Hot August Night

August 16, 2010

Chilled Noodle Salad

Sometimes when it’s this hot I don’t have much of an appetite. Just joking, I always have an appetite. In summer I usually crave some version of an Asian noodle salad. I have no set ingredient list or method, I put in what I feel like, chilled noodles, crunchy vegetables, fragrant herbs and a balance of sour, heat, salt and sweet. Today’s Asian salad of the day is Vietnamese in inspiration and utterly refreshing and satisfying. It’s best enjoyed on a shaded front porch with friends.

Serves four heartily for dinner with enough for lunch for two at the beach the next day!

lemongrass chicken, shredded, recipe below

vietnamese salad dressing, nuoc cham, recipe below

1 package of rice noodles, any width, cook according to package directions and rinse in cold water; drain and pile onto a serving platter or into large bowls

2 carrots, julienned

lettuce leaves, torn

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

1/2 bunch mint, chopped

handful basil leaves, pretty Thai basil if you can find it

2 green onions, minced

lime wedges

1 cup of nuts, toasted, I used cashews but peanuts are the usual

Okay, first things first, marinate the chicken. If you’re not a meat eater, too bad for you, you can leave this step out and substitute with medium-firm tofu. Also, disclaimer, given the use of fish sauce, this is not a super clean recipe. But it’s clean enough.

4 chicken breast halves, sliced in half to make two thin filets out of each half

2 tablespoons of fish sauce

2 tablespoons agave

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 stalks of lemon grass, pale part only, halved and smashed with the butt of a knife

3 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 shallot, roughly chopped

2 bird chilies, crushed

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Marinate for at least five minutes, if you’re hurried and/or impatient, or up to four hours. To grill, turn your barbecue on to high and heat it as hot hot as you can. You want to get a good char on, the rather high amount of agave will caramelize and scorch, imparting delicious carcinogen-loaded yumminess. The chicken grills quickly, a couple of minutes on each side. Once cooked, set onto a plate to shred when cool. Discard all the marinade.

Now make your salad dressing:

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup lime juice

2 tablespoons agave

1/2 cup water

1 bird chili, crushed, optional

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate. Use the chili to further heat up a hot August night. On a side note, have I ever told you how much I love Neil Diamond? I’m talking his 12 greatest hits on an 8 track in a white Cadillac Eldorado kind of love. And the very phrase “hot August night” reminds me of his song Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. The song begins with “Hot August night and the leaves hanging down and the grass on the ground smelling (pause) sweet… ” I know that smell and I love it.

Now you’re kind of done. Arrange all your fresh and fragrant veggies and herbs and such either on a chopping board or individual dishes. You can build your own salad in a big bowl to your taste, I tend to go heavy on the cilantro, for example. Drizzle with the dressing and stir well with chopsticks. Plunk yourself down into your porch chair and crank up the cheesy tunes. I love summer and all that comes with it.


One Response to “Hot August Night”

  1. Julie said

    I can confirm that this is just as delicious and refreshing as described. I think I could eat it everyday. Really.

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