I love experimenting with salads, especially in summer when there's such a wide array of vegetables and fruit to choose from. There's so much room for culinary creativity when deciding on the vegetable and protein pairings, the toppings and the dressing. There are many types of salads, light crisp ones that serve well as a starter, heavy protein filled ones that can be the perfect entree for a lunch, some that accompany your main meal, those that serve as a palate cleanser and the cherry on top, a perfect fruit salad to serve as dessert. Are you in the mood for a basic light vinaigrette, a heavier emulsified one or a rich creamy one? Decisions! Decisions!
No matter what you decide to make, there are only a few rules to remember for a good salad. Absolutely fresh ingredients, a wisely chosen blend of flavors and colors and some time and effort put into the chopping and cutting as half the appeal of a good salad is looking at it.
I personally love all greens and can use romaine, iceberg, spinach; you name it and I can eat it, but the rest of my family is particular so I've tried to come up with recipes that will appeal to them by using alternate ingredients for the base; with cabbage and broccoli being my two favorites. The added advantage of this is that these two ingredients don't wilt or get soggy easily, so the can be prepped ahead of time and easily packed for lunch and still be very palatable.
Keeping this in mind I came up with this Thai Salad that is beautiful to look at and packs a punch as far as taste and satiety is concerned. If there's anything I love as much as or more than Pakistani food it's Thai Food. The most basic thing to keep in mind when cooking any Thai food is to insure that you have four main flavors that blend well together; Salty, Sweet, Sour and Spicy. The dressing for this salad incorporates all of these and balances the sharp taste of the cabbage, coupled with with the sweetness of the three colored bell peppers and carrots. Shredded Chicken adds a lot of lean protein and the addition of a crushed peanut and sesame seed topping give it a great crunch and add considerably to the depth of the salad.
- ½ head green cabbage
- ½ head purple cabbage
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 orange bell pepper
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 2 cups shredded chicken
- 4 green onions
- ½ cup roasted salted peanuts
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- ½ cup cilantro
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sriracha
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- ¼ cup peanut butter
- 2 limes
- 4 tbsp honey
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp lemongrass
- 1 tsp ginger
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- Chop everything very finely, you can use a food processor with a shredder attachment for the cabbage and carrots. This makes for a beautiful presentation and also allows for the dressing to really flavor everything well.
- Chop the roasted peanuts. I have a small manual nut chopper I use, but you can put them in a ziplock bag and use a rolling pin to crush them.
- Mix all the wet ingredients using a whisk or in a food processor.
- Crush the Ginger, garlic and lemongrass and add to all of these along with the pepper.
- Mix all of the vegetables, chicken and toss with the dressing. It's best to let the salad sit in the fridge for half an hour to really let the flavors fuse before eating.
- Add the cilantro and stir in just before serving to prevent it from getting soggy and discolored.
- Sprinkle the chopped peanuts, and sesame seeds and serve.
- I boiled 1 large chicken breast with 1 cup water and some salt, pepper, garlic and ginger for about 15-20 minutes and then shredded it. If you're in a hurry you can get a rotisserie chicken and take the skin off and shred.
- The sesame oil gives the dressing a nutty taste and an authentic Thai flavor. Remember when using this oil that a little goes a long way, so use it cautiously.
- Creamy peanut butter definitely tastes great and creates a rich dressing. However if you are watching calories and want to avoid all the fat you can mix ½ Cup PB2 Powder and ⅓ Cup Water, that's my personal way of eating this salad unless I'm making it for company.
- Lemongrass is very tough and fibrous. I usually remove the outer skin by making a long slit with my knife and peeling it off. I then use the softer inside after grinding it very well in my food processor.