It seems this past week that summer wants to hang around a little longer. The humid afternoons in the garden and at the softball field have inspired a renewed longing for summer salads in my family. It could also be the intermittent functionality of our air conditioner is contributing to this desire for cool foods as well, but that’s another story. I was feeling adventurous this weekend so I decided to tackle something I have never attempted before at home. My family loves Thai and Vietnamese cuisine- especially if it begins with n and ends with oodle. I love Pho and had a hankering for something along that line except not hot soup. I decided to give making a Faux Pho Salad a whirl. I, of course, decided this as we pulled up to the grocery store to get dinner supplies. I grabbed my phone and checked to see if anybody had tried this before and had advice. I found a pretty tasty looking Cold Noodle Salad recipe on Smitten Kitchen that I used as a base guide. I love the recipes on that site; they are always extremely reliable.
As we were cruising The Fresh Market for our ingredients, my daughter asked if we could add tofu to the salad. It is funny she would ask because for years my son begged me to make tofu dishes. I never really found a lot of places to insert tofu into recipes while he lived with us, but now that he is gone, it keeps cropping up. I am not sure where they got the burning desire for tofu, but they both love it! I guess some of it is the emphasis we put on trying things. My husband and I both are strong believers in sampling what life has to offer from travel to food to jobs. It is always funny to run down our resume of past jobs and homes. We have lived every where (except abroad…that is next) and have had at least two full professional careers a piece that have nothing to do with what we do now. We probably won’t retire to a grand house in the Hamptons, but we definitely live our lives each moment.
Since Olivia requested the tofu, I decided this was a good opportunity for her to take the driver’s seat on the cooking with me providing hero support on the chopping and prepping front. She likes to dabble in the kitchen with me, but usually it is in the baking department. She is sort of obsessed with the new shows popping up that showcase young cooks. I think we are beginning to see a Renaissance of generational cooking. I grew up cooking with my Nanny and Aunt Becky and know how valuable that experience was to my own food identity. I love she and I can spend time talking about family stories in the kitchen because I know she will hold on to the traditions that I started so long ago on that Vermont farm. Below is what we came up for our Faux Pho Salad.
Faux Pho Salad
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
6 tbsp. fish sauce (in your Asian foods section)
6 tbsp. light brown sugar
10 tbsp. Nellie & Joe’s Key West lime juice (gives a more tart flair)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano chili, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 of the prepared dressing (recipe below)
-Whisk these ingredients together in a bowl. Let it set and marry together for 10 minutes.
3 tbsp. fish sauce
4 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
8 tbsp. Nellie & Joe’s Key West lime juice
3 tbsp. soy sauce (I like low sodium to keep salt content down)
3 inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
6 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
-Throw all the ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 lb. firm tofu (make sure you get the firm variety), cut into small cubes
1 pkg. purple cabbage slaw mix
1 pkg. Soba noodles
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, thinly quarter-mooned
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro, rough chopped
1/4 bunch Thai basil (it is purple)
1 bunch scallions, bias chopped thinly
1 serrano chili, seeded, thinly sliced
red pepper, seeded, julienned
handful bean sprouts
2 tbsp. sesame oil
Marinate the chicken and tofu in the marinade mix and 1/2 the dressing mix for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the Soba noodles according to the package…almost. Most packages call for about 4-5 minutes in boiling water. Cut this down by 30 seconds so your noodles are still slightly toothsome. Rinse them in cold water to remove any lingering starch. Put all the prepped vegetables and the noodles in a bowl large enough to mix your salad by hand- hint that is a BIG bowl.
Once your 20 minutes has expired, heat 1 tbsp. sesame oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Make sure the pan is hot and put the chicken and tofu in. Saute them until browned- add some of the dressing if needed for moisture. Once they are cooked rough chop the chicken and add the tofu and chicken to the burgeoning salad. Allow mixture to cool slightly. Once chicken and tofu are cool enough to the touch to mix, add the dressing and last tbsp. sesame oil and dig in. Rotate ingredients around being careful not to smush the noodles. Refrigerate about 40 minutes and you are good to go!
BTW- I felt white wine was the way to go with this dish. I chose a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Starborough, to accompany our faux pho. It was light and refreshing and had a nice citrus tang to it that married well with the lime in the dressing.