The title of Patricia Wells' latest cookbook Salad as a Meal is a bit of a misnomer. It's actually downright misleading. That doesn't mean it's not a great book, just that if you think you are getting a collection of recipes that require little cooking and can be made in one bowl, like most "salads," you'll be disappointed. Still, the meals in this cookbook are delicious.
One thing Wells does often is roast, smoke, or poach a protein, then add it to various vegetables and toss it with some dressing. Sometimes she uses meat left over from a previous meal to make a tasty salad. So in addition to the recipes in the book, Wells--who also a runs a popular cooking school in France--teaches you techniques and flavor components that you can add to your own cooking repertoire.
Vietnamese Chicken and Green Papaya Salad
½ cup salted peanuts, chopped
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
1 to 2 fresh red bird's-eye chiles, seeded and chopped
5 cups fresh bean sprouts
8 ounces green papaya, peeled and julienned (3 cups)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (see below)
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 cup Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (see below)
1. In a small bowl, combine the peanuts, sesame seeds, and chiles. Set aside.
2. Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
3. Fill the pasta pot with 3 quarts of water and bring it to a rolling boil over high heat. Do not add salt. Add the bean sprouts and blanch for 1 minute. Immediately remove the colander from the water, allowing the water to drain from the sprouts. Plunge the sprouts into the ice water for just 30 seconds so they cool down as quickly as possible. Drain in a colander.
4. In a large bowl, combine the bean sprouts, papaya, chicken, and ¾ cup of the cilantro. Toss with just enough dipping sauce to coat the ingredients lightly and evenly. Arrange on dinner plate. Garnish with the remaining ¼ cup cilantro and about half of the chile mixture. Serve, passing the remaining chile mixture as an additional garnish, along with the dipping sauce.
Wine Suggestion: It should be an unassuming daily drinking white, but one with enough backbone to stand up to the fire and saltiness of the salad. I love a Chardonnay here, my favorite being a light Macon from the house of Domaine des Héritiers du Comte Lafon.
Poached Chicken Breasts
1 quart homemade chicken stock
1 onion, quartered (do not peel)
Several fresh tarragon leaves
Several fresh thyme sprigs
1 celery rib or several celery ribs, chopped
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
6 whole black peppercorns
4 plump, moist garlic gloves, peeled and halved
6 fresh parsley sprigs
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (each about 8 ounces)
1. In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients except the chicken. Cover, bring to a simmer, and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
2. Carefully slip the chicken breasts into the stock, making sure they are fully covered by the liquid. Cover and simmer for 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat (keeping it covered), and let the chicken cool in the stock for 1 hour.
3. The chicken can be used immediately or refrigerated, covered in the stock. The stock can be strained and used to prepare chicken soup or reduced to use for a sauce. (Store the chicken in an airtight container in the stock in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
¼ cup Vietnamese fish sauce, preferably Phu Quoc brand
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 plump, moist garlic cloves, peeled, halved, green germ removed, and minced
2 fresh red bird's-eye chiles, minced
¼ cup carrot julienne
In a jar, combine all the ingredients. Tighten the lid and shake well to dissolve the sugar. Taste for seasoning. (Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
Patricia Wells is visiting Seattle in April to promote Salad as a Meal. Join her April 20 at The Walrus and the Carpenter for a luncheon and book-signing ($65 all-inclusive + a copy of the book, 11:30 a.m. Call 395-9227 to RSVP); or at the Boat Street Cafe for a dinner and book-signing ($80 all-inclusive + the book, 6:30 p.m. Call 632-4602, press 1 to RSVP.)
From Salad as a Meal, Copyright © 2011 by Patricia Wells Ltd. Published by HarperCollins Publishers