I’ve decided that I really need to make more salads.
Honestly you guys, I always spend time considering what to add to one, realize how many possibilities there are, majorly overthink it, and then end up changing my mind about the whole thing. It’s a repeating cycle and I keep trying to remind myself that salad is a very, very broad term. I mean, when someone says ‘salad’ they could be talking about anything from cool whip and marshmallows to a plain old bed of iceberg lettuce. I think the latter is why most people tend to get turned-off by just the word salad, thinking of drab and boring ghosts of veggies past.
I was really inspired last week while at my friend’s home when she served one of the most surprisingly delicious, yet simple, salads alongside her very Chilean lunch (a traditional winter dish around here called Porotos con Riendas [beans with reins] that combines spaghetti noodles and beans in a brothy soup. It gets its name for how the noodles resemble the reins of a horse.) But anyway, her salad was just finely grated carrots and beets tossed in the locals’ customary dressing of oil and vinegar. So basic, and yet it reminded me that a salad doesn’t always have to have 546 ingredients to be memorable. I’m actually inspired to borrow said salad idea and use it in an upcoming recipe because it was so delish.
So if you’re thinking about how this salad has a stupidly long title, I completely agree, but I couldn’t help it guys. Actually, believe it or not, this is about half the amount of words that I started with so be grateful, okay. All this talk about simple salads is probably going to make this one seem way over complicated and I admit that it doesn’t fall into the instant category, but don’t let that stop you from trying it because it’s the-bomb-dot-com-diggity-do-da! Can you tell that I’m a tad bit excited to share this with you???
I’ve been in Asian food mood for the past few weeks and then Liv reminded me of a salad that she’s been talking about forever and she’s been asking me to make it a lot recently. So she went on a trip in the Smoky mountains with some friends a few years ago and came home telling me about this salad that they all devoured and it that had crunchy ramen noodles on it. She said they all kept going back for seconds and then even shared the leftovers as a late night snack in the jacuzzi. I originally thought it sounded kind of weird to put ramen on a salad but she’s talked about how amazing it was ever since so it must have been good. Okay, so obviously you can see that I finally got around to making it for her and, o-m-GOODNESS, wow![Sidenote]: Did you notice in the background, is that not the biggest stinkin’ ginger root you’ve ever seen guys??? I mentioned to my mom that I never mind having a ton of extra ginger and I guess she took it too literally because she brought me that thing last time she went shopping. Gee, wonder why I’ve been craving Chinese food all week?
All-righty now, I know that ramen noodles are not the healthiest thing ever, but hey they’re in a salad you guys, and plus you ditch msg packs in favor of much better flavors, so that’s good right? There are so many levels of yum going on. You’ve got all the fresh and vibrant veggies for the actual salad part, then there are the salty/sweet candied cashews that may not even make it to the salad if you start sampling them. Okay, then the dressing is a perfect balance of spicy, sweet, and tangy, but feel free to add extra red curry paste to kick up the heat if that’s how you like it. Last, but definitely not least, we’ve got the crunchy ramen noodles that come and completely steal the show and take the whole thing over the top. You have to try it!!!!
Oh, and I realized after making it that it’s also a vegan salad (assuming you double check some of your ingredient labels to be sure) which means that it’s perfect for your meatless monday menu or as a summertime side at your next group picnic. Oh, and if you do what I did and make like fifty pounds of it, the leftovers make a great addition to stir-frys, egg roll filling, or potsticker filling. (I totally added the leftovers to some potstickers last week and everyonewent crazy over them!)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons red curry paste *see note
- 1/4 cup peanut butter
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 (3 ounce) packs of ramen noodle (ditch the seasoning packs)
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- dash of white pepper
- 3/4 cup raw shelled cashews
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 2 cups green cabbage, shredded
- 2 cups red cabbage, shredded
- 1 large carrot, shredded
- 2 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeds removed and sliced
- 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
- lime wedges for serving (optional)
- Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl until well incorporated and smooth. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet or wok and add the broken up ramen. Sprinkle with white pepper and soy sauce and stir over heat for about 2 minutes until toasted. Remove pan from heat and pour noodles onto a separate plate.
- Line a tray with wax or greased parchment paper and set nearby. Using the same pan from the ramen, add another tablespoon of oil and 1/2 teaspoon ginger to pan. Place back over medium heat and stir for about 2 minutes until ginger is browned and fragrant. Reduce heat to low and stir in sugar, honey, soy sauce, and sesame oil until combined then add sesame seeds and cashews to pan and stir for 1 to 2 minutes more until nuts start to brown slightly. Remove from heat and pour them onto prepared tray and use a rubber spatula to separate them as much as possible before they cool. Once cooled, break up or chop any larger chunks that hardened together.
- Combine all of the salad veggies in a large bowl and toss to combine. Top with black sesame seeds, caramelized cashews, and crunchy ramen. Just before serving drizzle with desired amount of the curry sauce (you may not need to use all of it) Serve as soon as possible with additional lime wedges for squeezing if desired.