Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Pad Thai Salad with Peanut-Lime Dragon Dressing

I don't know about you, but I have taken advantage of the Holidays to stuff my face until all I could do was sit on the couch watching "Downton Abbey" and sip mint tea. I know good and well that it's not very healthy to eat until you need to unbutton your jeans, but being reasonable when it comes to good food is something that's always been a challenge for me. In the summer, I walk and bike a lot, so I feel free to indulge, but in winter, I turn into a house cat: lazy and overfed... Not good.

While I don't really believe in New Year's resolutions, which are too easily abandoned by spring, I think it's a good idea to look after yourself, take care of your health, move as much as you can and eat good food in reasonable helpings (less meat, more fruits and veggies, no processed horrors). But that doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy what's on your plate!

I started my post-Holiday detox regimen with a few days of eating soups: it's a warm and comforting way to get your vegetables in. My favorite low-fat soups are borscht, carrot, orange and ginger, and roasted tomatoes. But there is something about the middle of winter that makes me crave fresh, crunchy vegetables. Greek salad is always wonderful, but my palate often craves the sharp and piquant flavors of my favorite Asian dishes... but minus the oil and frying.

This is where this lovely salad comes in! "Appetite for Reduction" is my go-to book for light-yet-flavorful meal ideas, and this recipe practically jumped off the page at me. I love me some Pad Thai, and the mix of lime, peanut, and fiery pepper is one of my favorite flavor blends. I tried it once, and it instantly became one of my favorite salads! I beefed it up by adding mushrooms and snow peas (I often add those to my Pad Thai), but you can keep it more minimalist if you wish.

I've sung the praises of my Cuisinart immersion blender and it's food processor attachment before, but there is really no better kitchen toy when it comes to making home-made salad dressings: an ordinary food-processor is too big and the mess is a pain to clean up. Take advantage of the Boxing Days special to get your hands on one of those babies!

Now, to the lovely salad! 

1/4 cup roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons chopped scallions (3 scallions)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (3 or 4 limes)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Sri Racha sauce

Pulse 2 tablespoons of the peanuts and all the scallions in a food processor.

Add the lime juice, water, agave, soy sauce and Sri Racha and blend until very smooth.

Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides a few times. Taste, and adjust as needed with more lime juice, agave, soy sauce or Sri Racha. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of peanuts and pulse until they are chopped up small.

8 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
4 cups bean sprouts
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated

1 cup thinly sliced button mushrooms
1 large handful snow peas
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro
1 lime, quartered in wedges

In a large mixing bowl, toss together the lettuce, sprouts, red onion, carrot, mushrooms and snow peas.

Add half of the dressing and toss to coat. Distribute the salad into 4 serving bowls and add the remaining dressing. Garnish with roasted peanuts, cilantro leaves and lime wedges.

The burst of flavor from the dressing is amazing, and the crispiness of the onions, snow peas and bean sprouts is wonderfully refreshing. As a side-dish, it is a great complement to some grilled tofu, white fish or almost any other Asian dish.

If you plan on eating better and exercising more in 2013, the cookbook where I found this recipe is at the top of my list of recommendations, but also check out "French Women Don't Get Fat" for tips on how to enjoy food without over-indulging and with a positive attitude, and "Punk Rock Aerobics" can get you bouncing around your living room with your Ramones records blasting even if you hate working out.

Take good care of your body: you only have one, so treat it like a temple, not a garbage disposal!

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