Archive for the ‘Salads’ category

Vietnamese noodle salad with shrimp and chicken

September 17, 2021

This recipe uses bean threads, an unusual kind of noodle that are made from mung bean flour. They are gluten free, which will please some people, and don’t need cooking, requiring only soaking in hot water to soften them. The are available in any Asian market and some well-stocked supermarkets; they typically come in small (~2 oz) packages with 6-8 packages bundled in a mesh bag. They are sometimes labeled as vermicelli. This salad is really tasty and makes a cool, refreshing meal in hot weather. Serves 4, can be doubled.

Star anise is an important component of this dish, adding a subtle licorice/fennel flavor. It too can be found at Asian markets. It’s cheap and it keeps forever in the pantry. I suppose you could try subbing fennel seeds but I have not tried it.

  • 2 large or 3 small chicken thighs (about 12 oz)
  • 1/2 lb shell-on medium shrimp
  • 2″ piece of fresh ginger cut into 1/4 inch coins (no need to peel)
  • 6 star anise
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c fresh lime juice
  • 2 TB fish sauce
  • 2 scallions, whites and most of the greens, sliced thinly
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 TB sugar
  • 4 packages bean threads
  • 1 English (Kirby) cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded if desired, and sliced into thin half-circles
  • 1/3 c each fresh mint, cilantro, and Thai basil, chopped (use regular basil if necessary)
  • To taste, fresh hot red peppers such as Thai peppers, seeded and sliced thinly (1-3 peppers, or omit)

Bring 6 c water, the ginger and anise, and 1 TB salt to a simmer. Add the chicken and simmer for about 20 min. Turn off heat and let sit for 15 min. Remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool.

Return the liquid to a simmer and add the shrimp. Simmer for a couple of moments, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes or so. Remove the shrimp and set aside to cool.

Cut or shred the chicken into small pieces, discarding any skin/bones. Peel the shrimp and cut crossways into 2-3 pieces each.

Strain the cooking liquid, discarding solids, and return to pot. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and stir in bean threads. Check for texture after 5 minutes and let sit longer if needed. Drain and rinse under cold water. Cut thru the noodles a few times with shears to get more manageable lengths. The broth can be discarded or saved for another use.

Put the lime juice, oil, fish sauce, sugar, carrot, scallions, and a few grindings of pepper in a large bowl and whisk to dissolve the sugar. Add the noodles and toss well. Add the chicken, shrimp, cucumber, herbs, and peppers and toss again. Chill and toss again before serving.

Spicy coleslaw

July 1, 2020

Quick and easy, goes well with Mexican and similar food. Tastes best if allowed to sit for an hour or two before serving.

½ head fresh cabbage thinly shredded (about 4 c)
2-4 canned pickled jalapeño peppers depending on spice level desired
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1-2 TB juice from the pickled peppers

Toss the cabbage with the S&P. Stem and seed the peppers and chop coarsely. Add to the cabbage along with the pepper juice and toss to combine.

Farro salad

April 12, 2019

Farro is marketed as an ancient type of wheat—supposedly, it is the same as wheat was before humans started domesticating and hybridizing it. Be that as it may, it’s a tasty and useful grain. This is one of my favorite ways to use it. I prefer the variety called einkorn with its smaller grains, but you can use any farro.


1 c farro
½ c sliced radishes
½ c halved cherry tomatoes
½ c cucumber halved lengthwise and then sliced
1 c arugula or other salad green in small (1-2″) pieces
3 TB (about) olive oil
1 TB (about) balsamic vinegar
S & P to taste

Note: If you are making the salad ahead of time, hold the arugula and add just before serving.

Rinse and drain farro. Add to 3 c boiling salted water and simmer for about 30 min, until done to your liking (it should be a bit chewy, I think). Drain, rinse to cool, drain again, and toss with remaining ingredients. Tastes better if allowed to sit for a while before serving.


Curtido (Salvadorean “cole slaw”)

June 4, 2015

This refreshing salad is the traditional accompaniment to pupusas (stuffed masa patties) and is also great with lots of other things, grilled/smoked meats in particular (think BBQ pork, grilled chicken, burgers, and the like). It is different from most American coleslaw in that it has no sweetness, but it has an additional level of flavor complexity due to the maturing period. It’s easy to throw together and, once ready, keeps a long time in the fridge.


As with all cabbage salads, the quality of the cabbage makes a big difference. The fresher, the better. I like to use a mix of red and green cabbage, it is very pretty, but you can use all one or the other if needed.

1 lb red and/or green cabbage
1 small onion (tennis-ball size, more or less)
1 large carrot
1 or 2 sliced jalapeño peppers (optional, if you like some zing)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 c water
1/4 c white vinegar
2 TB plus 1 tsp kosher salt

Cut the cabbage into thin shreds. Peel the onion and cut into same-size shreds. Ditto for the carrot. Combine in a bowl with the oregano, cumin, pepper, and salt. Mix well (hands are great for this!). Let sit for 2-3 hours so the vegetables will wilt a bit. Stuff into jars.

Mix the water and vinegar. Pour over the cabbage mixture and use a chopstick to make sure there are no air pockets..

Transfer the cabbage and brine to two 1 quart jars. Press the cabbage down with a wooden spoon. If the cabbage is not completely covered by the brine, dissolve 1 generous TB of kosher salt in 1-1/2 c water and use this brine to top up the jars. Cover loosely and let sit at room temperature for about 4 days. After 3 days, taste the curtido to see if it is to your liking. The maturing time is really subjective–but it’s almost impossible to go wrong! When to your liking, transfer the jars to the fridge where it will keep for many weeks.

Steak salad with walnut vinaigrette

June 11, 2014

This is a lovely summer dish that fits in well with a goal of eating more vegetables and less meat. Serves 4.

The vinaigrette:

1/2 c shelled walnuts
1 peeled clove garlic put thru a press
3 TB red wine or sherry vinegar
3/4 c extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Toast the walnuts by shaking over medium heat in a small, dry skillet until fragrant. Remove to a cutting board and chop finely – pieces the size of raw rice grains, more or less. Put in a small jar with the remaining ingredients and shake well.

The steak:

Ribeye or NY strip steak about an inch thick or a little thicker. You want 3-4 oz of meat per person, which means either one large steak or two smaller ones. Rub with black pepper, pat dry, and let come to room temperature. Grill over very hot coals until medium rare. Remove to cutting board and set aside. You will be serving it at room temperature.

The salad:

2-3 medium boiling potatoes
1 head romaine lettuce, washed and dried
1 small or 1/2 large fennel bulb
1/4 of a large sweet or red onion
About 20 cherry or grape tomatoes

Peel the potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces, and simmer until tender. Drain and while still warm toss with 1/4 c of the vinaigrette. Set aside to cool.

Shred the lettuce. Cut the fennel into fine julienne and the onion into thin slices. Halve the tomatoes. Toss these 4 ingredients in a large bowl with vinaigrette to taste (you probably will not use all the dressing).


You can do this on a single large serving platter or individual plates. Mound the salad and top with the potatoes. Cut the steak into 1/4 inch thick strips and arrange on top. Pass additional dressing for people to add if desired.

Vietnamese-themed rice noodle and chicken salad

May 22, 2013

This is a lovely cold salad, perfect for dinner on a hot summer day. Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe.

2 chicken breasts with skin and bones (technically half breasts, but you know what I mean)
8 oz thin rice noodles (see note)
1 jalapeno chili, red or green
2 large shallots
2 cloves garlic
1/3c fresh lime juice
1/3c Vietnamese fish sauce
2 TB brown sugar
5 baby white turnips (golf ball size or smaller)
5 red radishes
2c basil, Thai basil preferred but “Italian” basil works well also

Note: The rice noodles can be vermicelli or “rice stick” as long as they are thin, no thicker than thin spaghetti.


Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper and either bake at 400 degrees or grill until done. Do not overcook or it will be dry. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat and discard the skin and bones (or save for stock). Set aside, can be done the day ahead.

Peel the shallots and cut into thin rings; separate into individual rings and saute in a bit of oil until browned and crisp. Drain on a paper towel and reserve.

Cover the rice noodles with boiling water and soak for 10-20 minutes. You want them soft but not mushy, and the time will depend on the specific noodles you are using. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

Remove the stem from the jalapeno and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and pith for a milder salad, leave them in if you like a bit of heat. Cut into thin half-rounds.

Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar, stir to dissolve (warm a tiny bit in the microwave if needed, should not ever get hot). Add the sliced peppers, the garlic (put thru a press), and set aside. This is the dressing.

Wash, then trim the stems and roots from the radishes and turnips (but do not peel). Cut into very thin slices. Set aside.

Coarsely chop the basil leaves, discarding the stems.


Set aside the fried shallots and half of the basil. Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Can be done a few hours ahead. If refrigerated, take out a while before serving to get the chill off.


Top with the shallots and remaining basil.

Pasta, bean, and sausage salad

July 26, 2012

This hearty, main dish salad can be prepared ahead of time, and in fact tastes better if it sits a bit before serving.

3 links of Italian sausage
1/2 lb of short pasta such as fusilli or penne
1 – 15oz can of kidney beans
1/2 c diced sweet onion
1/2 c each fresh parsley and basil (be sure to use the flat leaf Italian parsley)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
White wine or sherry vinegar (don’t use balsamic, it’s too sweet)
tomato slices

Cut the sausage into thin rounds and saute until cooked thru and starting to brown. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to cool and drain off excess fat.

Cook the pasta per directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Set aside.

Drain and rinse the beans.

Combine thebeans, pasta, and sausage with the onion, the herbs (coarsely chopped), salt and pepper to taste, about 1/3 c oil and 2-3 TB vinegar. Toss well and taste, correct seasoning and vinegar if needed. Arrange nicely in a bowl with the tomato slices on top. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Remove from fridge about 30 min before serving – it tastes better if not too cold.

Peter’s egg salad

December 20, 2011

Most egg salad is either insipid, consisting of little more than eggs and mayo (or worse, Miracle Whip), or it’s way too involved and complex. THis one, I think, strikes the right balance.

4 hard cooked eggs (see below)
1/3 c chopped celery
2 TB finely chopped scallions (white part)
1/3c Hellman’s mayo
1 TB capers, drained
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and black pepper to taste

Chop the eggs, or put them thru an egg slicer twice, turning 1/4 turn between cuts. Mix well with all other ingredients and let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors blend.

In my experience, the best way to hard-cook eggs without getting the dreaded green ring – harmless but unsightly – is to put the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water at least 1 inch above the eggs. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat, and cover. Let sit 20 minutes and you’re done. Cool immediately under running water.

Cole slaw dressing with caraway

July 16, 2011

One of my favorites. Not exactly low-calorie but it is low-carb.

3/4 c Hellman’s mayo
1/4 c sour cream (yes, the real stuff)
1 TB rice wine vinegar
Generous grinding black pepper
1/2 TB caraway seeds

Mix all ingredients and mix with your finely shredded cabbage. Let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.

You’ll note there’s no salt in this recipe. This is because it is preferred to shred the cabbage ahead of time and toss with some salt (say about 1 tsp per quart) and let sit in a collander for an hour or so before dressing. You may or may not get any actual liquid draining from the cabbage, but I find this results in a better texture.

Zucchini-rice salad

May 1, 2011

An unusual and refreshing salad, great with grilled meats.

2-3 medium zucchini (1 or 1-1/2 inch diameter, 6-8 inches long).
1 c basmati or other long grain rice
1/2 of a large onion
2-3 TB lemon juice or rice vinegar
1/4 c vegetable oil
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 c minced parsley

You want young, fresh, tender zucchini for this. Trim the ends, cut in half lengthwise, and slice thinly into 1/8″ slices. Put in a large bowl. Slice the onion into thin 1/4 rounds. If it’s a harsh onion, soak in warm water for 10-15 min and drain. Add to bowl. Make a dressing using the lemon juice or vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring 2 qts of salted water to a boil and add the rice. simmer for 8-10 min or until the rice is done—don’t overcook. Drain the rice in a strainer and rinse with cold water. Set aside to drain. When the rice is drained, add to the bowl along with the dressing and parsley. Toss well and refrigerate for 1-4 hours before serving.

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