Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I LOVE IT WHEN YOU GET FRESH! With an Asian twist

We survived a childhood of canned tuna, tv dinners, mystery meat in the school cafeteria, overcooked vegis, loads of candy (and the really bad kind), red dye #2, packaged sandwich meat and loads of meat, charred black on the gas grill, and potatoes. Some of us had the great good luck to have a budding Julia Child in the kitchen in the form of Mother, but the rest of us lived the true culinary adventure that was the Sixties and Seventies, the era when invention was king – or chef, however you want to look at it. Shake-n-Bake, Hamburger Helper, Tuna Noodle Casserole, Hungry Man tv dinners and Little Debbie snack cakes.

Ah, you recognize this, don't you?

So groovy!

And don’t forget the Take-Out!

Now, those were the days!

And then we went to college. As soon as we left home and mom’s cooking, cutting the proverbial apron strings, out came the sandals and t-shirts and on came the vegetarian status; shopping at the local co-op, buying shampoo and toothpaste from the health food store, buying our very first wok and tossing in all the vegetables we had on hand. Health first! We were the Aware Generation! We started buying cookbooks, evolving from The Vegetarian Epicure to Mastering the Art of French Cooking to Larousse Gastronomique, as the years rolled by and college turned into job turned into job and family. We were so proud of ourselves, we HAD finally left home and grown up!

And now what? Now we are trying to raise kids on good, healthy food, trying to keep our shopping cart local, organic and free of excess packaging. We gently tested the waters of the exotic and the gourmet before jumping in with a splash, all the while watching our kids go off on Saturday night to meet their friends at the local fast food or greasy kabob joint.

So how is it that our entire generation (ok, that may be an exaggeration, but seriously) turned into such gourmets, watching Food Network with a passion usually reserved for followers of evangelical pastors, scouting out the best local farmer’s market for the freshest, healthiest of greens, the closest gourmet food store where we can buy the most exotic of ingredients? We try out every spice and herb, growing some ourselves, hand make our own bread and keep abreast of the latest “It” chef. What happened?

My husband and I come from different ends of the spectrum, opposite sides of the world, practically different planets, yet we ended up at the same place, as did many of my food blogger friends. Reaction or awareness?

I grew up going to the local Chinese restaurant with my family for the occasional meal, Lemon Chicken, breaded and fried, smothered in a sticky, thick, sweet sauce, egg rolls filled with I-never-knew what but whatever it was was gray and tasty, all wrapped up in that thick, deep-fried shell and dipped into whatever sickly sweet sauce we could squeeze out of those little packets. And always finished up with a Fortune Cookie! It was such a treat!

During our wok-n-roll phase in college, the restaurant came home in the form broccoli, carrots, beans sprouts, water chestnuts and a chicken breast, all tossed together in a splash of soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil. Rather bland, but oh so healthy, and wasn’t that just the point? But as we traveled, as foreign cuisines hit our shores and became all the rage, as ethnic food products and once-unknown ingredients became common place and stocked in every grocery across the country, we were able to hone our cooking skills and put something wonderful, something clean, fresh and, if not authentic, then at least delicious on the table!


Here is a delicious, incredibly healthy salad, as versatile as it is easy, dressed with a tangy Asian-inspired vinaigrette and tossed at the last minute with a flash-seared marinated steak, thinly sliced. Put in anything that is in season, whatever is at hand, replace the steak with chicken tenders or spiced strips of lamb, and this is a meal in itself, loved by everyone!

I have even brought this salad on a picnic with the mixed vegetables in one large plastic container, the seared steak in another already sliced, the dressing in a jelly jar. Once at the picnic and ready to eat, I simply tossed it all together and served delighting all!


4 Tbs fresh lime juice *
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs light soy sauce
large pinch of light brown sugar
1 Tbs freshly peeled and grated ginger, or ¼ to ½ tsp ground ginger to taste
1 clove garlic, finely minced
a few spring onions, white and light green parts only, sliced thinly
a handful of fresh coriander, chopped

* if no limes are available, this can be done with lemon juice, but add tablespoon by tablespoon until desired tartness

Blend everything together in a jar with a lid, cover tightly and shake for all you’re worth.

For 4

A selection of fresh vegetables that can be eaten raw :

A couple of carrots
A large handful of fresh bean sprouts
6 large white mushrooms
A pint of cherry tomatoes or 2 or 3 salad tomatoes
Small bunch of spring onions
Fresh greens, including rocket (this bitter green is perfect here)
And if you like :
Jarred baby corns
Jarred artichokes hearts
(you can also add fresh broccoli or cauliflower flowerets, water chestnuts, cucumbers, even roasted red peppers)
Large bouquet fresh coriander
Handful of unsalted peanuts
A good quality, tender steak of your choice

Douse the steak in soy sauce and sesame oil and let rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes while preparing the vegetables.

Chop all of the vegetables into largish bite-sized pieces. Drain whatever vegetables you have that are in jars. Chop the coriander.

Place the peanuts in a kitchen towel or, better yet, in a plastic sandwich bag and pound with a mallet or wooden rolling pin until chunky (not powder).

Sear the steak in a large, non-stick frying pan after having shaken off excess marinade, first on one side, then the other, over high heat. The outside should be well browned and crispy looking while the inside undercooked, rosy and tender.

Remove the meat onto a cutting board and allow to rest for 10 minutes before thinly slicing.

In a large salad bowl, toss all of the vegetables together along with half the chopped peanuts, half the chopped spring onions and half the chopped coriander.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well, until everything is coated.

Just before serving, add the warm sliced meat, toss quickly, sprinkle on a bit more peanuts, onions and coriander and serve. Place the rest of the peanuts, onions and coriander in a bowl in case someone would like more on their salad.



Mindy said...

OH MY GOSH...that looks amazing! I am trying that salad dressing as soon as possible...

I'm not sure that everyone who is into food in a different way than our parents were is all about a reaction, although certainly it's a factor. My mom tried to cook from scratch whenever possible, but those TV dinners made it into our diets too.

I think that part of it is that different ingredients are so readily available and cheaper than they used to be. My mom didn't used to be able to buy cilantro in the desert town I grew up in in Southern California, but these days I can buy it anywhere in rural Kentucky. The availability of fresh ingredients almost anywhere is much different than it used to be...

cooknkate said...

Hmmmm... me thinks we had the same life.

You nailed the 40-something food maturation on the head. Great essay, and excellent salad.

I make something similar with black bean glazed chicken and vegetables served over rice noodles. I am craving it right about now something fierce.

girlichef said...

This looks amazing...the beef photo is killer! Asian dressings are rockin' my world I definitley would love to try this!

French Cooking for Dummies said...

I'm so going to try this salad! It looks delicious :-)

Chef E said...

You got me and I wanted KFC drive thru, but you saved me with the beef! Oh, thought I would have to outrun a time schedule with that one!

I am trying that marinade, so thanks!

When canned foods came out that is when my mom's kitchen went down hill, my grandmothers too...I like it fresh!!!

asiangrrl said...

Jamie, I looking at the title and the description and then at the pic of the Swanson's frozen meal, and I thought, "What's so Asian about Swanson's frozen meals?" I am relieved that there was no connection.

This looks marvelous. Yeah, it might not be 'authentic', but it does have an Asian feel to it. Asian-French fusion?

mlaiuppa said...

Yum. Looks delicious.

My Mother didn't start working until I was in High school. So growing up we always had great home cooked meals. KFC or even a TV dinner was considered a "treat". No joke.

I also brown bagged to school. No cafeteria food for me.

I eat a lot of convenience food now because I just have time to shop and cook living alone and working full time. I love to cook. I can't wait until I retire. I have at least started a home garden so I can get some fresh veggies without shopping.

Dragon said...

This is amazing! I love the beef photo!

Donna-FFW said...

Jamie- I so love what you made.. This is one fantastic post. All this goodness, I cant stand it. Love the flavors and the meal. That dressing .. to die for.

Kitchen Jezebel said...

I just drooled all over my keyboard!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What a gorgeous salad! I love these flavors!

I was raised as a "gourmet" and ended up as one...



Cate said...

The salad looks delicious, and anything beats a Hungry Man!

The Cooking Photographer said...

I am drooling as I print out your salad recipe.

I wonder if "it" chefs are going by the wayside a bit?

Mrs. L said...

The salad looks great. And yeah, Cheeseburger Macaroni Hamburger Helper was a favorite of my families.
Not to mention Spam...yes, and I still eat it :)

Chow and Chatter said...

looks great nice to nice something savory here LOL


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