Eating Fresh: Thai Inspired Dinner Salad

This salad takes a page from the Thai dish laarb.  You can make it with ground chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, crumbled tofu, or tempeh and it will be delicious any way.  The less strong the flavor of the protein (chicken, tofu) the more you will taste the other flavors but as they meld well with the stronger proteins this dish will be delicious any way you make it.  In the ingredient list below I list optional, spicy, items in italics – add as much of them or none at all according to your taste.  This quantity will serve 4 not extremely hungry adults or 2 very hungry ones.  It makes a great one-plate dinner, is refreshing on a hot day, and is satisfyingly filling.

Thai Inspired Dinner Salad

  • 1 small white or yellow onion
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 limes
  • 1 pound protein (ground chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, firm tofu, or tempeh)
  • 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 package thin rice noodles
  • 1 Romaine lettuce heart or 1/2 whole head Romaine
  • 1 bell pepper, any color
  • 1 medium cucumber or 1/2 large one
  • 10-20 fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • jalapeno peppers

Start by slicing the whole red onion and half the white one into thin strips.  Chop the other 1/2 onion and set aside.  If you are using jalapenos, seed and slice into half moons now.  Toss the sliced onion (and jalapenos) with the juice from 1 1/2 limes, set the other 1/2 lime aside for garnish.  Set the onions aside to marinate – this will help take the spicy edge off them and add lots of flavor to the salad.  Soak the rice noodles in a bowl of cold water while bringing a pot of water to a boil.  When the water is boiling, cook the soaked noodles in it for 5 minutes or so, taste to make sure they are soft but not soggy.  When they are done, rinse in cold water and set aside.  Meanwhile, in a saute pan or heavy-bottomed pot heat 1 Tbs of the olive oil over medium high heat then add the onion and cook for a minute or two.  Add whatever protein you are using and a good pinch of salt and pepper and cook, stirring and chopping, until the meat is cooked through or the soy proteins are heated and seasoned.  Remove from heat.  Meanwhile, slice the cucumber into thin half moons and the pepper into 1 inch thin strips.  Wash and dry the Romaine then cut it into small bite-sized pieces.  Roughly chop or tear the basil.  When everything is ready you can start to assemble the salad.  On a large serving plate or shallow bowl put the Romaine lettuce.  Then top with the cold, drained rice noodles, spreading them over the lettuce.  Now toss the protein, onions in lime juice, cucumber, and pepper together with remaining 2 Tbs olive oil.  Pile this over the noodles.  Top with the basil leaves, garnish with small wedges cut from the remaining half lime.  Serve.  This is great served with very tart fresh mint basil limeade or iced coconut milk Thai chai (recipes to follow…)

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