salads, sides

sassy asian chicken sesame salad (for when you can’t adult.)

How much more adult can that salad get?!

You ever get the feeling like – no matter how hard you work at it – you just can’t get it together? Do you ever feel like I can’t get it together? No kidding.

I’ll dispense with the “It’s a new year'” intro because yeah; it’s March, and I’m just now working on my 2017 goals; I know some of you can relate. Goal Numero Uno is to get back to this, to here, to writing – I need the practice, but I need the time, and that’s been lacking so far this particular year.

Maybe that’s not Goal Numero Uno: my actual number one goal this year is to be okay with being me, and to stop beating myself up if I don’t get everything done that I want to. Something about me: I could plan and idea and project myself into the ground with things I want to do, so I’m trying to sift though ideas and prioritize them while at the same time slow down, enjoy, and ease up a little on myself.

High priorities: write more. Cook more things that aren’t for work. Stop overthinking things which are for work. Plan whole entire days not around food. Prepare for busy and not-so-busy weeks. Find ways to streamline my days. This salad I’m getting ready to introduce you too? It helps with the streamlining. Why? I’m happy you asked.

When you are working on big, indulgent recipes, you can’t just eat them for lunch. Big food makes you sleepy, less focused, and markedly less productive; that’s just a fact. So when I want to bang work out all day (and over a few days’ time), I make this salad. It’s everything: greens all over the place, herbs, protein from nuts and chicken, and a sassy Asian dressing that pulls the whole thing together. It feels like restaurant salad, but it’s just a bunch of shredded produce tossed with lean meat and crunchy things. And it lasts all. dang. week without getting wilty on you.

The trick is keeping the components separate: the way this works best is to throw everything but the chicken and vinaigrette together in a large bowl and refrigerate it. Keep your vinaigrette in a lidded jar, and throw that chicken in a covered dish also. When you’re ready, portion it out into a mixing bowl, toss with some dressing, and eat. Clearly if you’re making this salad for your family or friends as a meal, toss it all together and you’re good: leftovers this way, if eaten in the next day or two, should be totally fine.

I’m doing this differently than the original recipe directs: you want to make your own chicken, cool, but rotisserie rules my world when I’m busy. I tried this “salt the cabbage” business the first time I made this, and skipped it the next time: I noticed no difference here, and I’m not big on unnecessary work. Unless it’s toasting nuts and seeds, which sorry, is completely necessary, especially when you’re talking about almonds and sesame seeds, because their flavor completely transforms when toasted.

Adapted from this lovely salad over at Food52.

Asian Chicken Salad to Get You Through The Week 

Serves | 6 to 8 |

for the vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup  grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil, although that one is my favorite for this)
  • tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • teaspoons sugar (this is optional, but nice: if you’re against sugar, leave it out)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

for the salad:

  • whole rotisserie chicken, any kind you like (I get a pretty plain Jane one for this)
  • 1/4 medium head small green cabbage
  • 1/2 head small red cabbage
  • 1 bunch curly kale
  • scallions (all the parts!), trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds, pan-toasted 1 teaspoon chile flake
  • 1 1/4 cup sliced almonds, pan-toasted
  • fresh ground black pepper
Make the vinaigrette:
Whisk together both oils, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt, or throw in a lidded jar and shake it up: transfer to refrigerator to chill.
Make that salad:

Pull the meat off your cooled rotisserie chicken and chop it as finely as you like; set aside. Using a mandoline* (or a big knife and your grown up knife skills), core your cabbages and slice the leaves into very thin ribbons and place in a large bowl. Tear kale leaves from thick stems, chop leaves into very thin ribbons and toss with the cabbage (discard stems, obviously.) Add scallions, cilantro, chile flake, and toasted sesame seeds and almonds; toss until nicely incorporated. Season with a little pepper, as needed.

*Listen, friends: mandolines are no joke. I know you see them on cooking shows, and that’s fine, but you must watch what you’re doing the entire time you’re doing it when you’re working with a mandoline, so be safe. If I find out you’re fooling around, I’ll tell you the really mega-horrific story involving a local chef that I get told every single time I’m with the Feast ladies and I whip out my own mandoline. Believe me, you don’t want to hear it. 

To Serve:

So if you’re doing this to prep for lunches, just transfer that big bowl of greens and nuts to a lidded casserole, cover, and store in the fridge. Do the same with your chicken, and the vinaigrette should already be in the fridge, so you’re good! Alternatively, if you’re serving this as or with a meal, simply add the chicken to the big bowl of green things, add half the vinaigrette, and toss to coat, adding more dressing as needed. Season with a little salt and pepper right before you serve, if you need to.

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  • Reply John/Kitchen Riffs March 1, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    My mandoline scares the bejesus out of me. I still use it, though. With the guard. And lately, I bought some of those knife-resistant gloves that I wear, too. Those really are scary. But I love the results. And speaking of results, I rarely (almost never) salt my cabbage these days. Or eggplant. Not worth the bother. This salad would be worth the bother, though. Very nice — thanks.

    • Reply shannon March 16, 2017 at 3:07 pm

      John, you’re not the only one who’s scared: I swear everyone I talk to is afraid to even touch one, so cheers to use for using it anyway (with caution, i’m sure.) I need to get a pair of those knife-resistant gloves because my knife skills are actually the scarier thing to me. 🙂
      I’m happy i have someone in my corner about salting things! it really doesn’t seem to be necessary, at least in this particular application. thanks!

  • Reply Deb|EastofEdenCooking March 1, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    I love a good “slaw”. The crunch, how it will hold up to the dressing and how it makes for a fabulous lunch. Simple recipes are always the best! Good to hear form you Shannon!

    • Reply shannon March 16, 2017 at 3:09 pm

      Thank you, Deb! It’s been awhile, and i feel a little rusty, but I missed it too much not to hang out here again. I love a good slaw, also – it’s nice when something can work as a side or a main, like this one does.

  • Reply movita beaucoup March 2, 2017 at 7:12 am

    This post SPEAKS TO ME. First, I’m hungry, and second, I need to write more. Like, so much more. But most of my day is dedicated to making lists about the stuff I should write…

    • Reply shannon March 16, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      Please: last I checked, you were writing, and reorganizing the blog, and taking beautiful photos of ballerinas with their legs in positions I didn’t know could happen with humans, and also making tiny craft things. so…you’re good on the writing (but I always like it when you do more writing as opposed to less, as we are prone to doing.) Maybe we’re just special…rare gems, thousands of miles apart, but with the same procrastination levels.

  • Reply Dana | Whisks & Words March 6, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    This salad is what I need in my life! We are so trying to eat our vegetables so we don’t feel burnt out and gross and lethargic, but it’s hard to do if I have to make them fresh everyday. So this salad would fix all of our problems! Thank you! (And I so enjoyed reading your words, as ever.)

    • Reply shannon March 22, 2017 at 10:47 am

      I am so happy you made my salad, lady! It’ll make you feel all squeaky clean and healthy inside, AND once you make it, you have more time on the other days to play with that sweet baby (or, to nap: tomato, tomahto). 🙂

      you are too nice to me. i love it b/c you give me confidence, so thank you.

  • Reply Ashley March 15, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    I’m with you completely! I still haven’t made my 2017 goals…and it is indeed March. I’m struggling to stay on top of my two jobs plus all those little things that are part of life and being adult. For goodness sake, I want to clean out and organize my closet! How adult (and boring) is that!?!
    This salad and the ideas behind it and behind accepting its okay to less than perfect…yes, a thousand times yes. But really, I’m excited for something tasty to eat that can last a whole week!

    • Reply shannon March 16, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      Girl: if you haven’t made your 2017, and *I* haven’t made my 2017 goals, that means WE STILL HAVE TIME TO MAKE OUR 2017 GOALS! see how that works? I hear you with the jobs and little things balance: being an adult is hard, and clearly i don’t have it down and I think i’ve been an adult for more than a few years now…technically, that is. 🙂 It’s hard not to get distracted by what i call “life projects” – organizing closets, reworking furniture, and the like. I FEEL YOU, Ashley. *highfives

      Seriously, that this lasts an entire week is the best thing about it: it means more time for organizing life.

  • Reply elizabeth March 23, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    There’s a Nigella recipe that’s similar to this that we’ll make from time to time if we’re in the mood for something lighter, and you’re right–it’s a great alternative when you need something substantial but won’t put you to sleep.

    Don’t worry about not having your goals set yet–better to actually do something meaningful rather than hit a specific due-by-date, you know?

  • Reply Abbe@This is How I Cook March 29, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    I love salads like this! I have to tell you back in the days of PTO I often brought salads to the meetings. Truthfully it was similar to this only I bought everything in bags. From slivered carrots and cabbage and peas and the rotisserie chicken. I didn’t have to do anything but open bags and slice the chicken! And it was a hit!

  • Reply wendy ellen thomas March 30, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Well in some ways it’s great you are just getting around to making goals- just think how many people are already flaking out on the ones they made 3 months ago!
    I basically took off the year of 2016 from blogging- like really the year just slipped through my fingers. I’m really happy to be doing it again- I’ve still got about 50 ‘how to’ writing books waiting to be read- for when I really dig into “my writing”. But I too am trying to be me, ease up on myself and just know the things that need to get done and that I want to get done… will eventually get done. best, wendy

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