chicken salad 88.
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Whenever I enter a Chinese barbecue restaurant, I can't help staring at the shiny, deep-brown glazed ducks hanging from hooks.
People order barbecued birds and meats to eat at the restaurant with rice, but even more often purchase them to take home. Chefs and home cooks use the slightly sweet, slightly salty meat in numerous recipes, from fillings for appetizers called steamed buns, to fried rice, to pasta dishes like scrumptious Singapore noodles with red peppers and curry oil.
In summertime, these flavorful meats make wonderful main-course salads. East Asian chefs creatively use them to enhance the light dishes we particularly enjoy during this season. A bowl of greens becomes an enticing entree when embellished with subtly sweet barbecued chicken and a lively sesame ginger dressing.
Ming Tsai, author of Simply Ming, makes Thai lime chicken salad from grilled chicken breasts, baby spinach and cherry tomatoes with an aromatic lime dressing with basil, mint, fresh coriander and gingerroot. For his Asian chicken salad, a take on Caesar salad, he moistens grilled chicken and romaine lettuce with sesame tofu dressing and tops them with toasted sesame seeds.
Indian chefs use their spiced tandoori chicken the same way, either with greens or with a vegetable mixture resembling Israeli salad. My friend Neelam Batra, author of 1,000 Indian Recipes, gives her tandoori chicken salad, made with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions and fresh coriander, an extra flavor boost with a ginger-mint topping and a sprinkling of roasted ground cumin seeds. Such a salad makes a tasty entree on its own or can be spooned into a fresh pita as a sandwich.
After salad greens, pasta is the most popular salad partner for grilled chicken. Indeed, many Chinese chicken salads combine both greens and pasta; fried noodles are added to the medley of chicken and lettuces at the last minute to contribute a crisp texture.
Nuts are a great addition to barbecued chicken salad, imparting richness and a delicate crunch.
Hawaiian chef Sam Choy, author of Sam Choy's Island Flavors, adds toasted macadamia nuts to his colorful Asian chicken salad with a ginger sesame oil dressing and plenty of raw vegetables - shredded lettuce, cabbage, bean sprouts, red and yellow peppers, green onions, grated carrots, thinly sliced radishes and fried noodles.
Such Chinese-inspired chicken salads have become American favorites for all sorts of gatherings, from office parties to bar mitzvas. Many people find these lighter salads more enticing than the old-fashioned bland, white on white, boiled chicken and mayo salad, especially when the weather is warm.
Smoked or soy-glazed barbecued chicken does a lot to wake up the flavors of cooked vegetables, too. For her smoky chicken salad with fresh herb dressing, my friend Nina Simonds, author of A Spoonful of Ginger, flavors a combination of tea-smoked chicken, snow peas and cherry tomatoes with a sesame oil vinaigrette, sauteed garlic, rice wine, soy sauce and fresh coriander.
Katja Goldman, author of The Empire Kosher Chicken Cookbook, uses barbecued chicken in Mediterranean recipes, replacing the usual tuna in nicoise salad with grilled chicken, which she mixes with cooked potatoes, green beans, black olives and mustard vinaigrette. One of her favorite summertime meals is grilled vegetable and chicken salad, for which she combines the chicken strips with grilled peppers, zucchini and eggplants, mixed lettuces and balsamic vinegar tomato dressing.
When it's too hot to prepare or even to eat hot foods, you can use any grilled, barbecued or roasted chicken as the basis for tasty, satisfying main-course salads. The fastest solution is to buy grilled or roasted chicken from a deli. Better still, create "leftovers" on purpose. Add a few extra pieces of chicken to the grill when you are barbecuing and keep them in the refrigerator or freezer, ready to be turned into savory salads.
CHICKEN, MANGO AND PASTA SALAD WITH GINGER
For this refreshing salad of grilled chicken and spaghettini, mangoes are both a garnish and a flavoring for the dressing. Grill the chicken following the recipe, or simply add 2 or 3 cups of strips of roasted or grilled chicken.
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp. grated peeled gingerroot
1 to 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
3â„4 tsp. hot pepper sauce, or more
Freshly ground pepper to taste
450 gr. boneless skinless chicken
3 ripe medium mangoes
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
225 gr. spaghettini or vermicelli
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil (optional)
1â„3 cup thin slices green part of green
In a large bowl, combine 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, lemon juice, gingerroot, soy sauce, hot pepper sauce and freshly ground pepper and whisk until blended. Put chicken on a plate and rub chicken with 2 tablespoons of mixture, reserving rest for dressing. Refrigerate chicken until ready to cook.
Preheat broiler or grill with rack about 4 inches from heat source; or heat stove-top ridged grill over medium-high heat. Lightly oil grill or broiler rack. Set chicken on rack or grill with skin side facing heat source. Broil or grill about 3 minutes per side, pressing occasionally on thickest part of chicken with spatula, or until meat in thickest part is no longer pink when cut. Cool to room temperature; discard any juices that escape. Cut in lengthwise diagonal strips about 1â„4 inch wide.
Peel mangoes. Cut pulp from most attractive mango in large chunks, then in slices about 1â„4 inch thick.
Set aside for garnish. Coarsely chop pulp from other 2 mangoes. To make dressing, whisk reserved gingerroot mixture. Stir in chopped mangoes and grated lemon zest.
Cook spaghettini uncovered in a large pot of boiling salted water over high heat for 7 minutes or until tender but firm to the bite. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain well. Transfer to a bowl and toss with remaining tablespoon vegetable oil, then with sesame oil and dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Reserve a few chicken strips for garnish. Add remaining strips and green onion to spaghettini and toss.
Serve salad at room temperature, garnished with mango slices and chicken strips.
Makes 4 main-course servings.
Faye Levy is the author of Faye Levy's International Chicken Cookbook.