Archive for July, 2009

Building a Better Asian Chicken Salad

July 21, 2009

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From the files comes a recipe for Asian Chicken Salad from a 2003 Gourmet.  Not quite a Chinese Chicken Salad, as much as a a slaw, it has tender Napa cabbage, shredded chicken, snow peas, cucumber, scallions and cilantro in a soy-ginger dressing.  The strong flavors of the dressing overwhelmed the more subtle ingredients, creating a blanket of monotony.  It could’ve used an Applebee’s touch – peanuts, mandarin oranges, water chestnuts, fried chow mein noodles – for more variety, but alas.

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When I put the salad ingredients away, I realized that I had, not a disappointing salad, but building blocks for future experiments.  First up were Vietnamese summer rolls, which are essentially salads in rice wrappers.  Into the roll went the cabbage flecked with scallions and cilantro, chicken, cucumber, slices of baked tofu, rice noodles and basil.  The dressing transformed into a dipping sauce with a blob of hoisin sauce and peanut butter.  Aside from the amateur wrap job, it was a worthy endeavor, better than its original incarnation.

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Since I was already consulting Into the Vietnamese Kitchen for the summer rolls, I noticed a recipe for Spicy Cabbage and Chicken Salad.  Essentially, much of what I already had  – cabbage and chicken – along with pickled onions (no thanks) and grated carrots, the salad had a more spicy, fish-y, vinegar-y dressing, to be eaten atop a rice soup.  The super pungent dressing dissipates into the creamy rice porridge, which also wilts the cabbage.  Homey and delicious, not like Applebee’s at all.


July 20, 2009

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A few years ago, a friend gave me this orange plastic bowl/strainer thing from her Brazilian vacation.  A popular item down there, it can rinse and drain in the same frisbee-like vessel.  Flat side down to swish and rinse; short side up to drain from the holes in the bottom half.  But don’t I have a colander that can do all that?  Sham-wow, slap-chop, this is so much better. It can go from sink to table, stat, without getting water all over the place.  And when I’m really lazy, I pop it, as is, into the fridge, perfect for summer fruit.  It’s the greatest thing that I never thought that I would care about, and now I love.

New Discoveries

July 6, 2009

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The 2005 Nigella Lawson recipes have taught me three things:  a) how to make the carrot ginger soup of my dreams via her beet and ginger soup recipe; b) you can’t find pomegranates in June, an unrealized attempt at her fruit salad; and c) I like brown rice in trying her brown rice and seaweed salad.  I’ve always been leery of brown rice due to years of Dojo’s and being doubled over in pain from their brown rice, but maybe I’ve been harsh to judge.  It’s Dojo’s, not brown rice.  A relief, because I really love the nuttiness of brown rice, and the squishy yet unyielding texture.  The salad itself is easy, especially when the rice is made ahead of time.  With the addition of Trader Joe’s Baked Savory Tofu, it’s the perfect healthy meal that doesn’t give me a stomach ache.


July 2, 2009


Continuing my random recipe try, I pulled out a clipping from a January 2005 New York Times by Nigella Lawson.  An ascetic trio of recipes meant to atone for holiday sins, there was a bracing beet and ginger soup, that was quick, wholesome, and low in calories.  The minimal ingredients – roasted beets, minced ginger, hot vegetable stock and lemon juice – made for a soup in which the ginger popped against the sweetness of the beets.  My father, who happened to be in town, commented on how it would be good with carrots instead.  A surprising observation from a man with the palate of a rhinoceros and who barely eats in his Geritol years.  Maybe this is the path to the carrot ginger soup of my dreams.  

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I have so often been disappointed by carrot ginger soup because of the delicate balance between the carrot and ginger.  The simplicity of four basic ingredients lets the flavors shine.   A little different from sticking all the ingredients in a pot and pureeing it, the recipe is quick to put together as long as the carrots are roasted ahead of time.

Carrot Ginger Soup

-roast 1/2 lb. carrots in 400 degree oven for 40 minutes.  This can be done ahead of time.

-mince 1/2-inch piece of ginger to get 1T, err towards more than less ginger.

-peel carrots when cool and cut into 1-inch pieces

-heat 2 cups vegetable stock

-blend carrots, ginger, hot stock and juice of 1/2 lemon


July 1, 2009


TV was my best friend growing up, if not my de facto sibling, so it’s surprising for me not to have one.  I get by with Netflix, the gym, and the generosity of my friends.  It’s plenty.  But little did I know that I was missing the SlapChop.  The Ronco device for the new millennium, the SlapChop is a mini hand chopper, a complex device for the simple task of what a knife can do.  As sold on TV by its Jersey boy spokesman, I’m all the more intrigued by his fast talk and the staccato beats of the SlapChop.  I would normally deride a gadget such as this, but there seems to be a marked improvement – it “pops open like a butterfly” to make it easy to clean.  Be still my beating heart.  The drawback is that you still have to haul out the knife and cutting board to chop everything down to fit the mouth of the chopper, essentially pre-chopping for the SlapChop.  Step aside Cuisinart, it’s time to make room between to the George Foreman Grill and the Sandwich Maker for the SlapChop.  And Graty too.