will cut the chicken into strips and lay them on top of the arugula so that it is more appealing to my son and I allow him to eat just the chicken. He can look around the vegetable crisper and see if there’s something else that he would like, such as a raw carrot. In this way, I am not making him a whole different meal for him and the rest of us get to eat what we want.
No one likes everything, not even me. I very much dislike papaya, tarragon and poached or runny eggs. If you dislike arugula, feel free to substitute spinach or a crisp romaine. If you dislike chicken, you can add steak or chickpeas and shaved parmesan cheese. This is a great recipe to make for a crowd or for just one. The photo below shows a big platter I made when my cousin Joanna and her husband Anthony stopped by for dinner. I literally came home after they arrived at my house and whipped this together in front of them. The other finished photo at the top is my lunch yesterday when I was working at home testing recipes. As luck would have it, Mr. Picky came home for lunch and asked if I would share my chicken with him. My pleasure, as long as I get all the arugula for myself! One day he’ll be asking for that, too.
grilled chicken paillard with arugula and lemon vinaigrette
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Juice of 1 lemon + 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
Sea salt and black pepper
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
8 ounces arugula
1 tomato, chopped
- Place the chicken breasts one at a time in between to pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound to a ¼-inch thickness. You can use a meat mallet or a rolling pin. The idea is to get the chicken to an even thickness all around. Remove from the paper and place in a glass baking dish and squeeze the juice of 1 lemon on top. Drizzle with an equal amount of olive oil. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes.
- Heat the grill to medium. In the meantime, prepare the salad dressing. Cut the garlic clove in half and rub the inside of a medium bowl with the cut side of the garlic. Add the garlic to the bowl. To the bowl, add 3 Tablespoons lemon juice, Dijon mustard, ½ teaspoon sea salt, and black pepper to taste. Whisk to combine. Pour ½ cup olive oil into the bowl, whisking constantly to emulsify. Taste for seasoning and tartness. Add more oil if necessary.
- Remove chicken from marinade and grill a few minutes on both sides until golden brown. Place on a cutting board. Arrange the arugula on a platter and drizzle with enough of the dressing to coat lightly. Cut the chicken into strips and arrange on top of the arugula. Scatter tomatoes on top and drizzle a little more dressing. Or arrange the chicken on a platter and top with dressed arugula leaves and tomato.
Notes: I also love this salad with chickpeas, olives, shaved parmesan cheese, or thinly sliced fennel.
Do ahead: you can make the dressing several days in advance and wash and dry your greens in advance, too. Just wrap them in a damp kitchen towel and store in the refrigerator.