Saturday, February 16, 2013

Spicy Thai Salad on a whim

I think many people have those days. You have plenty of food but nothing to eat. Ingredients galore but no dinner planned!

Hanging like a monkey on the refrigerator door tonight, I stared at the remainders from last week's grocery trip wondering just how I can bring them together in a dish that resembles dinner rather than Must-Go's (a term my daddy loves using for leftovers).

Eventually I decided on the fact that I wanted to feature my vegetation before it was past its peak. So I headed to and typed the four C's of my Saturday night dinnerless dilemma into the search bar: cabbage, celery, carrots, cilantro. I don't often use but tonight the results were spectacular. Well..they were after I took some artistic license with this recipe I found.


8 oz. rice noodles (rice sticks)
6 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 c. canned chicken broth
1/4 c. tamari soy sauce
1/4 c. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. chili paste, available at Oriental Markets
1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 lb. pork loin, cut julienne
1 med. onion, cut julienne
2 med. carrots, peeled and cut julienne
8 celery stalks, cut
1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 sm. bunch cilantro, minced
Cook noodles until tender but firm. Do not overcook. Drain and toss with 3 tbsp. oil; set aside.Mix stock, soy sauce, vinegar, chili paste and sugar in small bowl. Stir fry pork in wok. Add onion, set aside.
Stir fry the rest of the vegetables but cabbage. Combine pork and onions, vegetables, cabbage, cilantro and the sauce. Mix well. Can be served hot or cold.

Okay. Take a sec and read this recipe. "How on earth do you cook this?" said I. First of all, some specific terms in the ingredients list such as "minced" or "shredded" are used. Thanks but then how, specifically, am I supposed to "cut" the celery? Some of the instructions left me guessing as well.

I was determined to have this for dinner so I substituted or omitted ingredients, adapted it for two and, well, figured out exactly how I'd prepare it. So with all due respect to the well-meaning soul who posted this I shall claim this adapted recipe and it shall be mine.

Juli's Spicy Thai Salad

2 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 cup Spicy chili dressing (see beow)
1-2 tbsp sesame oil
1/3 cup diced yellow onion
1-2 organic carrots, julienned
1-2 stalks organic celery, sliced into half moons
1 serving of noodles (I used Ezekiel 4:9 spaghetti)
2-3 tbsp fresh cilantro for garnish

Spicy chili dressing
1/2 cup vegetable broth (preferably home made from a broth bag)
1/8 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/4 rice vinegar
2 tbsp of garlic chili sauce


First you take the dressing and you whisk it, you whisk it (translation: whisk all dressing ingredients together in a small mixing bowl). This will give you well more than you need for 2 servings but the excess can be reserved for salads or making the dish again in two days like I plan.

Sriracha! Note the Fast Orange in background.Mechanical engineers can be foodies too!
Then you take the cabbage and you shred it, you shred it! I used a food processor with a grate attachment which made the process go super quick. I suppose you could hand grate it but that's a drag. This was my yield from half a softball sized mini cabbage I found at Wegmans.

Spicy chili dressing and shredded cabbage

Next, add about 1/2 cup of the dressing to the cabbage and let it sit while you prepare the rest.

Cabbage plus chile dressing
Prepare your vegetables to meet the saute pan.

Heat the sesame oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Start your noodles--depending their required cooking time, get started sauteing the onions and carrots.

Meanwhile, plate your cabbage. Add the celery to the onions and carrots a minute or two before serving unless you like it soft (yuck).

Cabbage in our famous busy pattern salad bowls displaying our beer pairings for the evening. 

Drain the noodles, return to the pot and add sauteed veggies. Toss together to the best of your ability (my sprouted grain spaghetti didn't combine well. Next time I plan on trying brown rice noodles).

Arrange your noodles and vegetables over the cabbage shreds. Garnish with cilantro!

The finished product! Your patience is appreciated while we work on our photography skills.

The verdict: This was probably the best meal I've ever pulled together at last minute. It had lots of varying textures that worked well together. Even though I didn't like how my sprouted grain pasta didn't toss well with the veggies, its heartiness contributed to the combination of textures and I was surprised with how well the flavors worked with it- not being an Asian noodle.

The heat from the chili sauce was countered by the sweetness of the carrot and cooled down by the water in the celery. The dressing and cabbage added a depth to the familiar flavors of carrots and celery. Cilantro's clean taste really completed the dish.

HEY! Did anyone notice this recipe is pretty much VEGAN? The only thing that may disqualify it are some of the eggshells, meat scraps or bones I throw in my broth bag. I have the feeling this dish will make its way into our regular eating from now on. Not bad for an unplanned dinner night!

Talk to me: What was the most successful dish you've thrown together on the eve of grocery day?