My friend let me borrow one of her cookbooks (The Gathering of Friends–a beautiful cookbook!!) the other day and there was a recipe for an Asparagus Chicken Pasta Salad. I loved the concept of the asparagus, chicken and caramelized pecans. I took this recipe and changed several aspects of it and came up with this incredibly light, crunchy, sweet and savory salad. Since I took this picture, I have added the addition of red bell peppers (see other picture below). I wouldn’t eat the salad without it. It adds another beautiful color to this salad, as well as a sweet crispy taste and texture. The Sesame Orange Dressing has a surprisingly fresh and flavorful taste, and is the perfect accompaniment to this light pasta. I picture this salad perfect for a hot summer’s day or a delicious side dish to any barbecue. Happy Spring!

Orange Chicken and Asparagus Pasta Salad
Ingredients
  1. Orange Chicken & Asparagus Pasta Salad
  2. 3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders
  3. 1 lb. radiatore, penne or bowtie pasta
  4. 2 bundles asparagus (you need a lot for color!)
  5. 1 red bell pepper, diced
Orange Sesame Dressing
  1. 1/2 c. frozen orange juice concentrate
  2. 1 1/2 T. sesame oil
  3. 3 T. vegetable, canola or olive oil
  4. 1/2 c. rice vinegar
  5. 1/3 c. soy sauce
  6. 3 T. worcestershire sauce
  7. 2 T. lemon juice
  8. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  9. 1 t. fresh ginger, grated (or powder)
  10. 4 T. sesame seeds
  11. 2 T. brown sugar
  12. Candied Pecans (or buy store bought)
  13. 1/3 c. butter, melted
  14. 2 c. pecans, chopped lightly
  15. 3/4 c. brown sugar
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Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Clip off the ends of the asparagus and cut into 2 inch pieces. When the water is boiling, add the asparagus to the pot and let boil for 2 minutes. Remove asparagus and set aside for later. Add the pasta to the hot/boiling water and cook until al dente (don't over cook). For the chicken, place the pieces in a large skillet and saute with a little butter, salt and pepper until golden brown and cooked through (you can also use grilled chicken). Set the chicken aside. In the same pan, combine the brown sugar, butter and pecans together until the sugar begins to dissolve, about 2-3 minutes. Place the pecans on a greased 9x13 pan/cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Remove and let them cool until salad is ready to prepare. For the dressing, in a blender blend all of the ingredients together except for the sesame seeds. Puree until smooth. Stir in the sesame seeds to the dressing.In a large bowl, combine the cooked noodles, asparagus, pecans, cooked chicken and drizzle generously with the sesame dressing. Serve salad warm or cold.
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