crunchy vietnamese salad

salad4

Sometimes for dinner you eat steamed vegetables and grilled proteins and brothy soups. Sometimes you eat roasted sweet potatoes and a handful of legumes. Sometimes you eat an egg white omelet and sautéed spinach. But sometimes you eat French fries or a chocolate bar or manicotti swimming in a full-on, no-cutting-it-down-with-milk, gob-up-the-spoon cream sauce. I’ll admit. The manicotti happened last night. C’mon, though. It was Andy’s birthday and my metabolism can totally tell the difference in special occasion days and regular days.

salad9

…and then you realize the Calories Don’t Count During Celebrations/On the Weekends/Outside of Your Zip Code theories are actually myths and the next day you’re left reaching for something that doesn’t make your toes feel like a thousand pounds by the time you leave the table.

salad7salad5

Andy has a very foodie (foodie is now an adjective?) aunt who always takes us on food adventures when we visit her in Atlanta. My first dim sum experience was with her. My first authentic Cuban meal was with her. Our last visit consisted of a relaxing visit to a (distinctively comforting) local Vietnamese restaurant, where we were quickly prompted to order the recommended green papaya salad. And, of course, I ordered pho to go along because, whoa. Spiced broth and noodles? Cant’ get enough of that stuff. The salad was very characteristic of traditional Vietnamese cuisine, famous for using fresh herbs and vegetables. It was bright, sweet, and crunchy, accompanied with an almost thirst-quenching quality.

This salad on HTF differs slightly from the restaurant salad I had (Let’s be honest. I was too lazy to hunt Columbia for green papaya. Also, this salad is a bit spicy), but it still stays true to the fresh brightness of its inspiration. So, if you feel like you’ve been eating too many chili cheese burgers or potato chips or handfuls of hamster feed, this may help perk you up a bit.

salad1

crunchy vietnamese salad
adapted from Food and Wine’s Crunchy Vietnamese Chicken Salad
yield: 4 servings total time: 15 minutes

ingredients
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp Asian fish sauce
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp water
1 serrano chile with seeds, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
4 cups finely shredded green cabbage (from 1/2 small head)
2 carrots, finely shredded
1 daikon radish, finely shredded
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp coarsely chopped unsalted roasted peanuts

create
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, water, chile and garlic and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let the dressing stand for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, carrots, radish, red onion, cilantro, and mint. Add the olive oil and the dressing and toss. Sprinkle with the peanuts and serve.

salad2

After Andy and I had had our fill, we rolled the leftover salad up with some rice paper wrappers, served it alongside some homemade peanut sauce, and BAM! we had a whole other meal going on. And afterward, we didn’t feel like someone had pumped us full of greasy air, waiting in the wings to paint us with shortness of breath, all the while trying to plop a baby elephant on our vulnerable, slouching-down-in-the-chair stomachs. Whoa. I’m dramatic. But sometimes, in the midst of that, we just need a Vietnamese salad to come along and lift us up a little bit.

Advertisements

mommy’s ranch dressing


I’m writing this post in the passenger seat of a vehicle that’s in a caravan on the way to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains for a celebration of Christmas. That has nothing to do with this post, really. Just wanted to let y’all know.

But aren’t y’all excited about Christmas? Geez. I am. I’m still a child, though. I guess I should finally admit to the world that I still watch cartoons and jump up and down when I’m excited and absolutely adore musicals, sing-a-longs, and anything else that has a singing character in it. The other night my dog slept on my side of the bed while I slept under the Christmas tree because it was too beautiful to leave. Charlie Brown makes me cry. The Grinch warms my heart. And y’all know baby Jesus was the cutest baby ever.

This recipe isn’t really a Christmas recipe by tradition, but you know what people serve at parties? Crudités (I can picture people jumping up from their chairs, “Crew dytes?” It’s really just a fancy French word for raw veggies and dip, pronounced crew-deh-tay). And you know what holiday hosts lots of parties? Christmas. So, there ya go.

I kind of grew up with my mom making this ranch dressing and every time she did I remember being so impressed. I guess when I was seven I thought there were trees that had ranch dressing siphoned out of them like maple trees. Who knows. But this stuff is delicious. She used to make this, like, 16 layer salad with tons of random things in it and it was topped with her ranch dressing. It was the bomb. Mother, if you are reading, make this salad? Hmm?

And, man, y’all know I love making stuff that’s chemical free for our little ol’ bodies.

mommy’s ranch dressing
ingredients
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
~1 cup mayonnaise
~1/2 cup sour cream
pinch of salt
pinch of white pepper
pinch of onion powder
buttermilk, to desired consistency

create
Mince the garlic clove and sprinkle a little salt over the top. Mash the garlic and salt together with a fork until well combined. Put in a bowl with the chopped parsley and chives.
Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, pepper, and a little more salt. Mix together.
Add as much buttermilk as you’d like. If you like your dressing thicker, just add a little. If you like it thin, add a little more. Keep tasting it along the way and adjust the flavors based on what you think it needs. Keep in the fridge in a jar (and remember that spices will get stronger as they sit).

That’s it! You’re done! The thing about this dressing is that everything in it is crazy adjustable to personal taste. Don’t like as much mayo? Psh, add less. Want more garlic? Add it. I almost listed the ingredients as “some of this” or “some of that.” You can even get crazy, people. Add hot sauce, or other spices, or whatever your heart fancies. And then, dadgummit, get some raw veggies and crudité it up!

Update on the trip: we’re currently driving up a mountain near Asheville, my husband’s ears are popping, my brother-in-law and his fiancé are sleeping, and we’re listening to the glorious sounds of a very She & Him Christmas. Really, was there ever a more beautiful place than the mountains? I’m in love with them. Thank you, Jesus, for a beautiful earth.

Merry Christmas, y’all.