One of the challenges on Top Chef Season 4, the cheftestants had to make a "sexy salad." Personally, I think vegetables can be sexy (or a nice piece of glistening, visceral sashimi-grade tuna) but a sexy salad? The words spicy, special, or even sensational come to mind when I think of my salads.
Cha Gio (Summer Roll Salad) Serves 8
This Vietnamese recipe has been taken out of the rice paper and transposed to a bowl or platter.
1 lb baby shrimp
½ cup Sriracha hot sauce or Chili Garlic Sauce
1 mango, diced
6 oz Alfalfa sprouts
16 oz mesclun mix
1 bunch mint
1 pkg rice vermicelli, cooked
In a medium bowl, add shrimp and sriracha sauce. Toss to coat. Cook on a foil-lined sheet pan for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients in a serving bowl or dish. After shrimp have been removed from oven and properly cooled, add to salad mixture. Serve with fat-free salad dressing of your choice.
Be careful. The shrimp are spicy.
The cool mint and sprouts help cool your mouth. Asian cooking generally encompasses the four seasons: salty, spicy, sweet, and sour. The shrimp are spicy and salty, the mango is the sweet, and if you choose to squeeze a lime over everything, there's your sour.
The next salad is a panzanella, which is a bread salad. It's Italian in origin and a peasant meal. The original recipe (well, the recipe I've always known) is stale bread soaked in water (then rung out), basil, tomatoes, olive oil, onions, and sometimes red wine vinegar, too. I decided that I needed a dessert for Summer Salads. Fruit salad has been done over and over. Ambrosia? That's nothing new. But this dessert panzanella? It's new, fresh, and absolutely DELICIOUS. For real.
Lemon Coconut Panzanella Serves 12
1 quart strawberries, capped and sliced
1 cup fresh mint leaves, about 20, torn
1 store-bought angel’s food cake or fat-free pound cake, torn or coarsely chopped
1 cup lemon and orange juice, mixed 50/50 ratio
zest of four lemons
½ cup unsweetened coconut
Panzanella requires that you soak and wring out the cake before assembling the salad. If the cake is stale: soak cake in juice before adding to bowl. If you make this with fresh cake: pour juice over cake in bowl prior to assembly. In a medium bowl, add mint, lemon zest, remaining juice, coconut and toss with your hands or two spoons to combine.
Strawberries for tomatoes, mint for basil, coconut for onions, juice for water, and cake for bread.
Let it be known that I'll be testing the leftover raw ingredients this and next week. My fridge is full once again.