July 1, 2009

Asian summer salad

Light and refreshing, this crunchy salad with Asian flavors is just an ideal side dish to make for the hot summer months. It pairs perfectly well with all kinds of barbecue, fried chicken or any other summer picnic food. Combine crisp lettuce leaves with the freshest and crunchiest vegetables like radish or jicama, carrots, cucumbers and red bell peppers. The key is to julienne [or to slice in uniform matchstick size pieces] the vegetables then toss them in a salad bowl for a colorful and attractive presentation.

An optional ingredient which I always like to add to this summer salad is Asian vermicelli or cellophane bean thread noodles which are made from green mung beans. They are available in most Asian groceries. Blanch the vermicelli in boiling water for a few minutes until the noodles are cooked. They will become noticeably limp and will start softening as soon as they hit the boiling water. Drain them well in a colander and use kitchen scissors or knife to cut them up. Place the drained noodles in the salad bowl first followed by the julienned vegetables. Sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds. This vegetarian and gluten-free salad is a great addition to summer picnic buffets and lighter everyday meals. I often serve it with some Thai springrolls or chicken satay. For the salad dressing, whisk together lime or lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, a little fish sauce (substitute salt for vegetarian version), pepper, a little sugar, chili sauce and some minced green onions for a balance of sweet, sour and salty flavors.

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