After a seemingly long winter and a half-hearted spring, summer is finally here. This means that the sun will once again shine outside my office, luring me to more fun activities as I sit in a chilly, air conditioned room. I hope that somewhere in my job description is listed daydreaming for I find myself doing a lot of it this time of year. My job over the next few weeks is to (hopefully) turn at least some of these dreams into actual plans.
On the home front however, summer’s arrival means an abrupt change in my cooking pattern. A stark contrast to my office environment, the skylights and windows lining our un-airconditioned home leaves virtually no escape from the heat. The oven goes on vacation and the stove’s duties become considerably lighter. The outdoor grill gets dusted off and lighter fare dominates the menu.
I came up with this Asian-style salad last week in an attempt to add something new to our rotation. With the exception of the wonton wrappers all the ingredients are always available in my kitchen. I just happened to purchase them for another idea but they helped to complete this salad instead. The fried wonton strips (with a light sprinkling of Chinese five-spice powder) crown a bed of mixed greens, cilantro, jicama, carrots, scallions and juicy chicken poached in chicken stock. I left out the noodles that seem to be a staple in restaurant Asian salads but feel free to add them for a more substantial serving.
The star of this salad is the simple vinaigrette. It is certainly no innovation in salad dressings but I had never thought to bring together my Asian condiments with peanut butter before; I was so pleased with the results. The spice component came from some homemade chili oil that was given to me by the owner of a local Chinese restaurant and it added a nice kick to the vinaigrette without dominating the other ingredients. Better yet, I discovered that the flavor much improves the next day–I would know since I ate this salad for lunch three days in a row and I never tired of it. It’s cool, refreshing, spicy and perfect for the hot days to come.
Update 6/28/2011: This recipe is being featured in Women’s Health Magazine’s online section, What We’re Reading this Week. You can check it out here. So exciting!
Asian-Style Salad with Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette
* Makes slightly less than a cup of vinaigrette, enough to serve 6
For the Vinaigrette
- 1 heaping tablespoon peanut butter (I use Adam’s Organic Creamy PB)
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard (use Chinese hot mustard if you have it)
- 1 – 2 cloves garlic
- 1/8 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon hot chili oil (adjust amount depending on type you use)
- 1/8 cup sesame oil
- 1/8 cup vegetable oil (or other neutral oil)
- mixed greens
- poached chicken, shredded (I poached chicken breasts in chicken stock, spices and lemon juice for 10 – 12 minutes)
- jicama, sliced into strips
- carrots, peeled into thin ribbons
- scallions, both green and white parts
- cilantro, chopped
- fried wonton strips (sprinkled with Chinese five spice, optional)
- dry roasted peanuts
- To prepare the vinaigrette, combine all the ingredients except the oils in a bowl. Then slowly whisk in the oils until well combined. Set aside.
- To prepare the chicken for the salad, put the chicken pieces in a small pot and add enough chicken stock to cover the meat. Add additional spices and/or lemon juice (about half a lemon) but this is optional. Simmer for about 1o minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Drain and cool then shred with a fork.
- To prepare the wonton, heat up a bit of oil in a pan. Cut the wonton wrappers into strips, sprinkle with five spice powder (optional) and fry lightly. Note that the strips cook very fast, less than a minute so don’t leave them unattended. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside.
- Assemble the salad on a large platter or individual plates and drizzle with the vinaigrette.