I was in serious need of some green salad this week. I have been eating my veggies but not so much of the leafy green variety. Looking through my Tyler cookbooks, the Asian flavors in this Sesame Chicken Salad with Spinach, Cucumber and Cilantro caught my eye. It's from Tyler's Ultimate (page 128). I did make some healthier swap-outs for this one which I noted below. If you don't eat chicken, don't despair, just for giggles, I used some of the plentiful marinade and panko and made some sesame tofu to see how it would turn out. (You can read about the tofu in the "Notes/Results" below).
Tyler says: "The Asian-inspired dressing on this substantial salad hits your tongue in several different places--spicy, sour, salty, and sweet notes. It makes a great lunch or light dinner."
Sesame Chicken Salad with Spinach, Cucumber, and Cilantro
1/4 cup soy sauce
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
a couple good handfuls of stemmed spinach leaves (about 4 cups)
1 cucumber, unpeeled, cut crosswise into thin slices
handful of fresh cilantro leaves
1 scallion, white and green part, sliced
cracked black pepper
In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, ginger, sugar, and red pepper flakes for the vinaigrette.
Toast 2 tablespoons of the sesame seeds in a small dry skillet until fragrant, a minute or two, then set aside.
Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Put a chicken breast on the cutting board and, holding a large knife parallel to the board, cut through the breast horizontally so that you get 2 thin fillets. Repeat with the 3 remaining breasts. Put the chicken on a platter, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette, and toss to coat. Set the rest of the vinaigrette aside. Let the chicken marinate for about 10 minutes.
Combine the panko and the remaining 1/4 cup sesame seeds in a shallow bowl and season with a little salt and pepper. Mix well with your fingers so that the seasoning is incorporated and then taste it; the panko should be well seasoned. Dredge the chicken in the seasoned crumbs, patting the crumbs gently so they adhere.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Line a platter with paper towels and set that to the side of the stove. Add about half of the chicken to the pan and cook about 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy. Remove the chicken to the towel-lined platter to drain while you cook the rest of the chicken.
Put the spinach in a bowl with the cucumber, cilantro, scallion and a tablespoon of the toasted sesame seeds, and give it a good toss. To serve, arrange a mound of greens on a plate, set a piece of chicken on top, stack a few more greens on top, and finish with another piece of chicken. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Make 3 more plates this way and shower with the remaining tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds and cracked black pepper.
Notes/Results: Tyler does it again, putting together another delicious combination of flavors. The chicken and dressing are nicely spiced and combine well with the cooling spinach, cucumber, and cilantro mixture. There are a few steps to this recipe but it goes together easily. I used some organic boneless chicken tenders, so no slicing chicken breasts was required. I decided to lighten it up by baking my chicken tenders, (450 degrees F for about 6 minutes per side was perfect), rather than pan-frying them. You do lose a bit of the crispness that way, but I had nice, tender chicken pieces with less fat and calories, and they still had great flavor and a nice bit of crunch. Other changes; lessening the olive oil in the dressing, mixing black sesame seeds in with the regular ones, (just for a touch of color), and using low-sodium soy sauce.
Since there was quite a bit of the dressing and the breadcrumb mixture, I pulled some out before the chicken went in, and used it to marinate and dredge some chunks of extra-firm tofu, which I then baked off, (about 10 minutes per side at 450 degrees F.). The tofu was just as good, if not even better than the chicken; flavorful, firm, lightly crisped on the outside and soft within.
As Tyler stated, this salad was a great lunch; both delicious and healthy. I will be making this again. You can check out what our other TFF participants created this week and see how they liked their recipe choices at the TFF site, here.
Happy Aloha Friday! Have a great weekend!