Hello! Hi there. Fair warning right up front- long post, lots of steps, but you are going to thank me in the end. Because this Asian Salad with a homemade Creamy Thai Dressing is going to make your tastebuds do backflips. Backflips, I tell you. This was dinner three times in the last two weeks and I still want more. It’s a salad on steroids- bright and herbaceous, a little tangy, a little spicy. Bright, colorful happiness in a bowl.
It all started when I was craving a veggie infusion after a weekend of indulgences and late nights. I am one of those rare lucky, lucky people who is still BFF with my childhood BFFs. And when they come to visit, it feeds my soul and recharges my batteries. It also involves a healthy amount of Sauvignon Blanc and staying up waaaaay past my bedtime. It was a lovely weekend, but, when Monday rolled around, I was in need of some serious nutrients to jump start my week.
I found a recipe for a version of this over on Pinch of Yum. If you are are not following that blog- you should go jump on the very large bandwagon. I love Lindsey’s recipes and I maybe want to be her when I grow up. But we’ve changed up a bunch of stuff to make it work for our table. Namely, cutting the sugar a bit, adding a little more heat with jalepenos, a tangy note with a quick pickled red onion and adapting it to what we are currently harvesting in the garden. Like the Thai Basil that I have in great abundance. We also swap the kale for a spinach/arugula combo. Because as much as I want to be a kale person, I’m just not. I tried. Sorry, not sorry. And I add avocado, because really, when is that a bad idea? I also add Tahini to the dressing which makes for a creamy version and also helps the dressing emulsify so it doesn’t separate in the fridge. If Tahini paste is not currently in your fridge- go get some, like right now. If Tahini is a new thing for you, it is the magical component that turns chick peas into hummus. It is basically a nut butter made from sesame seeds. It stays good forever and is wonderful in dressings like this one and my other personal favorite- homemade hummus. You can also use it to make my White Bean Hummus, which is coincidentally also kind of addictive.
And while I am on the topic- this DRESSING. I want to drink it. It. Is. So. Good. I just kept tasting it and tasting it until I almost had to make a second batch. I swap the original recipe’s white vinegar for Rice Vinegar, but if white is what you have around, it will work. The dressing is savory, a little sweet from the honey, citrusy and the sesame oil and tahini paste just give it a depth of flavor that keeps you coming back for just one more bite.
For me, for lunch, the salad is completely satisfying all on it’s own, but we are carnivores in this house, and for dinner we need protein. So this week Alan suggested we tenderize and marinate a strip steak. As a lover of good beef, like any good Texan, I looked at him a little funny. You want to take a perfectly good New York Strip Steak, pound the ever-living snot out of it with a tenderizer, and marinate it in soy sauce and orange juice…???? Yes, he said. I physically cringed as he tenderized that strip. However, as much as I sometimes loathe the words, the man was right. Home. Run.
Now, onto the salad! Here is your order of operations:
- Get your steak marinating. You can do everything else during the hour it needs to marinate.
- Start your quick pickled onions. (they will be ready when you are)
- Chop your veggies and your herbs. Make sure your knife is sharp. I am going to twist Alan’s arm to give us all a knife sharpening tutorial here before long. Taking the time to slice your veggies thin is a huge part of what makes this salad so UH-MAZ-ING. And a sharp knife will make your life so much easier. You could do the chopping ahead of time and keep the veggies and herbs in airtight containers in the fridge. But save the avocado for right before you serve.
- Whip out your food processor and make the spicy cashews.
- While you’ve got the food processor out, make your dressing. (Can also do this ahead of time)
- Grill your steak (or send your grill master out to do it- Thanks, honey, I love you!! ;))
- While your steak is resting, toss the salad with the dressing and slice your avocado.
- Slice the steak, plate and enjoy
The truly amazing thing about this salad is you can customize it to whatever you like, whatever you have in your garden or whatever you need to use up in the fridge. Just make sure you slice all your veggies SUPER THIN. The marinade will also work beautifully for chicken or pork. Or probably tofu. Maybe? I really wouldn’t know. Do I have any tofu people out there with tips? Can you marinate tofu? Please leave any tips in the comments. Maybe I’m a tofu person and I just don’t know it. Feel free to swap out veggies or use the kale if you are one of those kale people. I would love to know what you are making or what you might like to see here as we move into fall-just drop us a note in the comments! Happy cooking, my friends!