Rainbow vegetarian salad topped with a spicy tahini dressing

rainbowsalad

Serves 4 

Sichuanese chefs make a popular spicy sesame dressing for noodles and salads. Traditionally, the sauce is made with toasted sesame paste sold in Asian markets. For convenience sake, I’ve developed a recipe where I substitute tahini paste or peanut butter, which is much more readily available, but no less delicious. Serve at room temperature or prepare in advance, refrigerate, and serve slightly chilled.

 

TAHINI DRESSING:

1 4-inch piece fresh ginger

7 cloves garlic

1 cup sesame tahini paste, mixed thoroughly to combine the paste with the liquid

1/ 4 cup soy sauce

1 /4 cup toasted or dark Asian sesame oil

1/ 4 cup sugar, or to taste

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 1 /2   tablespoons unseasoned Asian rice vinegar

3 /4 teaspoon hot chile paste or crushed red pepper

10 tablespoons water

 

 

In a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade, chop the ginger, garlic, pulsing until chopped finely. Add the tahini paste, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, rice vinegar, chili paste or hot pepper and blend until smooth. Pour the water down the feed tube while the machine is running. Taste for seasoning, adding more sugar if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl

RAINBOW SALAD:

1 14-ounce squares extra-firm tofu, sliced through the thickness in half

1 1 /2 tablespoons soy sauce

3/4  pound snap or snow peas, ends snapped and veiny strings removed

8 ounces whole wheat linguine

1 teaspoon toasted Asian sesame oil

4 carrots, grated or 2 cups shredded  

3 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into thin slices

1 1/ 2 tablespoons olive oil

 

1 tablespoon olive oil

 

1. Wrap the tofu sections in 1 layer of paper towels and place in a pie plate or any large flat pan. Place a flat cookie sheet on top and a heavy pan on top as a weight. Let sit 20 minutes to press out the excess water, discarding the paper towels and drying the tofu. Rub the surface with the soy sauce.

2. In a large soup pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil, add the snap or snow peas and blanch for 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out and refresh in a colander under cold, running water and drain. Bring the water back to a boil and add the noodles. Cook for about 11 minutes over medium heat, or until al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold, running water. Drain thoroughly and toss with the sesame oil. Transfer to a large round serving bowl and arrange evenly with a slight indentation in the middle. Set four to five red pepper slices aside for the garnish.

3. In a large, non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the drained tofu and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 12 minutes, turning once. Drain on paper towels and cut into 1/ 4-inch thick slices.

5. Arrange the blanched snap peas, shredded carrots and red pepper slices in separate concentric circles over the noodles, leaving a well in the center and arrange the fried tofu slices there. Sprinkle the top with the reserved red pepper slices and serve with the spicy tahini sauce.

Summer’s Bounty

rainbowsalad

It’s once again that time of year when planning dinner or any meal is a pleasure as local farmer’s markets shelves are heaped with freshly-picked fruits and vegetables. I await this time with anticipation since I like to keep things simple and it’s the easiest time to do that- especially if your diet is leaning towards an emphasis on vegetables, which more and more people are doing these days.

We started learning about the different vitamins in fruits and vegetables many years ago, but in the early eighties researchers started positively identifying other health-giving properties such as phytonutrients and their link towards helping to maintain good health and prevent disease. For my cookbook, Spices of Life, I interviewed Dr. David Heber, who was then on the cutting edge of this research. Dr. Heber was one of the first nutritionists who focused on “eating the rainbow” an eating plan which incorporates the seven different color groups of fruits and vegetables that can protect our genes, vision, and heart, reduce inflammation in the body, and help prevent common forms of cancer.

Heber contended that the majority of the most common diseases are caused by the imbalance between our modern diet and our genes. By eating a variety of the specified fruits and vegetables, we can strengthen our immune systems, reduce the risk of common disease, increase our longevity, and lose weight. At the same time other researchers were also confirming this link and these days, most doctors and nutritionists agree.

http://www.ninasimonds.com/2014/07/21/rainbow-vegetarian-salad-topped-with-a-spicy-tahini-dressing/

Listed below is a simple chart that gives a detailed breakdown of each color group associated with the varieties of fruits and vegetables with their specific health- giving benefits. If you’d like to learn more about this fascinating topic as well as many different ways to select and prepare these foods so that you can maximize your intake of these health-giving phytonutrients, a must-read is Jo Robinson’s Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health and you can visit her website wwweatwild.com.

RainbowChart

 

SUMMER IS THE TIME TO PREPARE MEAL-IN-ONE SALADS WITH FRESH, SEASONAL VEGETABLES IN RAINBOW COLORS

IMG_3844 (1024x849)

Summer is a high energy/ yang period when the fire element dominates (You can really feel it these days with the hot and humid weather, plus global warming). Some Chinese doctors recommend cutting back on coffee, red meats, and other heavy foods which tend to have a heating effect on the body and create sluggishness. That is why we crave seafood (especially from cold waters), salads with lots of raw vegetables, soy products and other cooling foods which tend to remove heat from the body.

Since all types of local seasonal vegetables are at their peak in the farmer’s markets and in stores, emphasize them in your cooking and prepare dishes with brightly colored summer fruits and vegetables, enjoying and creating a “rainbow on the plate” effect. Season the dishes with pungent seasonings like garlic, ginger, hot chillis, and lemongrass- even curry. And summer is no better time than preparing one of the many meal-in-one layered Asian salads.

Asian salads or cold platters can be deliciously unpredictable, but they often follow a pattern: Cold rice vermicelli, flour and egg pasta, soba or cellophane noodles serve as the textural base or staple. Vegetables such as carrots, bean sprouts, celery, and various lettuces, cabbages, and cucumbers or any seasonal vegetable are typically used with the occasional addition of tropical fruits. Each ingredient lends its unique flavor and texture. Meats, such as chicken, pork, beef, or seafood (shrimp, scallops, even lobster) and garnishes include tofu, chopped herbs and nuts. Asian rice vinegar (I prefer the unseasoned Japanese Marukan brand, which is sold in mainstream supermarkets), with fresh lime or lemon juice are key elements of the dressing with toasted sesame oil, a little sugar, and soy or fish sauce rounding out the taste. A host of pungent seasonings like garlic, ginger, scallions, chili peppers, cilantro, basil and mint add vibrancy and freshness. Once combined, these ingredients not only add flavor, but pull the different components together as a whole.

One of my favorite meal-in-one salads that is perfect for this time of year is my “Easy Basil Chicken Summer Salad with Soba” (See the recipe below)

 

EASY BASIL CHICKEN SALAD WITH SOBA NOODLES  6  servings

3/4 pound snow or snap peas, ends snapped and veiny strings removed
12 ounces soba noodles

Spicy Pesto
6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
4 scallions, white parts only, cut into 1-inch pieces (reserve the greens for the garnish)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 pound cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin julienne strips
Reserved scallion greens, cut into 1/4-inch sections

Dressing (combine in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves)
1/2 cup light soy sauce, or to taste
6 tablespoons Japanese clear rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin, or rice wine or sake mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the snow peas and cook for 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon and drain in a strainer or colander under cold running water. Bring the water to a boil again and add the soba noodles. Once the water boils again, cook for 3 1/2 minutes, or until al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse the noodles under warm running water. Drain again.

2. To make the Spicy Pesto: Drop the garlic, scallion whites, and red pepper flakes down the feed tube of a food processor while the motor is running and chop finely. Open up the bowl and add the basil leaves. Pulse, turning the machine on and off, then slowly pour the sesame and olive oil down the feed tube and chop the mixture to a fine paste. Add the lemon juice and soy sauce and continue blending until the mixture is a fairly smooth paste.

3. In a large mixing bowl, toss the cooked soba noodles with the pesto mixture. Arrange in a large shallow bowl or platter. Sprinkle the snap peas evenly over the noodles, followed by the julienne chicken, and finishing with the scallion greens. Serve the Dressing on the side in a sauce bowl, or drizzle on top of the salad. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Variation
Substitute cooked shrimp, pork, or flavored tofu for the chicken. You can also replace the snow or snap peas with 2 1/2 cups shredded carrots, bean sprouts, or other sliced vegetables.

EASY BASIL CHICKEN SALAD WITH SOBA NOODLES

BasilSoba

EASY BASIL CHICKEN SALAD WITH SOBA NOODLES  6  servings

3/4 pound snow or snap peas, ends snapped and veiny strings removed
12 ounces soba noodles

Spicy Pesto
6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
4 scallions, white parts only, cut into 1-inch pieces (reserve the greens for the garnish)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 pound cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin julienne strips
Reserved scallion greens, cut into 1/4-inch sections

Dressing (combine in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves)
1/2 cup light soy sauce, or to taste
6 tablespoons Japanese clear rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin, or rice wine or sake mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the snow peas and cook for 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon and drain in a strainer or colander under cold running water. Bring the water to a boil again and add the soba noodles. Once the water boils again, cook for 3 1/2 minutes, or until al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse the noodles under warm running water. Drain again.

2. To make the Spicy Pesto: Drop the garlic, scallion whites, and red pepper flakes down the feed tube of a food processor while the motor is running and chop finely. Open up the bowl and add the basil leaves. Pulse, turning the machine on and off, then slowly pour the sesame and olive oil down the feed tube and chop the mixture to a fine paste. Add the lemon juice and soy sauce and continue blending until the mixture is a fairly smooth paste.

3. In a large mixing bowl, toss the cooked soba noodles with the pesto mixture. Arrange in a large shallow bowl or platter. Sprinkle the snap peas evenly over the noodles, followed by the julienne chicken, and finishing with the scallion greens. Serve the Dressing on the side in a sauce bowl, or drizzle on top of the salad. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Variation
Substitute cooked shrimp, pork, or flavored tofu for the chicken. You can also replace the snow or snap peas with 2 1/2 cups shredded carrots, bean sprouts, or other sliced vegetables.

Disclaimer: Herbs, foods, and other natural remedies are not substitutes for professional medical care.
For a specific health problem, consult a qualified health-care giver for guidance.

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