Friday, February 27, 2009

Sesame Chicken ( & Tofu!) Salad with Spinach, Cucumber and Cilantro for Tyler Florence Fridays

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
Tyler's Ultimate
(Serves 4)

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!


  1. Oh wow, this looks delicious! Nice to know that it worked well with tofu, I will have to give this a try! You are such a great example baking instead of frying, you are making me feel really guilty about the deep fryer this week, I thought to myself as I made the egg rolls, I bed Deb would bake these and they'd taste just as good as fried. :)

  2. That does look healthy and delicious! I would pile the leftovers on a panini and have it for lunch. :)
    So... did Tyler('s salad dressing) hit your tongue in several different places? Do tell..

  3. Sounds delicious, healthy as well. You arrange your food so beautifully! Wish I had your eye for that!

  4. This sounds wonderful and I love your addition of Tofu! I used to cook with tofu quite a bit but my husband does not care for it. I doubt he'd know the difference if I did not tell him!

  5. Sesame Chicken! Looks delicious, one of my favs.

  6. What a great combination - one that I'd like to try! And soon....

  7. I could just dig into that salad right now ... it looks delicious. I too haven't been eating my leafy greens lately. What a lovely solution you've cooked up!

  8. sounds delicious. i love anything with an asian inspired flavor.

  9. both the chicken and tofu sound delicious!

  10. What a lovely dish of food! The chicken sounds really good. I see myself making this real soon!

  11. A friend of mine had been asking for a new tofu recipe ... I think I'll forward her this one! She loves the stuff, so will appreciate it! Thks for sharing Deb :)

  12. This is immediately going into my "must-make" file... with your modifications. I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out.


Mahalo for visiting and for leaving a comment. I love reading them and they mean a lot!

All advertising, spam, inappropriate (or just plain rude) comments will be promptly deleted. I do appreciate your right to free speech and to your opinion but I'm not into mean, rude, or mean snarky (non-mean snarky is just fine!) ;-)