Chicken & Cabbage Salad

_MG_5439This time of year, I remember why I love New York. All of the streets are lit up, there's a crispness in the air that isn't bitter cold yet, and you can't help but smile at all of the holiday decorations and Christmas trees. But with December comes a rush of holiday parties and with them an abundance of sweets, drinks and delicious little cheesy cocktail appetizers (you know what I mean). Some nights, you might just want a salad. Personally, I need salads with a lot of crunch, and some interesting elements besides just lettuce (and I can't always justify adding cheese and bacon). This salad has quickly become one of my favorite weeknight meals -- quick, inexpensive and delicious. _MG_5446

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Chicken & Cabbage Salad (adapted from Bon Appétit, serves 4)

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1/3 cup vegetable oil or olive oil 1/8 cup fresh lime juice
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice 2 tablespoons soy sauce 2 teaspoons  brown sugar 1 teaspoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam) 1 teaspoon grated peeled ginger Kosher salt
1/2 small head of cabbage, thinly sliced (about 5 cups) 2 medium carrots, peeled, shredded 6 scallions, whites and pale greens only, thinly sliced 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken or 3 chicken breasts, roasted and shredded 1 cup baby spinach, thinly sliced 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro 1/4 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts
1 avocado, thinly sliced

Whisk chile, oil, lime and lemon juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, fish sauce, and ginger in a large bowl; season with salt. Add cabbage, carrots, scallions, chicken, spinach, and cilantro; toss to coat. Top with peanuts and avocado slices.

Rice Noodle Salad with Fried Tofu

_MG_4988I have made a version of this salad pretty much once a week since the beginning of the summer, but neglected to post it until now because it usually disappears too quickly. It's the perfect summer dish, to me -- light, full of texture, and minimal cooking time. It also uses my favorite ingredients of the summer -- namely, lime juice, fish sauce and a little hot pepper. I was always wary of fish sauce until a couple of years ago, afraid of the pungent smell and implications behind the name. But luckily, I got over that and now I use it in dressings, marinades and sauces all the time -- it adds the perfect salty, unctuous flavor to almost anything. The original recipe uses panko-coated pan-fried shrimp instead of tofu, which is also delicious. _MG_4985

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Rice Noodle Salad with Fried Tofu (adapted from Food & Wine, serves 4)

Vegetable Summer Rolls

Though I love ordering them at restaurants, for years I have been too intimidated by summer rolls to try to make them myself. The whole wrapping/dipping sauce thing had me convinced that they were much too complicated. However, the other day at the grocery store I spotted some rice paper wrappers while buying fish sauce (a new staple in my apartment) and decided to give it a try. Though the first one I made was a little wonky, to my surprise I quickly got the hang of it and they weren't too hard to master. A perfect appetizer before Pad Thai, or you could do what A. and I did and just have them for dinner. Vegetable Spring Rolls (adapted from Food & Wine and Tyler's Ultimate)

For chile dipping sauce:

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 small red chile, thinly sliced

For peanut dipping sauce:

3 garlic cloves, minced

1-inch piece ginger, minced

3 scallions, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter

6 tablespoons water

 

3 oz vermicelli

12 rice paper wrappers

3 large carrots, cut into matchstick-size pieces

1 cucumber, cut into matchstick-size pieces

1 avocado, thinly sliced

4 oz tofu, cut into thin slices

Small handful basil, julienned

Whisk all ingredients for chile dipping sauce together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sauté garlic, scallions, ginger, and red pepper flakes until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Whisk in vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, peanut butter, and water until peanut butter melts. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

Place vermicelli noodles in a medium bowl. Pour boiling water over, and let soak until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.

Working in batches of two, soak rice paper wrappers in a shallow bowl of water for 5 seconds. Let soften for 30 seconds, then place a little bit each of rice noodles, carrots, cucumber, tofu, basil and 1 slice avocado on top. Fold up sides of wrapper and roll until sides close (it's kind of like making a burrito). Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately with dipping sauces.