Posts Tagged ‘Asian’
As my year as a junior in college is coming to an end in only three and a half short weeks that will seem painfully long, I’ve started to realize that of this whole school year, I have eaten a pathetically small amount of salads–and I mean salads as in ones that actually have some form of lettuce. (I realize, also, that my reflections of the year might be better spent on things such as what I’ve learned, or you know, the controversies of German Lebensraum as a foreign policy since a hefty paper on it is due in about a week. But I guess I’d rather gravitate my thoughts towards food and my eating habits. So it goes.)
Anyway, this is somewhat depressing to me, because I honestly love salads. Really! I grew up with a mom who, once we got into our high school years, stopped caring so much about making large, heavy dinners on a regular basis and who would often just throw together a big salad and call it good. And oh, it was good. Me and my siblings ate salads with no complaints.
This type of eating has stuck with me so much so that most days, especially in the summer, I will be perfectly content eating a large salad as one of my meals each day. What I’m trying to get at with this is that I am in no way salad-averse, and as such I don’t really have any excuse for being able to count up the total amount of them I’ve eaten this year on both hands.
I think it has something to with the fact that as much as I try to resist it, my pantry and fridge have college-esque appearances. As in, when I go to make a salad (assuming I actually have some form of lettuce), the only thing I have to top it with are some almonds, or maybe some sliced raw carrots and bell peppers. When you eat a few too many salads like this, the lettuce starts to taste squidgy, the vinaigrette tastes off, the toppings… well, ha, there aren’t really any! So I have sadly avoided salads a lot more than I would have liked this year.
Luckily, I garnered up some form of energy to try out this salad (I have no idea where from–maybe it’s the fact that, oh you know, summer and beaches and swim suits are approaching fiercely), because this salad is just what I needed to realize what I’ve been missing. It reminded me of the reason why I love salads: the way they can showcase contrasting textures and flavors, and how you can eat enough so you feel full but never heavy.
And this salad has got all of that. It’s crunchy from the wasabi peas, roasted soy nuts and wonton strips, juicyness from the grilled chicken, and savory and sweet from the sesame honey-ginger vinaigrette. If you’re going to leave out anything here, don’t make it the chicken. It gives contrast to all the crispy ingredients. If you’re vegetarian or not interested in using chicken for this, try out some grilled tofu instead to give that soft-chew component. (As a side note, if you’re planning to leave out anything, I’d make it the wonton strips. They’re fun and give nice texture, but they’re not much in terms of taste and the salad’s already got other crunch items.) It’s a well built salad, and the dressing is absolutely addicting. It’s a balsamic based, which perplexed me at first, but don’t ask questions! It’s got all the balance of flavors, trust me. Make it, eat it, and realize what you’ve been missing.
Asian Chop Chop Salad with Sesame Honey-Ginger Vinaigrette
Adapted slightly from The Sublet Kitchen
Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a main
I’m going to be honest here, for the lettuce I just used this pre-mixed lettuce mix that is called something like “baby spring mix.” It combines baby arugula, baby swiss chard and baby spinach, all three of which I really liked in the salad. Don’t feel guilty going the lazy way to and getting a lettuce mix, but make sure to still add sliced napa cabbage to whatever you buy.
5 wonton wrappers
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 chicken breasts
2 cups baby arugula
2 cups baby swiss chard
1 cup napa cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cups shelled edamame,
1/2 cup roasted and salted soy nuts
1/2 cup wasabi peas
ginger sesame-honey vinaigrette to dress (see recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the wonton wrappers into about 1/4-inch wide strips. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray and arrange the wonton strips on the sheet so they’re all in an even layer. Spray again with cooking spray to coat the wonton strips and season with salt and black pepper. Bake in the preheated oven for about 3 or 4 minutes until golden, puffed up, and crispy. Be careful here! They will go from under-cooked to burnt in seconds, so keep an eye out for them after they’ve been baking for three minutes. Set aside.
Pat the chicken dry and season with a generous amount of kosher salt and black pepper. Using a barbecue or a grill pan, cook the chicken over medium heat until cooked through and no longer pink inside, about 6 to 7 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and set aside. Once cooled, slice the chicken on a bias and against the grain to make pieces of chicken about 3/4 of an inch thick.
In a large bowl, combine all of the lettuces, the chopped cooked chicken, the shelled edamame, soy nuts, wasabi peas, and toss to combine. Add the crisped wonton strips to top. Pour dressing over top, and enjoy!
Sesame Honey-Ginger Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and grated or minced
2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
There’s not really any story or moral or silly musings attached to the recipe I want to share with you today. I’m still not quite sure of whether that’s a good thing or not. Usually my attachment and preference for things (food, music, places) is always dependent on the emotional associations I have with them. But we can’t always have that luxury for everything now, can we?
So I present to you this story-less, but no less delicious, recipe. I made it last week when I was home during my school’s spring vacations after seeing it in Cook’s Illustrated’s new May issue. It really isn’t too complicated at all, requiring three basic simple steps: first, you process chicken chunks to tinier bite-sized pieces and let them sit for a bit in a cornstarch slurry of a sauce (which is supposedly to help tenderize the small chicken pieces throughout the cooking process). A note about the chicken– the recipe calls for dark meat for flavor, but I used a mix of both and think I would actually prefer all white meat next time I make it. Next, make and set aside a sauce that is added at the very end to the stir fried vegetables and chicken to flavor the whole thing. And finally! Stir fry the vegetables, then the chicken, add sauce, and scoop into pieces of butter lettuce to eat.
I had never made something like this before, so I’m aware that it’s probable that a lot of the allure of this dish came from what we’ll call the “cute factor.” I mean… it’s Asian-flavored chicken and vegetables in crispy, cute lettuce wraps. It’s fun. But I do think the wraps in themselves were delicious and a refreshing change from the usual stir-fried protein and veggies over rice package. It’s something to think about at least, if you’re wanting to change up the usual way in which you eat your food. This could also be fun for sharing at a gathering, granted that you use the smaller pieces of lettuce to give a more “small bites” impression.
(As a side note, this post feels very off to me for some reason. Do you recognize this or am I just imagining things? I can’t tell what it is. It does, I have to tell you, remind me of this really weird episode of Rachel Ray’s 30-Minute Meals I saw once. Instead of her usual, overly-peppy, talkative, “yum-o” and “delish” self, she was awkwardly quiet throughout the entirety of her thirty-minute made meal. I suppose she just had an off day, but oh believe me it was weird to watch. I just remember sitting there in almost an awe while watching her, thinking, “Well jeez, I bet she got in a fight with her boyfriend or something that day.” I am in no way trying to compare myself to Rachel Ray–please no!–but I just had to include this thought, for some bizarre and unknown reason. Anyway… to the recipe!)
Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, May 2012
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into rough 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons Chinese rice cooking wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice cooking wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more, for taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 celery ribs, diced
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thin
1/2 cup water chestnuts, diced
2 scallions, white parts minced, green parts sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 head bibb or butter lettuce (8 ounces), washed and dried, leaves separated and left whole
hoisin sauce, for serving (optional)
First, prep the chicken. Place chicken pieces on a large plate or two in a single layer. Freeze meat until firm and staring to harden around the edges, about 20 minutes or so. Meanwhile, whisk the rice wine, soy sauce, oil and cornstarch together in a medium sized bowl. Set aside. Once the chicken has been chilled, transfer about half of it into a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch sized pieces, about 7 or 8. Transfer the meat to the bowl with the rice wine-cornstarch mixture and repeat with the remaining chicken chunks. Toss the chicken to coat with the rice wine-cornstarch slurry and place in the refrigerator to chill for about 15 minutes.
To make the sauce that will be later used to coat the stir-fried chicken and vegetables, whisk all the ingredients, including the oyster sauce, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
For the stir-fry, it is important that you already have all of the vegetables already prepped and chopped and the chicken chilled. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot, or smoking. Add the chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until opaque and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Next, cook the vegetables. In the now-empty skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil until very hot and smoking. Add the chopped celery and mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms have reduced to about half their size and the celery is tender but still crisp, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the water chestnuts, minced white part of the scallions and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute. Return chicken to skillet. Whisk set aside sauce to recombine and add to the skillet, tossing the chicken and vegetables in the sauce.
Spoon chicken stir-fry into lettuce leaves and sprinkle with scallion greens. Serve with hoisin sauce if you’d like.
On Monday, Waylon took me out to the Dahlia Lounge in downtown Seattle to celebrate the fact that we’ve been dating for two years. I know that’s a little corny, but things like that make me happy and my boyfriend knows it and doesn’t mind playing along–especially when it involves dressing nicely and going out to eat. We both had never been there before but after recently finding out who Tom Douglas is, we decided to give it a try. Do I sound too flaky if I say I’m now pretty much obsessed with Tom Douglas? I’ve even signed up to volunteer at one of his Seattle food events in August. (I hope I meet him!!) But really, how could you not be crazy about him? I love “northwest” cuisine (see my previous post), and Tom Douglas is basically the man that has perfected it over the past couple decades with an emphasis on fresh, local and organic food.
Needless to say, the scallops, crab cakes, salmon that we had on Monday were divine. The creme caramel and almond and cherry tart with cicely ice cream that we shared for dessert were phenomenal as well. I honestly don’t know how he and his staff make food taste so wonderful. And the thing is, he’s not taking food and masking its flavors to create something heavy and outrageous. He just makes really, really good food by making it taste like exactly what it is–I’ve never had spring vegetables of english peas, fava beans and corn taste so pure and I’ve never had salmon that tastes so… salmon-y. I apologize for the ineloquence but I hope you know what I mean. The food at the Dahlia Lounge just goes to show the best cooking (in my opinion, at least) is that which showcases pure, natural flavors.
I’m sorry for gushing for so long about my latest food-crush, but really that’s the only excitement in my life right now. The rest of my week has been spent helping out at a day camp at a local elementary school. As I’m sure you can imagine, my work consists of basically playing with kids all day which isn’t a bad job in my opinion. However, while it’s been pretty fun and interesting it also happens to be really tiring (or at least for me). My usual enthusiasm for making a large dinner and dessert for the family has waned and all I crave is something fresh, healthy, and not too heavy. That is where this otsu recipe comes in. It’s from Heidi Swanson, who happens to have a regular otsu recipe like this in her Super Natural Cooking, as well as a Black Sesame Otsu from her Super Natural Every Day. The sesame otsu recipe I made is basically a cold soba noodle salad (noodles made of buckwheat), dressed in a ginger-lemon-soy vinaigrette and tossed with pan-glazed tempeh, toasted sesame seeds, and chopped green onions. It fit all the above-mentioned requirements of being fresh, healthy and not heavy while being insanely delicious. I would love to fit this in a regular rotation of every day dinners and I already can’t wait to try the black sesame otsu recipe from Swanson.
Posted below is the otsu recipe I used, but I did make a few alterations. Firstly, I substituted tempeh instead of the tofu because that’s what I had on hand (and I actually prefer tempeh anyway). I would note, however, that if you’re going to follow the same substitution I would add some of the dressing while pan-frying the tempeh so it can become pan-glazed and yummy. Also I didn’t add any cilantro in the end, which I think I prefer. I loved the otsu I ended up with: a slightly spicy, flavorful, refreshing soba noodle salad that fills you up perfectly and satisfies without any heaviness.
From Heidi Swanson
zest of one lemon
1 inch cube of peeled, fresh ginger; grated
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 – 3/4 cayenne (depending on the spice you want)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup unseasoned brown-rice vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
12 oz. dried soba noodles
12 oz. extra-firm nigari tofu
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small handful cilantro sprigs
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
Make the dressing by combining the zest, ginger, honey, cayenne, and salt in a food processor (or use a hand blender) and process until smooth. Add the lemon juice, rice vinegar, and shoyu, and pulse to combine. With the machine running, drizzle in the oils. (Amy’s Note: I used a simple wisk and bowl and it turned out fine.)
Cook the soba in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water just until tender (about 4 minutes), then drain and rinse under cold running water.
While the pasta is cooking, drain the tofu, pat it dry, and cut it into rectangles roughly the size of your thumb (½ inch thick and 1 inch long). Cook the tofu in a dry nonstick (or well-seasoned) skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the pieces are browned on one side. Toss gently once or twice, then continue cooking for another minute or so, until the tofu is firm, golden, and bouncy.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the soba, the ¼ cup cilantro, the green onions, cucumber, and about ⅔ cup of the dressing. Toss until well combined. Add the tofu and toss again gently. Serve on a platter, garnished with the cilantro sprigs and the toasted sesame seeds.