Flipping through Mindy Fox's most recent cookbook Salads: Beyond the Bowl, it's clear that Fox, who is the food editor at La Cucina Italiana magazine, is trying to stretch the definition of what a salad can be. It's also refreshing that her range of flavors goes way beyond Italian food, like in this twist on Asian sesame noodles.
Why I Picked This Recipe: I absolutely love sesame noodles, which are fast and easy to prepare and a welcome break from more familiar noodle dishes. But the idea of taking them not as the entire meal, but as the base of a salad with simply dressed shredded cabbage and poached chicken breast, sounded like an interesting and still-quick dinner idea.
What Worked: The cabbage and radish salad against the noodles turned out to be the perfect way to bring lightness and crunch to a dish that does tend to have a monotonous texture. The chicken cooking technique--it's simmered briefly then left to sit off the heat to finish cooking in the warm broth--resulted in exceptionally moist chicken.
What Didn't: It may have been my fault, but the recipe didn't call for rinsing the noodles after cooking, so I didn't. As a result, when I mixed them together with the peanut sauce, the texture ended up rather gummy. I would consider this best as a cold salad and highly suggest rinsing the noodles before tossing them with sauce.
Suggested Tweaks: Rather than salting the chicken before putting into a pot of simmering water, season the water first with salt until it's pleasantly salty. This way the chicken will be seasoned all the way through while it cooks.
Adapted from Salads: Beyond the Bowl.
- Yield:serves 4
- Active time: 25 minutes
- Total time:25 minutes
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon (or more to taste) sambal, Sriracha, or other chili sauce
- 1 large clove garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 pound Savoy cabbage, shredded
- 3/4 cup radishes, thinly sliced by hand or on a mandoline
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 2 1/2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoons juice from 2 limes
- 3/4 pound soba noodles (or substitute another Asian-style noodle)
- 3 large scallions, julienned
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to boil. Add the chicken breasts to the pot, bring to a simmer, and cook for 6 minutes. Cover, turn off the heat, and allow to slowly poach until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes more. Remove, allow to cool, and thinly slice.
In the meantime, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, chile sauce and half the sesame oil in a blender or small food processor. Blend (or process) until smooth. If needed, add up to 1/2 cup water to achieve a loose texture for coating noodles.
In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, radishes, most of the cilantro, the grapeseed oil, lime juice and the remaining sesame oil. Season to taste with salt.
Cook the noodles in abundant water until just al dente, then drain and rinse to remove excess starch. Dress with the peanut sauce and arrange in 4 shallow bowls.
Top the noodles with the cabbage salad, the remaining cilantro, the scallions, and the sliced chicken. Serve with more lime wedges if desired.