I wonder what I was told as a child to get me to eat salad. Because I’m almost positive it would have to have been something along the lines of “it’s lettuce covered chocolate, and those orange bits? Candied orange peel.” Cue the face plant into salad bowl.
It’s not that I hated vegetables. Quite the opposite, really. I just didn’t get why we would want to fill precious belly cargo on the stuff that, to me, was just coloring and garnish on a sandwich. And the truth is, I might have been more okay if I knew that the colorful cuts in my salad were from Red 40, Green 3, and Yellow 5. You know, the same dyes as Fruit Loops. Give me something I’m familiar with here. And for God’s sake please add some sugar. I took side salads to mean we were poor and needed to stretch a buck. The produce section must have had one hell of a BOGO sale for mom to choose that over Cheez It Party Mix.
I’m aware of the reason why no one ever asked me what I wanted on top of my salad. “….Ummm…Hmm…So many choices…Okay I got it: Two scoops of butter pecan, marshmallow, and if you have it- caramel. I’m not really one for hot fudge.” The ensuing dead air let me know that they didn’t have any caramel on hand, only that damn Hidden Valley Ranch stuff (which was more appropriately known to me as a pizza crust dipper).
And here I sit today, transformed into a veg-obsessed vixen (not a vixen, really, but I just wanted a ‘v’ word there). I can vividly remember when I began to fall in love with salad. It was actually at my heaviest weight. My college dining hall served one mean chicken caesar salad. So delicious that it made me momentarily forget the Belgian waffle iron to the right of the serving station. Emphasis on the momentarily. It was bliss. Moist chicken, cool romaine, a creamy, cheesy dressing, and those crispy garlic-parmesan croutons. I’d load up at least one big plateful. Right before I hit up the station that made pizza, egg rolls, and subsequently the soft serve machine. Balance.
This chicken salad, though different in flavor, is similar in texture and appeal. I know I’ve made it before on the blog, but it’s worth a remake. When I first made it, I wanted to replicate the Cheesecake Factory’s Chinese Chicken Salad, so I consulted Bobby Flay. He told me a thing or two about peanut-soy dressings and though I looked at him skeptically at first, I realized that no one as cute as he is would steer me in the wrong direction.
The variety in texture and the richness of the peanut butter really make this salad delightful and satisfying. Something to write home about. Assuming you still use the mail.
Red Chile Peanut Dressing (a Bobby Flay recipe)
(enough for 4 servings)
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons chipotle pepper puree
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 cup canola oil ( I reduced this amount as I didn’t think it needed that much)
Whisk together all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside to blend for about 30 minutes. (Or less, but I like to really give them a chance to marry)
I used leftover chicken from a few bone-in, skin-on breasts I had roasted earlier this week. Just chopped into large chunks.
For a wonderful balance in texture, I combined romaine lettuce, finely shredded napa cabbage, red cabbage, grated carrots, and chopped scallions. A monstrous amount because my stomach has about 4 chambers when it comes to packing in the veg.
Toss the chicken, vegetables, and dressing together in a large bowl and serve, garnished with limes.