Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ellie: Salmon with Sweet & Spicy Rub and Barefoot: Chinese Chicken Salad

Sorry about another double Thursday post. My original game plan when I joined these groups was to post CEiMB recipes on the Barefoot Bloggers off weeks, but somehow it doesn't ever seem to work out that way.

The Barefoot Bloggers recipe this week is Chinese Chicken Salad, which was chosen by McKenzie of Kenzie's Kitchen. This one was pretty straightforward. Bake bone-in chicken breasts for 40 minutes, and then shred the meat and mix it up with asparagus (I was thrilled to see really beautiful asparagus in the grocery store - spring must be here!), sliced red bell peppers, and scallions.

Of course, it's the dressing that makes this a "Chinese chicken salad." Ina's recipes often specify to use not just olive oil, vinegar, etc., but "good" olive oil or "good" vinegar. I am never 100% sure what she means by "good," but I have a feeling that she means "not the stuff they sell you in Publix." In this recipe, the dressing calls for "good apple cider vinegar." I did have apple cider vinegar in my pantry, but I'm afraid Ina would probably think of my vinegar as:

Heinz: The Apple Cider Vinegar of the Unwashed Masses

I am pretty sure that Ina would not consider this to be "good" apple cider vinegar. If you read the label closely, however, it says that it is "ideal for food." I figured I could build on that. So I made the dressing by whisking together my "ideal for food" apple cider vinegar with vegetable oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic, peanut butter, salt, pepper and toasted sesame seeds. Add the dressing to the meat and vegetables, and voila! you've just made Chinese chicken salad!

I once worked with a guy whose mantra was "no old food, no cold food," by which he meant that he does not like leftovers, or the cold presentation of food that is traditionally served warm (e.g., pasta salad). This friend also once yelled "Hey, Kool-Aid!" down the hallway after our very pregnant friend who happened to be wearing an orange dress, so we tend to discount what he thinks about things.

But still, I have to admit that I have had a little bit of that "no cold food" bias against salads with Asian flavors; I love Asian food, but I tend to prefer those flavors warm. But I really did enjoy this salad. The dressing is delicious, and it makes for an intensely flavorful, vibrant salad. I brought the salad to a picnic in the park on Saturday with David's family, and everybody seemed to really enjoy it.

This salad couldn't really give me that self-satisfied "I'm eating a light & healthy salad!" feeling, though, because the dressing contains 1 cup (plus 3 tablespoons) of oil, plus 1/2 cup of peanut butter. I will be paying close attention to see if any of the BBs lightened this up. Since I tend to like to get my fat from foods that just can't help being full of fat, like banana cream pie, it is unlikely that I will make this salad very often, at least not in strict accordance with the recipe. But I really enjoyed it and I'm glad that I made it. It definitely helped me get over my "no cold (Asian) food" bias.

The recipe for CEiMB this week is Salmon with Sweet & Spicy Rub, chosen by Pam of Lobsters & Fishsticks. I should disclose upfront: I am one of those people who, when considering whether to order an unfamiliar fish in a restaurant, will grill the waiter about whether that fish is "fishy" (other than that one thing, though, I try really hard not to be annoying in restaurants). I like white, flaky, unfishy fish like grouper, tilapia, halibut. I generally lump salmon in the "fishy" category and therefore never order it. That said, it's been a while since I've tried salmon, and this recipe really sounded delicious, and it was undeniably simple -- busy weeknight simple for sure. I figured I'd give it a try.

The rub is super easy: a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar, a tablespoon of chili powder, a teaspoon of cumin and a little salt and pepper. Cover the salmon with the rub, and grill 4-6 minutes per side. That's it! I served the salmon with grilled zucchini rollups, also from Ellie's cookbook.

We really enjoyed this. Salmon is never going to be my favorite fish (or my husband's, for that matter), but this is a really great way to prepare it. The sugar caramelizes when grilled, and the crispy exterior is really delicious. I liked the rub so much that I'm tempted to try it on different fish --but this recipe was good enough, and quick enough, that I'm likely to make this again even with salmon.

Thanks for the great picks, McKenzie and Pam!


Heather said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. "ideal for food" is good enough for me ;) sounds yummy :)

Jacque said...

Well, they both sound pretty wonderful to me. Although that's not a rub I would have thought would necessarily work for salmon, but hey, what do I know?

It does crack me up sometimes how the cookbook authors expect you to find and use the "best" and exotic and hard to find ingredients.

Elyse said...

I hate it when salads cause guilt! There should never be guilt with a salad. It's not fair! Although, I must say that Ina's recipe does sound delicious. However, I am with you: I'd rather get my fat and calories from something that is traditionally supposed to be fattening! The salmon also looks delicious (and lighter); I do love a good fillet of salmon!

Debinhawaii said...

I hope your friend smacked your co-worker! ;-)

You have to love Ina and her special ingredients. It was a good salad but you know of course that I had to make a few changes to make it healthier. (Save those calories for the chocolate fix later). Your salad looks great--I am glad you liked it. The salmon looks delicious--I love salmon and will have to try the rub sometime.

Marthe said...

Loved the salmon!!!

Audrey said...

Oh, nuts...I love, love, love that chicken salad, and now I'll always think of it as a guilty pleasure. But anyway one of the best takeaways from that recipe is the idea of roasting/baking the bone-in, skin-on chicken ... I learned this from Ina, and it's hands-down the best way to make good cooked chicken for chicken salad or casseroles.

Pamela said...

First, it sounds to me that the guy you worked with may have been single, over 40 and still living with his mother...but that's just me. He sounds so thoughtful and sensitive.

Now...on to the food. That salad does look good, but with that much fat in the dressing, it would be a guilty pleasure for me.

I'm glad you guys gave the salmon a try. Try that rub on some chicken! It's delicious.

Jamie said...

This was my first BB and I was not a huge fan! Glad you liked it! The salmon looks fantastic!!!

Di said...

Don't feel too bad about the cider vinegar, Cathy. I've actually tried to find "good" cider vinegar, and the Heinz one is all that I've been able to get at the stores here. There are probably others out there somewhere, but heck if I know where to find them... =)

Cathy said...

Pamela, Kool-Aid Boy was around 27 and single at the time of his remarks; he's now 37 and married with a couple of kids, and I have to assume that now that he's actually lived with a pregnant woman, he knows better than to ever compare her to Kool-Aid :-) In his defense, both he and our pregnant friend were jokesters and had a friendly rapport (i.e., I don't THINK he would have yelled that to a pregnant lady on the Metro!) so she did laugh at the joke. Although we did sit him down and enlighten him about things such as pregnancy hormones and the harm that might befall him should he ever say such a thing to the wrong woman at the wrong moment.

AppleC said...

Never thought there was a big diff. between cider vinegars. As for balsamic...well, diff. story.
We loved the salmon. Your photos make everything look good.

Aggie said...

I don't think Ina would approve of any of my so called "good" stuff, lol! She always makes me nervous when she says that...

Your food looks amazing Cathy!! I'm making the salmon tonight for dinner, I'm a little behind this week.

Anne said...

You're too funny Cathy. Everything looks delicious. And if it makes you feel better, I've seen Ina use that very vinegar on the show!

Meryl said...

I'm so jealous that you got to have a picnic with your chicken salad! It's perfect picnic food, but too cold here still. :(

chocolatechic said...

Gorgeous looking salad.

Peggy said...

Cathy everything looks delicious. I'm glad you tried the salmon! I loved it, so so on the chicken salad. I'm off work today - yee ha and hope you have a nice Easter.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that guy is still alive after his Kool-Aid comment. >:(

I love Chinese chicken salad and haven't seen a recipe that uses good or otherwise apple cider vinegar (I'm sure your's was good). I'll have to try it.

n.o.e said...

Good for you on the double header. I don't know how you manage three groups; two is pretty challenging for me to plan and schedule.

"Suitable for food" - maybe Heinz says that because they have an inferiority complex about not being the "good" stuff?

I'm glad you ventured out of your fish comfort zone and that it worked for you. You could probably use the rub for halibut, too. And wasn't "cooking more fish" one of your New Year's resolutions? (or was it "cooking some fish?" Either way you knocked it off the "to do" list)

Pam said...

The salad looks and sounds fantastic - if only the dressing was non fat ;).

I like un-fishy fish too - salmon is good but not my favorite. The rub sounds great and I am sure my salmon loving husband would dig it.

Anonymous said...

I am not a fishy person either. I did enjoy this Ellie pick but thought that I would like it on chicken more.

Ideal for food is ideal for me too.

Anonymous said...

She really is a bit of a food snob, huh? If it's good enough for you, it's good enough for me! You can totally lighten this up and amp the flavor. Decrease your oil to just a couple tablespoons and add in equal parts peanut butter and coconut milk.


PS: Your friend is lucky that the the pregnant woman wasn't a boxer like myself.. he would have found a different way to get my attention after that.

Sara said...

It is nice that the Heinz company makes sure you know that their product is ideal for food. I honestly never noticed that before on the label! Your salmon looks great, glad you both liked it. I always love a nice blackened fish that is a little crunchy on the top - yours looks perfect.

Steph said...

haha.. I noticed that Ina does say 'good' ___ all the time.

The salmon looks delicious! I love salmon and can't get enough if it.

Jennifer said...

Your chicken salad and the salmon both look wonderful!

Elra said...

Oh Cathy, this salad is to die for, and that salmon, wow, I am suddenly hungry, it looks so delicious.

Natashya said...

Great dishes! I love the Chinese chicken salad - and am glad that the vinegar is ideal for food. I am a big fan of salmon too, so this whole meal looks good to me!
But you don't generally care for cold leftovers? Cold Chinese food is right up there with cold pizza!

kelly said...

Thanks for your encouraging note. I so enjoy reading your hilarious blog entries. Thank you for not knowing what "good" apple cider vinegar is. I feel so normal!

McKenzie said...

I'm so glad you like it, cold Asian food and all!

The Blonde Duck said...

We try to eat salmon at least once a week. I'll have to try that rub!

Jen said...

Your dishes look great! I definitely burned my salmon a bit more than I inteded to! While I am not normally a salmon eater, I thought this turned out really good. I loved the rub!
Happy easter!

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Leslie said...

I was a little surprised to see so much oil in the chicken salad recipe, too. That plus the peanut butter made it feel very heavy to me, and I really wanted to add more vegetables or serve it on lettuce. I served the leftovers warm on rice, and that seemed to help. Your salmon looks terrific! I love the color you got on it. I used to hate salmon but discovered I just hated Atlantic salmon. I love learning a preparation that can be applied to other foods.

Summer said...

I too used the Heinz variety. It seemed "good" to me :)

Proud Italian Cook said...

I love the way the salmon looks, I got to try this! It took me a while to like salmon, now I love it, especially with rubs like this. Hope you had a great Easter Cathy!
Hugs, Marie

Bridgett said...

Hope you and your family had a wonderful easter! These look amazing!

Cakelaw said...

What a delicious looking salad. And apple cider vinegar that is "good for food" is good enough for me!

Sophie said...

MMMMMMM...the salad looks fabulous & the salmon looks delicious!
I adore spice rubs on my salmon! Yum!

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