Rainbow vegetarian salad topped with a spicy tahini dressing


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.



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


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.




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.

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.

Vietnamese Grilled Pork with Basil and Fresh Lime Dressing

Vietnamese Grilled Pork with Basil and Fresh Lime Dressing

smaller viet pork (320x240)

6 servings

1 1/2 pounds boneless pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and gristle

Marinade (combine in a small bowl)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine or sake
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic

6 ounces thin rice stick or vermicelli noodles, softened in boiling water for 10 minutes and drained
1 1/2 tablespoons olive spray or canola oil
3 cups Boston or leafy lettuce, stems trimmed and leaves cut into thin shreds
2 cups shredded or grated carrots
2 cups bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into shreds or ripped into small pieces
1/4 cup coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts (optional)

Vietnamese Dressing (combine in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves)
Juice of 4 to 5 limes or 2 1/2 lemons (about 2/3 cup)
1/3 cup fish sauce, or more to taste
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

1. Place the pork in a shallow dish, add the Marinade, and rub to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand while preparing the other ingredients. Mix the Dressing.

2. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add the rice noodles, swishing them around in the water for a minute or so, then drain in a colander. Refresh under cold running water and drain thoroughly.

3. Prepare a medium-hot fire for grilling and brush or spray the grill rack with the oil, or heat a skillet and heat the oil in the pan until hot, about 15 seconds. Grill or pan-sear (covered) the pork for 9 to 10 minutes on each side, or until the internal temperature registers 160°F. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into thin slices about 1/4 inch thick.

4. Place the noodles in the bottom of a large serving bowl or platter and arrange the lettuce, carrots, and bean sprouts in separate concentric circles on top. Sprinkle the pork evenly over the vegetables and top with the shredded basil and chopped peanuts, if using. Pour some of the Vietnamese Dressing over the top and serve the remainder in a bowl or saucier on the side. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Grilled Miso Salmon with Sweet-and-Sour Cucumbers

Salmon Photo of Photo

 Six Servings

3 English seedless cucumbers or 10 Kirby cucumbers, rinsed and drained


For the dressing, mixed together:

2 ¼ teaspoons salt

¾ cup Japanese rice vinegar

¾ cup sugar

1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger

1 ½ pounds salmon fillets, skin on


For the marinade, mixed together:

3 tablespoons sweet, white miso (miso shiro) or to taste

3 tablespoons mirin (sweetened rice wine) or 3 tablespoons sake mixed with 1 ½ tablespoons sugar

1 ½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons minced scallion greens

1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger


For serving:

2 to 3 heads butter or Boston lettuce, cores trimmed, leaves separated, pressed to flatten, rinsed, drained and arranged in layers around the rim of a serving platter

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill


  1. Trim ends of the cucumbers, slice them lengthwise in half, remove the seeds, and cut crosswise into paper-thin slices.  Place in a bowl, add 1 ½ teaspoons of the salt, and toss lightly.  Let sit for 20 minutes.
  2. Drain the cucumber, squeeze out the excess water, and return to the bowl.  Mix together rice vinegar, sugar, ginger, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Add to the cucumbers, toss lightly, and cover with plastic wrap.  Let marinate for 30 minutes or longer, if possible, in the refrigerator, tossing occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, place the salmon in a large bowl.  Add the marinade and toss lightly with your hands to coat the salmon.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to several hours, turning several times.
  4. Prepare a hot fire for grilling or preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.  Place the fillets about 3 inches from the source of heat or on a baking sheet on the upper rack of the oven and grill or bake, brushing with any excess marinade up until the last 5 minutes, until the fish is opaque, 4 to 5 minutes on each side.  Remove and cut the fillets into 1-inch sections along the grain of the fish.
  5. Arrange the cucumbers in the center of the platter of lettuce.  Arrange the salmon fillets on top.  Sprinkle with the chopped dill.  To eat, spoon some of the salmon with the pickled cucumbers onto a lettuce leaf, roll up, tucking in the edges, and eat with your fingers.

© Copyright Nina Simonds 2000

Seared Ginger Balsamic Salmon with Hot and Sour Slaw

4 servings

4 six-ounce pieces center-cut salmon fillets with skin, patted dry
1 teaspoon
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 teaspoons olive or canola oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
3 ½ cups or one 9-ounce bag pre-shredded broccoli slaw
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1 medium red pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into dice
2 tablespoons rice wine or sake

Hot and Sour Dressing, (combine all in a small bowl)
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons olive or canola oil for frying fish
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1½ tablespoons light brown sugar

1. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a wok or a heavy skillet and the olive or canola and sesame oil until hot, but not smoking. Add the red pepper flakes and ginger, and stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the diced red pepper and toss lightly over high heat. Add the broccoli slaw, toss lightly, and pour in the rice wine. Stir and cover. Cook over medium-high heat for a minute or two. Uncover and add the pre-mixed Dressing. Toss lightly for a minute and remove to a serving bowl.

3. Heat the 2 teaspoons oil in a 12-inch, non-stick skillet over moderately

high heat until very hot, about 10 seconds. Arrange the salmon fillets in the pan, skin side up, partially cover and sear over medium-high heat until well browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn the fish over and continue cooking, for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until the fish flakes in the middles when prodded with a knife.
4. Using a slotted spoon or a spatula, portion some of the slaw on individual serving plates or serve in a serving bowl. Place the cooked salmon fillets on top.

5. Drain off any oil and reheat the frying pan with the balsamic vinegar, water, lemon juice, brown sugar, and ginger, stirring to combine. Simmer over medium heat-high heat for about 1½ to 2 minutes until thickened and reduced to 1/3 cup. Carefully pour the glaze over the salmon and serve with the hot and sour slaw. Serve with rice or another whole grain.

Warm Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad
6 Servings

Roasting vegetables is so easy, and you can vary the recipe depending on what’s in season. I especially like to serve roasted veggies with a nutty grain like quinoa as a meal by itself, or as a side to grilled, roasted, or pan-seared meat or seafood.

2 medium fennel bulbs (about 1½ pounds) rinsed, drained, stocks cut off and discarded*

2 medium red onions, peeled

1 pound pre-peeled baby carrots, rinsed and drained

1 eight-ounce package teriyaki, Thai, or lemon pepper-flavored baked tofu (optional)

Flavorings, (combine all in a small bowl):

½ cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1/3 cup virgin olive oil

1 cup quinoa

1½ teaspoons virgin olive oil for toasting quinoa

Dressing (combine all in a small glass bowl until the sugar dissolves):

3 tablespoons soy sauce

6 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons sugar

5 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Trim the stem end of the fennel bulbs, leaving 1/8 inch of the root base, and cut each fennel bulb in half. With the cut edge down, cut each half into thin slices about ¼-inch thick. Place the fennel slices in a large mixing bowl.

2. Cut the red onions in half, then cut each half into ¼-inch thick slices. Put in the bowl and add the carrots. Cut the baked tofu into ¼-inch thick slices and 1½ inches long. Add to the vegetables.

3. Pour in the flavorings and toss lightly to coat. Place the vegetables in a large roasting pan or on a cookie sheet and bake about 40 minutes. Flip the vegetables over and continue baking for another 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and golden brown at the edges.

4. Rinse the quinoa in a bowl, using your hands as a rake, and drain in a colander. Heat the oil for toasting the quinoa until hot, about 20 seconds, in a saucepan with lid. Add the quinoa and toast, stirring with a wooden spoon, until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1¼ cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, uncover, and fluff with a fork. Spoon the quinoa into the bottom of a large serving bowl.

5. Spoon the roasted vegetables over the quinoa and pour the prepared dressing over all. Toss lightly and serve warm or at room temperature.

© Copyright Nina Simonds 2011

Five-Spice Quinoa with Toasted Almonds
4 to 6 servings

Five- spice powder is a seasoning which usually includes star anise, cinnamon, licorice root, fennel, and black or Sichuan pepper. It plays well against the slight nuttiness of quinoa, a grain that is rich in protein. Toasting the quinoa in a little oil adds a pleasing nuance of flavor.

2 cups quinoa

1 ½ tablespoon olive or canola oil

3 tablespoons minced scallions

1 ½ tablespoons minced fresh ginger

½ teaspoon five-spice powder

Sauce, mixed together:

2 ¾ cups vegetarian broth

1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

½ cup toasted sliced almonds

1. Rinse the quinoa, if necessary, in a bowl, using your hand as a rake and drain in a colander.

2. Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan with a lid until very hot, about 20 seconds. Add the scallions and ginger and stir-fry over medium high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the quinoa and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the Sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. The quinoa should be tender to the bite. Remove from the heat, uncover, and fluff with a fork

3. If the almonds aren’t toasted, fry then until golden brown in a dry frying pan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Let the quinoa cool slightly and then stir in the toasted almonds. Taste for seasoning, adding salt or soy sauce if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature as a staple dish instead of rice or couscous.

© Copyright Nina Simonds 2011

Juicy Candied Ginger Orange Slices
4 to 6 servings

This is one of the fastest and easiest recipes in my dessert repertory so it has become one of my orange-season favorites. If you are feeling decadent, serve it with vanilla or chocolate ice cream.

5 Navel oranges, peeled

4 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger (optional)

1. Cut the oranges into ½-inch slices and place in a bowl. Add the honey, cinnamon, and candied ginger, and very carefully mix together to coat the slices.

2. Arrange the slices in a large overlapping circle on a dessert platter and let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature. Serve.

Oranges are packed with flavonoids and Vitamin C. When eaten whole, the pith provides anti-cancer agents and important bioflavonoids. Oranges are also rich in fiber.

© Copyright Nina Simonds 2011

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.