Friday, July 1, 2011

Vietnamese Cabbage and Chicken Salad

I am discovering my cooking is evolving and changing. That's pretty much a constant with me--my cooking changes, I frequently try new recipes and discard ones I liked really well. Last summer it was all about Greek and Mediterranean food. While those are still regulars on our menu, I am finding a new theme for this incredibly hot summer (are we at 20 days over 100 degrees yet without even hitting July? Probably. I keep thinking there is no way this heat can last all summer, but it seems to be attempting to do that). Quick, easy, and minimal cooking.

We spend many an afternoon at the pool (it's within walking/biking distance of our house), which leaves me not a lot of time to make supper. Years and years ago, back before I even considered cabbage to be an ingredient I'd eat, I made a cabbage/chicken salad that I just barely found palatable. Things have changed, I like cabbage as long as it's not too cabbage-y, and Curtis and I thought this was a great hot summer afternoon meal. The kids didn't think so, as much, but I didn't expect them too, so I planned for a little more to the meal than just that.

This recipe is a great summer meal to use up some of the cabbage that just lingers on, long past the memory of the cold weather when it was planted and grown. I'd make it again, next June, when I have cabbage, it's hot, and I'd rather be swimming than cooking.

Vietnamese Cabbage and Chicken Salad
adapted from Food and Wine

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 t salt
2 T sesame oil
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger
2 1/2 lbs cabbage, shredded
2 T cider vinegar
2 T Asian fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam)
1 1/2 T lime juice
3 medium carrots, grated
3 radishes, grated
2 c mint, basil, or cilantro (or a combination), coarsely chopped
1 tart apple (like Granny Smith), cored and grated

Rub the chicken breasts with 1 t salt and 1 T sesame oil. Put ginger in a medium pot. Add 2 c of water and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and cover the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the chicken continue to cook for 5 minutes. If the chicken is not done, turn the heat back on and simmer for a few more minutes. Remove the chicken from the saucepan and let cool. Pull into shreds when the chicken is cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, combine the cabbage with vinegar, fish sauce, lime juice and 2 t salt in large serving bowl (glass or stainless steel). Let stand for 10 minutes. Add the carrots, radishes, 1 1/2 c of the herbs, and the apples to the cabbage mixture. Stir in remaining 1 T sesame oil. Gently toss in the chicken and garnish with remaining 1/2 c herbs.

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