Blackberry Celebration Salad with Chicken

Imagine. An early July morning. Small rays of sunshine prick flat ways through bushes because the sun is just showing over the horizon. I need to pick blackberries before I go to work AND before the rattlesnakes come out. I’ve heard stories.

These blackberry bushes are not the polite domesticated kind growing in gardens. In my neighborhood, they grow around creeks and ponds and they are weed-like as they take over trails and roads. In addition, they are full of thorns! And (I’ve heard tell) rattlesnakes crawl up into their branches to cool off during the day.

This shrubbery’s saving grace is free, fresh blackberries in July. I am standing in the middle of thorny bushes, gloved, wearing long sleeves, long pants and tall galoshes, on the lookout for juicy blackberries (and snakes.) Normally at this time of day I would be on a treadmill, or thinking about being on a treadmill, but there is a blackberry celebration at the barn in my neighborhood tonight. We are all bringing a dish to share, celebratory blackberries being the star ingredient.

My mission is to make something that people will choose out of a sea of blackberry filled food so that I will go home with an empty dish. My plan: make an entré and make it using fresh, delicious and appealing ingredients.

At home, after work, it is a quick matter to make this protein filled salad. I have the blackberries I picked this morning (or could have bought at the store.) The package of Goodheart ready to use Classic Diced Grilled Chicken Breast is in the refrigerator and it is the perfect amount. I also have some ripe peaches which will add another lovely color.

In a matter of moments I am out the door, with a beautiful dish to share, and, despite wearing my protective gear this morning, bramble scratches on my arms and legs reminding me of my early morning commune with nature.

Blackberry Celebration Salad with Chicken

Serves: 4


  • 1 package Classic Goodheart Diced Grilled Chicken Breast
  • 1/4 cup rosemary marcona almonds (or any other nut)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 basket blackberries (around 1 cup)
  • 1 peach, chopped (or other fruit)
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs of basil, slivered (plus extra for decoration, optional)
  • Lettuce for serving
  • Basic Oil and Vinegar Salad Dressing (link below) or salad dressing of choice


  1. In large bowl, add chicken, celery, green onions and nuts. Drizzle with dressing and gently toss.
  2. Add blackberries, peach and basil leaves and toss VERY GENTLY! The blackberries are so delicate, they will look prettier left in one piece. Consider using this process here.
  3. Decorate with a sprig of basil and serve on a bed of lettuce. Or at a buffet, consider providing a platter of individual lettuce leaves for scooping salad into and eating out of hand.


This is where I share some common cooking predicaments, emergency substitutions and general observations for each recipe. I may not be proud to own up to some of these, but thank goodness the internet is a safe place where no one judges anyone else!

STOP AND IMAGINE: I can guarantee the first thing everyone thinks to make with blackberries is dessert. Stop and use your imagination — what can I make that will be different? In this case, a main dish. Check in with yourself: will being different make things much harder? Not this time! I’d rather make a salad than bake a cobbler.

SIZE IS IMPORTANT: When asked to make a dish to share, why do I feel I need to feed an army? If I start with the package of Goodheart ready-to-use Diced Grilled Chicken Breast that’s in my refrigerator, I will show up with the right sized entré and it will all get eaten! No going home with a lot of food left in my dish. (Use a casserole dish, bowl or platter that your recipe will fill up, because too much empty space will make your offering look feeble and meager.)

TO PEEL OR NOT TO PEEL: I peeled the peaches in these photos because peach skin sets my husband and son’s teeth on edge. You don’t have to if your people are made of stronger stuff, but if you want peeled peaches, it’s easy:

While prepping other ingredients, set a pot of water to boil. Fill a bowl with cold water and ice. Wash and score an “X” on the bottom of each peach. Put peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon and immediately dunk in ice water. Peel when cool enough to handle!

WE EAT WITH OUR EYES: It only takes a little longer for me to play food stylist and make my dish look extra inviting. In this case, when people will have many options to choose from, it’s well worth the effort to avoid the walk of shame home with a full dish!

Instead of gently tossing this salad like you would for your family any old night, consider adding every ingredient bit by bit. I promise, it takes two minutes more and the result is worth it. Into a beautiful appropriately sized serving dish, sprinkle in an artistically random way 1/4 of the chicken, 1/4 of the nuts, 1/4 of the celery…(you get the idea), and drizzle 1/4 of the dressing over everything before you start over. Take a moment to arrange the last pieces so your basil is perky and VOILA! you have a photo-worthy dish!

All Purpose Stir Fry Sauce Base