May 29, 2012

Salad Days

Dear reader, it's been a while, I know.  

You see there were big projects due (business proposals for school! student elections to run in! peer educator positions to apply for!), and then finals to take and the semester to finish promptly followed by a few days where I just sat my butt down on the couch and watched TV for hours.  I really needed to relax and recharge.  Then it was family time with my brother and sister road tripping up here from San Diego and playing tourist with me for a week in the city. In the meantime I also sent out some resumes, applied to a few jobs, interviewed for one job and TOTALLY NAILED IT.  Yup, this girl now has a job.  A job at a pretty fantastic restaurant in the neighborhood (hello, walking to work) that I'm really stoked on.

May was busy, busy indeed.

And I don't imagine this summer is going to be lazy, either.  Luckily, summertime is salad time and salads like this one will probably make frequent appearances in our fridge.  It's great because all the elements can be assembled ahead of time and then just tossed into a bowl when hunger strikes.  I'll be working 3 nights a week and D will most likely be putting in long hours at the lab, so dinners with a minimal fuss-factor are ideal.

My mom's been making a version of sesame peanut noodles from Martha Stewart for years now - which I love - but the added cabbage slaw and poached chicken in this version make it feel more like a meal.  I love the crunch from the lime-y cabbage and radish slaw (no really, go wild with the lime juice) against the creamy noodles and the super succulent poached chicken helps stretch the dish a bit further.  It packs well for lunches, can feed several people if you're bringing it to a potluck and makes a great make ahead meal to be kept in the fridge for a few days.  Topped with squeeze of extra lime and Sriracha, I'd say you've got a winner on your hands.

Peanut Noodle Salad with Chicken and Cabbage Slaw
Adapted from Serious Eats

I tinkered with this one to really maximize some flavors and tailor the serving sizes a bit.  I used whole wheat spaghetti simply because I didn't feel like making a special trip for soba noodles, but by all means, if you've got, use it.  I also added some aromatics to the poaching liquid for the chicken to infuse a bit of flavor there.  Otherwise, get that cabbage slaw dressed with plenty of lime and salt and pepper and you'll be on your way to greatness.  If you're vegetarian, or vegan or just feel like going meatless, I think this dish would still be wonderful without the chicken.

4 servings

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 large cloves garlic, divided
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, divided in 2
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon (or more to taste) Sriracha
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 pound Savoy cabbage, shredded
3/4 cup radishes, thinly sliced
3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti (or soba noodles)
3 large scallions, julienned

Thinly slice a 1-inch segment of the ginger and 1 large clove of garlic into a saucepan of well salted water.  Bring 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 chicken, allow to cool, and thinly slice or shred into pieces.

In the meantime, grate the remaining ginger piece and clove of garlic over a microplane.  Combine with the peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chile sauce and half the sesame oil in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add a 1/4 cup water to achieve a looser texture for coating noodles.  If more is needed add 1 tablespoon at a time.  The final sauce should coat the back of a spoon, but not be thick and sticky.

In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, radishes, most of the cilantro, the olive oil, lime juice and the remaining sesame oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook the noodles in abundant water until just al dente, then drain and rinse to remove excess starch. Dress with the peanut sauce.  Top the noodles with the cabbage salad, the remaining cilantro, the scallions, and the sliced chicken. Serve with more lime wedges if desired.

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