Friday, July 20, 2012

For when it's just too hot to cook

Dear Joey,

It's summer, so don't be surprised if I answer your daily question of "What are we doing for dinner?' with Asian Chicken Salad. You know the one: it's the salad that I make more times a year than probably any other salad, the one that my friends ask me (beg me?) to make when it's too hot outside to think about cooking, the one that makes me happy just thinking about it.

The original recipe came from my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Terry, who made the salad with cabbage and peanuts and the dressing with oil. Sometimes we make it this way, but most often (and especially when I make it for friends), it's the version using romaine and almonds that shows up.

There's a reason I make this so much? Well, I guess you could blame my mother (at least I come by it honestly). It was her go-to dish for church potlucks, the easy answer to the "What's for dinner?" question on hot summer nights, and one of the few salads that all three of us kids would voluntarily eat and enjoy. It just wouldn't be summer without having it at least a dozen times, if not more, which is probably why I make it almost that often.

Good thing you like it, huh?

Love, Scratch

Chinese Chicken Salad, Two ways

This salad is cool and crisp, light but satisfying, and easy. It's also very versatile. Make it with romaine and almonds or with cabbage and peanuts (or try whatever combination of those things that sounds good to you). You could really prep the ingredients any way you like and toss them together in any proportion you like, but here's how I do it. Whatever you do, you won't be disappointed. It's all around the perfect summertime meal. But I make it all year long because it's just that good.
Made with Lettuce:
2 Hearts of Romaine, sliced into ribbons
1/2 English cucumber, sliced into half moons
2 carrots, sliced
3 green onions, sliced
2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced
toasted almonds
crunchy chowmein noodles

Made with Cabbage:
1 medium head of cabbage, chopped
3 green onions, sliced
2 grilled chicken breasts, chopped
crunchy chowmein noodles

Here's where the salads are the same...

Dressing Ingredients:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup plain vinegar
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce 
1 1/2 T sesame oil
1/4 c sugar, plus more if you like a sweeter dressing

Toss everything except crunchy noodles into a big bowl and coat evenly. The more dressing, the better. I find that it tastes better if you let it sit for about 15 minutes before serving. Add the crunchy noodles and enjoy.



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