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Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Beginning of Summer Salad in Thai-Italian flavors

Grilled Chicken N Pasta Salad with White pea sprouts, Cherry tomatoes, Green Papaya, Lemon grass, Green mango, Cashew nut and three herbs in Lime vinaigrette- Thai-Italian Salad

It is spring now n and I’m back home to see the summer approaching, in the last 2 months the earth has traveled around 250 million kilometers through deep space, coming close to the sun n warming up the soil, melting the ice in the northern hemisphere, bringing the season of transition-the spring. And the mango trees reflect that story, I see the mango trees have blossomed, producing tiny little green dots which will turn into delicious mangoes in the coming 4 months and I smell summer. Here in Kolkata spring is short lived, it didn’t get much cold this year, spring is soon melting into summer and it’s time for the new produce-mangoes are only one of them. 

I am a person who loves salads, so this week I translated this salad in my plate as it was hanging in my mind, it has bold flavors of Thailand mixing with Italian Pasta, making a brand new palate of flavors in my mouth. The salad brings together the flavors of grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes, basil, flat-leaf parsley, coriander leaves, lemon grass, red chili, garlic, lime, red onion, cashew nuts, sprouted white peas- so many ingredients together and it is a healthy plate filled with amazing bites.

The good thing about eating salads is the freshness and the different little taste explosions on the tongue at every single bite which is so much fun…unity in diversity! Did I say that right? Ha-ha. One important thing before making salads is washing some of the leafy greens well under running water, washing away the dirt, because we are eating it raw it is good to take extra care of washing the vegetables.

Fresh lime provides the citrus notes in this salad, so in the vinaigrette I used lime with extra virgin olive oil, if you have lemon use that, you can also replace the olive oil with flavorless oil like soybean oil. The green mango is sour and it gives us that sour fresh bite with that amazing mango flavor, you know what goes really well with green mango, pink rock salt! As for the cashew nuts they add that subtle sweetness in the bites, if you want to add peanuts or almonds-go for it.

The grilled chicken has simple flavors in it, I marinated the chicken breast with garlic, ginger, red chili, yogurt with turmeric n cumin powder and that’s all, one hour is good enough for the marinating, then simple grill them in the oven.

The green papaya adds a very subtle touch to the salad, it is finely shredded, then lightly pounded in the mortar n pestle with the garlic n red chili just to slightly bruise it, it reminds me of the Thai green papaya salad, I would say if you have fish sauce in your pantry, try adding a little bit of that in the salad, though I didn’t do it but you can always.

The salad has three herbs in it-the coriander leaves, the basil and the flat-leaf parsley, and they bring a whole new fresh dimension to this salad, I have used more basil and coriander than parsley.
So now I will take you to the recipe so you can make it.

For The Recipe: You will need

For the Grilled Chicken:

Chicken breast- 1 about 250 gm, boneless and cut into strips about 4 inches long, 1 ½ inch thick
Yogurt- 2 tbsp
Turmeric- ½ tsp
Cumin powder- ½ tsp
Ginger- ½ inch, grated
Garlic- 1 medium clove, grated
Red Chili- 1, cut into thin slices
Oil-1 tbsp
Butter- for basting
Sugar- a pinch

For the Salad:

Grilled chicken- from above
Red onion – 1, sliced
Cherry tomato- 100 gm, halved
Pasta fusili/ penne/ macaroni/gomiti rigati- 50 gm
Basil- 2 tbsp, chopped or torn by hands
Coriander leaves- 3 tbsp, finely chopped
Flat-leaf parsley- 1 tbsp, chopped
Lemon grass- 2 stalks, inner core cut into 1 inch pieces
White pea sprouts- 50 gm
Red chili- 2, thinly sliced
Green mango- 1 small or ½ medium, peeled and thinly sliced
Green papaya- 1/8 of a medium papaya, thinly shredded
Cashew nuts- 4 tbsp, lightly toasted
Lime juice- 2 tbsp
Extra virgin olive oil- 4 tbsp
Red chili-1/2 chili
Garlic- 2 cloves
Black pepper- to taste
Pink rock salt 

1. Begin by marinating the chicken strips with grated garlic, grated ginger, sliced red chili mixed with yogurt and cumin and turmeric powder, salt n a pinch of sugar and give it at least 30 min to an hour. Then put your oven on the highest temperature and place the pieces on the grill and give them about 12-15 minutes, baste them with butter once in between, as soon as the chicken gets a slight charred color get them out, otherwise they will go dry.

2. Peel the papaya, then with a sharp Chinese chopper or a big knife give vertical firm strokes on the flesh holding the papaya in your hand or to be safe keep it on a platform and do it, make sure the knife goes a little inside with every stroke and give strokes as closely as possible, you are stroking along the length of the papaya, then rotate the knife at 90 degrees and shave off lightly from the stroked surface of the papaya n you will see fine shreds coming out.

3. Put a frying pan on medium heat, add the cashew nuts and toast them until they get lightly browned which will take about 5 min.
4. Put the water to boil, when it comes to boil add enough salt to make it quite salty, then add the pasta and cook it until it is done, Al Dante if you like it or until they are just soft, drain n set aside.

5. In a big wooden/metal mortar n pestle crush the garlic clove and the red chili together, when they are well bruised add the lemon grass and pound it until it becomes flattened n released its flavor. After that add the shredded papaya and pound them lightly with one hand and turning the mixture over from the bottom with a spoon on another hand, pound until some of the papaya is bruised, then add the lime juice, thin mango slices and bruise again, then add the salt, black pepper, pink rock salt and the oil and give it a good mix.

6. In a big bowl add the sprouted white peas, then the red onion slices, the cherry tomatoes, the herbs, the pasta, the grilled chicken pieces and then add the whole mixture from the mortar onto them and mix well with your hands, season with salt if needed and add an extra pinch of pink rock salt, lastly add the roasted cashew nuts on top and another sprinkling of black pepper. It is now ready for the plates.

Great you made it; plunge a fork and go for the biggest possible bite without choking….now tell me isn’t it something so refreshing and something brand new. I felt the same and as it is so healthy and great balance of protein, carb n fat,  you should include salads like this more often in your diet, share it with people who love salad and who loves trying brand new food. Till then I will say bon appĂ©tit.

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