It’s easy to fall in love with a salad that showcases crunch and color, along with spicy-sweet flavors boosted with the just right tartness of fresh lime juice. Gabriel “Gabe” Caliendo’s Spicy Thai Chicken Salad hits all these tasty notes.
Caliendo, the executive chef at the Lazy Dog Restaurants that have four locations in Orange County, showed me how to make the salad, assuring me that it is simple enough to prepare at home.
The spicy-sweet-sour dressing is convenient in that it can be prepared three to four days in advance and refrigerated. The vegetable components can be prepped and ready in the bowl an hour in advance, then tossed with the cold chicken and dressing just before serving.
It was interesting to see the technique used to cut the red bell peppers, a method that made the strips thin enough to be noodle-like malleable. The video shows how he did this.
He said that they gently poach the white-meat chicken at the restaurant to make it tender and juicy, but home cooks can use store-bought roasted chicken and include dark meat if that is preferable.
The salad is part of the restaurants’ “nutritious and delicious menu,” a designation granted to dishes with less than 650 calories.
Gabe’s ginormous chili paste jar crowned with my itty bitty jar.
Lazy Dog’s Spicy Thai Chicken Salad
Yield: 4 servings
Thai Peanut Dressing
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
4 tablespoons sambal chili paste, see cook’s notes
1/4 cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky
12 ounces cooked chicken breast, shredded (approximately 2 cups)
1 cup Thai Peanut Dressing, see cook’s notes
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup red bell peppers, cut julienne (1/16-by-1/16-by-3 inches), plus additional for garnish
1/4 cup peanuts, finely chopped
2 cups hothouse cucumber cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup small mint leaves without steams
8 cups shredded napa cabbage
Cook’s notes: Sambal chili paste is sold in many supermarkets in the Asian specialty section. If the label simply says chili paste or chili paste with garlic, that is fine too. The recipe for the dressing makes enough for 4 to 6 servings. Leftover dressing can be refrigerated for up to 4 days and used to dress salads or grilled poultry or pork.
1. For dressing: In a medium bowl, combine all dressing ingredients except peanut butter. Whisk together until well blended. Add peanut butter and use whisk to stir until well integrated. Set aside.
2. For salad: In a large bowl, use tongs to mix chicken with 1 cup dressing. Add the rest of the salad ingredients, except for the napa cabbage. Toss to lightly coat ingredients with dressing. Add napa cabbage and gently toss. If desired, garnish with additional red bell pepper strips. Serve immediately.
Source: Executive Chef Gabriel “Gabe” Caliendo, Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar with Orange County locations in Brea, Huntington Beach/Westminster, Irvine and Orange
Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s Produce…
Aqua fresca, which translates from Spanish as “fresh water,” is a refreshing beverage made most often from fresh fruit, water, and some kind of sweetener.
Here the star is fresh watermelon, cut into chunks and pureed in a food processor with water. Agave syrup and fresh lemon juice add just-right balance to this refreshing drink.
Watermelon Aqua Fresca
Yield: 5 servings
5 cups (1-inch) cubed seedless or seeded watermelon, divided use
1 2/3 cups water, divided use
1 teaspoon agave syrup, or to taste
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
Ice, preferably crushed
Garnish: 5 fresh sprigs mint or peppermint or spearmint
Garnish: 5 thin lemon slices
1. Place a medium mesh sieve over a medium bowl; if you have a batter bowl with a spout and handle, it is handy for this.
2. Place 1 cup watermelon cubes and 1/3 cup water in food processer or blender. Pulse until pureed. Place in sieve. Repeat, using 1 cup of melon and 1/3 water, until all melon and water is used and strained in sieve.
3. Add agave syrup and lemon juice to strained mixture. Taste and adjust as needed, adding more agave syrup or lemon juice, or additional water.
4. Fill 5 glasses with ice. Stir mixture and pour into glasses. Garnish each glass with a sprig of mint and a lemon slice.
Nutritional information (per serving): calories 45; fat calories 0, total fat 0 grams; sat fat 0 grams, cholesterol 0 milligrams; sodium 5 milligrams; total carbohydrates 15 grams; fiber 1 gram; sugars 14 grams; protein 1 gram; vitamin A IUs 10%; vitamin C 20%; calcium 2%; iron 2%.
This recipe is from the newest book, “50 Best Plants on the Planet.”