This Spring I have been really into the salads. Even though it has been a cold, wet spring, I have moved on past the comfort foods. I am so ready for the lighter meals full of fresh veggies and perhaps some chicken thrown in. I am super excited for fresh fruit again! I know the south is in strawberry season, but we won’t be until the end of June. I’ve only planted a few things in the garden that don’t mind the cold weather because anything else will shrivel and die. Kind of how I feel when there is rain day after day and it’s barely out of the 40’s. Good thing I have some quilting to keep me occupied… Among a million other things.
Now this salad is pretty darn epic. It has moved to my husband’s number one salad spot. This salad is fairly simple, but has a lot of amazing flavor blasts. There are some simple vegetables, killer chicken, caramelized shallots, and rice noodles to soak up all the flavors and salad dressing. Peanut dressing is one of my favorites, but it can be really hard to get it right. Sometimes the peanut butter flavor is overwhelming and smothers the other flavors, or it’s bitter from the other ingredients whisked into the sauce. This vinaigrette is jjuusstt right. The perfect balance between peanut and sesame with a touch of sweetness from the honey. This would be a great salad to meal prep for the week with. Just store the salad ingredients together, tossing with the rice noodles, peanuts and vinaigrette right before serving. I could eat this for lunch every day. And I think you’ll find yourself looking forward to lunch when this sitting in your refrigerator! This also makes a great light dinner. Serve with a hunk of your favorite bread and you have yourself the perfect warm weather meal.
Recipe adapted from Half Baked Harvest
For the chicken
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
- 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
For the salad
- 8 ounces rice noodles
- 3 heads romaine lettuce, chopped
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
- 3 scallions onions, chopped
- 1 english cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
- 2 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil
For the peanut vinaigrette
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
- juice of 1 lime
- Place the chicken in a medium baking dish with 2-inch sides. In a small measuring cup, whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic and ginger. Pour over the chicken, tossing to coat. Place in the refrigerator and marinate for 30-60 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF*. Place the baking dish with the chicken and marinade in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through, flipping the chicken half way through cooking. Remove from the oven and place on a cutting board. Slice the chicken into thin strips, or shred.
- Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles according to package directions. In a large salad bowl, combine the lettuce, carrots, scallions, and cucumbers.
- To make the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients in a glass measuring cup and whisk until completely smooth.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet over medium-hight heat. Stir in the shallots and cook, stirring often until caramelized, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
- When ready to serve, divide the salad between 4-5 servings bowls, top with the sliced chicken, rice noodles and caramelized shallots. Drizzle with the peanut vinaigrette and top with peanuts. Devour immediately.
*If you prefer, you can grill the chicken instead. Just occasionally brush the marinade over the chicken while it grills to keep it moist and flavorful.