La Rentreé. The French word for “back-to-school”. It means “the return”, but for me, not just the literal return to school, but the return to real life after a summer of fantasy. Well maybe that’s exaggerating a bit but teachers can probably catch my drift. In June, there’s the euphoria of the endless days of summer vacation stretching out before you. It feels like fall will never come. But then, all of a sudden, here it is and summer feels like a dream. The system is shocked and wonders “How did this happen?” I realize I’m probably not garnering a lot of sympathy from the non-teachers (in fact, parents everywhere are most likely thrilled to have their little darlings back in school!). Luckily, the weather has coincided so perfectly with “back-to-school” (Saturday it was 95°, today it is 66°) that the return was ever-so-slightly less painful than usual. However, the return to work aside, the return to a more regimented routine of dietary restraint and low-carb eating is definitely in order (a girl’s gotta get these lazy summer pounds off somehow!). Fortunately, after a quick stop at the Ypsilanti Farmers’ Market for the rest of the week’s produce,
I had Donal Skehan’s tasty and low-carb Asian Chicken Salad awaiting me. It was so good that it even gave me the energy to sit here and write this post (on the first day of school no less!). By the way, Donal Skehan is this cutie-pie.
From what I gather, he’s a former pop star turned food writer and was the darling of the Irish food blogs last spring when his book Kitchen Hero was released. When my obsession with the Irish food blogs coincided with a somewhat spur of the moment trip to Ireland (entirely coincidental), I knew exactly what my souvenir to myself would be. Though Donal’s book is chock full of charming Irish vocabulary (rocket, bangers, mince!), his food is really good as well. I’ve already made several of the recipes, but my favorite so far is this salad. I changed the vegetables to my liking but the peanut-y goodness of the dressing and the marinade are what really make it a winner. It was just what I needed after a long first day at work. This, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ latest album of course.
Adapted, only slightly, from Donal Skehan’s Kitchen Hero.
For the marinade,
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 small red chili diced (or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper)
2 Tbsp. tamari soy sauce
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 garlic clove, grated
1 inch ginger, grated
For the dressing,
6 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. tamari soy sauce
2 Tbsp. smooth peanut butter, at room temperature
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 garlic cloves grated
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
1 small red chili diced (or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper)
For the salad,
2-3 heads chopped Romaine lettuce
1 small head Napa cabbage, shredded (by slicing thinly)
1 bunch scallions, chopped
a few handfuls grated carrot
1/3 cup peanuts (or more to taste)
Prepare a Ziploc bag for the marinade and a bowl or large jar for the dressing. Make them at the same time since they have practically the same ingredients. Add marinade ingredients and the sliced chicken to the bag and place on a plate in the refrigerator (best if overnight but an hour or so will do just fine). Place dressing ingredients in a large jar (or use a bowl and whisk). Make sure the peanut butter is really soft, even if you have to microwave it for a few seconds. Shake vigorously until you have a smooth dressing. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.
Prepare vegetables for the salad while the chicken is marinating and dress with about 1/2 of the dressing.
Heat 1 Tbsp. canola oil over medium-high heat in a non-stick pan and add the chicken. Stir-fry until chicken is done (about 5 minutes but it really depends on the thickness of your chicken strips). Add the chicken to the salad and garnish with the scallions and peanuts. Serve the remaining dressing on the side.
This salad is so satisfying that I guarantee you won’t experience the deprived “salad for dinner” feeling.
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to catch up on the latest episode of “Breaking Bad”.
P.S. Provence is getting a makeover! She’s (yes, Provence is a “she”) gone from old, faded and weedy brick to “English cobble”. Isn’t she pretty? Maybe there’ll be a dinner or two out there before winter sets in…