Winter or summer, some weeknights call for a light meal. Salads are my go to. Read on for one such salad, a noodle salad with chicken tenders, that I had made just as winter was descending some years ago.
The silence on this space has been very long and eerie. Sorry about that folks. But I am back and hopefully this recipe will give you some ideas about how to make salad interesting. The long spell of winter has been cast and this calls for bowl after bowl of steaming soup. But then how many nights can you spend having soup? I love mixing up our dinner routine of soup with a variety of salads. One that I have come to love is an asian inspired noodle salad that I have adapted from a recipe by Rachael Ray. Her recipe is simple too but the rule of thumb for me is always follow the flavours you enjoy. In my case that means piling on the ginger and garlic and herbs.
What is more winter appropriate than ginger?! My day starts with ginger tea and it cannot come to a better end than with a ginger and soy flavoured dinner.
Here’s my take on Rachel Ray’s Sesame Soba Noodles:
Time: 30-40 minutes. Prep: 20 minutes, cooking: 15 minutes.
For the salad,
- Whole wheat linguine, half a pack,
- 6-8 cups water for cooking pasta,
- 2 cups spinach, washed and chopped,
- 1 cup cabbage, thinly sliced,
- 1/2 cup red cabbage, sliced (optional),
- 2 carrots, coarsely grated,
- 1/2 cup edamame, shelled/ green peas,
- 1/2 cup french beans, steamed and chopped (optional),
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (optional).
- 1/4 cup soy sauce,
- 2 tbsp honey/ agave,
- 2 tbsp sherry/apple cider vinegar or balsamic if you do not like it too sweet,
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds,
- 1/4 cup toasted peanuts,
- 2-3 garlic cloves, grated,
- 1 tbsp ginger, grated (1 inch by 1 inch piece),
- 5-10 twigs of coriander (cilantro) roughly chopped,
- 10-15 mint leaves, chopped,
- Salt and pepper to taste,
- Red chilli flakes to taste.
Get all the vegetables out and wash them well. For leaves that means giving them at least three water baths even if they are the ready to eat kind. Next, get started on the chopping and grating.
Make the dressing first
Start with preparing the salad dressing. The longer you let garlic and ginger steep in the soy and agave mix, more even the flavour profile. So, mix together all the ingredient for the dressing and let them sit in the bowl where you will finally assemble the salad. I just use my mixing bowls to make and serve salads. That done, toast the sesame seeds and add to the dressing. You can toast them in an OTG, on a hot griddle on your stove, or under the broiler for just a minute or so. Same for the peanuts. While this salad isn’t strictly Chinese or Korean or Malaysian, why not add what you love? I love peanuts and they go well in this dressing. But add them as a garnish.
Chop and keep the vegetables ready
Finally, get down to chopping the salad vegetables. Mix in with the dressing only a few minutes before serving.
Boil the pasta!
Next, put a pot of water to boil for the pasta. (You can watch over the pasta while cooking chicken.) Water should be enough to cover the pasta, i.e. at least 3 inches above the pasta. Once the water is boiling, add in the linguine. Cook covered until it comes back to a boil. Then let it cook uncovered on medium heat for an additional 5 minutes. Check to see the consistency of the spaghetti. I like it al dente. Drain, run cold water through the pasta and keep aside for final assembly.
Cooking Chicken Tenders
As an accompaniment and to add more protein I cook chicken breast tenders with peppers. I keep the flavour for chicken very basic so that it doesn’t draw away from the pungent sweetness of the soy based salad dressing. Here’s what you’ll need for chicken;
- 1 pound pack of chicken tenders (5-6 pieces),
- 1 green pepper, sliced,
- 1/2 to 1 red onion, thickly sliced (depends on the size of the onion!),
- 1 tbsp olive oil,
- Salt, pepper and chilli flakes to taste.
Clean the chicken tenders, give them a quick wash in cold, running water and damp dry with a paper towel. If you cannot find thinly sliced chicken tenders, just get skinless, boneless chicken breast and slice them. For a dinner for two one chicken breast is plenty.
Next, slice the onion and pepper. Heat oil in a skillet. Add onions to it, saute until opaque. Add salt, pepper and chilli flakes. I used flakes since a little goes a long way and they add a visual element. But you can also use a pinch of red chilli powder. After onions add the chicken pieces. Cook on each side for 4-5 minutes. Check the center to see if they’ve cooked through – the center should no longer be pink. Tenders cook fast!
Finally, throw in the pepper slices. I like to keep them crunchy but if you like them soft, cook covered on low for another 5 minutes. And dinner is served!
Assemble that noodle salad!
For the final assembly, toss pasta and salad vegetables with the dressing. Serve with chicken and garnish with roastded peanuts.