When Giuliana Rancic bit into that chocolate Oscar and the passionfruit filling dribbled down her dress, I had serious food envy. She was interviewing chef Wolfgang Puck Sunday on E! before the Oscars. Later at the Governor’s Ball he would offer the stars Waygu beef sliders, truffled mac and cheese, lobster corn dogs, baby potatoes with caviar, gold-dusted popcorn and those chocolate-passionfruit Oscars.
Poor me. Here I was in my cozy pajamas with a fluffy dog, a handsome man and a big salad of spinach, toasted coconut, cashews, poached chicken, quinoa, raisins and a creamy curried yogurt dressing. Wait a minute. Maybe Giuliana should be envying me.
I made the big salad for our annual Oscar watch, which is exciting only to me and possibly our dog Oscar, who was named while we watched the awards show 10 years ago. The salad provided all the excitement for Tony. While photographing it in the kitchen, I wondered whether it would serve three or four. Tony gave me the answer after I scooped about a fourth of the salad into a bowl for myself. He grabbed a fork and carried the salad that was left, in its serving bowl, to the living room where we were camped out.
Shoot, no leftovers.
The salad was as good as I remembered, and the creamy curry dressing was, too. I first tasted it last month in Florida, where it was a carryout special in a supermarket deli. I jotted down the ingredients, arranged in swaths over a bed of spinach. The toasted coconut, nuts and curry dressing gave it an Indian vibe. The dressing was delicious. It just hinted at curry, and had fruity undertones I couldn’t nail down.
Luckily, I found several versions of yogurt curry dressing on the Internet. I bought a quart of plain yogurt to experiment with, but by luck cracked the recipe on the first try. Surprisingly, lemon juice is what provided the fruity note. I needn’t have opened the bottle of mango chutney I was going to puree for my second attempt.
I hope I don’t file and forget this salad recipe, as I do with many of my creations. I’m always thinking ahead, not behind. This salad, though, is too good to forget, and healthful enough that I’ll want to eat it year-round.
But I still want one of those chocolate Oscars.
MADRAS SALAD WITH CURRY YOGURT DRESSING
4 cups packed spinach leaves, any long stems removed
1 cup cubed rotisserie or poached chicken
1/2 cup cooked and cooled quinoa, seasoned with salt
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
1/2 cup toasted coconut
1/4 cup raisins
Curry yogurt dressing (recipe follows)
Wash spinach and roll in paper towels to dry. Arrange in the bottom of a wide, shallow serving bowl. Arrange chicken in an inch-wide strip down the center of the salad. Arrange quinoa, cashews, coconut and raisins in strips on either side of chicken. Pass the dressing at the table. Serves two to three.
CURRY YOGURT DRESSING
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
2 tsp. honey
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
Combine yogurt and mayonnaise and stir until smooth. Add curry powder, turmeric, honey, lemon juice and salt and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Taste and correct seasonings if necessary. Thin to pouring consistency with water. Makes about 1 cup.
HELP YOU COOK
Is poaching becoming a lost art? With the advent of rotisserie chicken and deli salmon, and the emphasis on pan-grilling and saucing, the classic French technique isn’t used much, at least at my house.
When shopping for my salad, I found chicken tenders on sale and no rotisserie chicken at the store I visited. So I bought the tenders and poached them. I had forgotten how tender and juicy poached chicken is.
To make basic poached chicken, place the chicken pieces (boneless or bone-in, with or without skin) in a pan large enough to fit the chicken in a single layer and deep enough to cover with water. Cover the chicken with cool water by about a half inch. Partially cover with lid and bring to a simmer. When the first bubbles break the surface, adjust the heat so the water barely simmers. A single bubble at a time should rise to the surface and lazily pop. Poach until the chicken is just cooked through, which will take less time for boneless than bone-in, and less for smaller pieces (thighs) than large (whole breasts). Generally, chicken pieces will be done in about 15 to 20 minutes.
Don’t throw away the poaching liquid. Drink it as a pick-me-up or freeze it to add to soups.
I haven’t kept up with my cooking/dining diary because I was tending to my ill cat, Mia, who died last week. Tony and I will miss her. Life has somewhat returned to normal, so I will be able to chronicle my eating habits next week. I like this feature because it compels me to try new restaurants. I hope you like it, too.
Just a thought but I wonder if the citron spicy chili pork wontons you enjoyed at House of Hunan in Fairlawn might be the same as Dan Dan Pork Wontons but with a possible addition of yuzu kosha (citrus chili paste), which would explain the citrus taste you mentioned.
I have a cookbook, “Dumplings All Day Wong,” which has a recipe for Dan Dan Pork Wontons and the description in the book (and some of the ingredients) seems pretty close to the description on the House of Hunan website for their Spicy Chili Pork Wontons. Check out the book if you haven’t as yet, it’s a great cookbook.
Also, even though I’m sure you and Tony know this recipe in and out, here’s a link to a recipe for yuzu kosha (citrus chili paste) that you might want to give a go as it might be a nice addition to your next chili pork wonton cloning experiment: https://cookpad.com/us/recipes/172813-homemade-yuzu-kosho-citrus-chili-paste.
Your note struck a chord. When I had the wontons in the restaurant, the flavor immediately reminded me of dan dan noodles. I think that will be my departure point the next time I make the dish, and I will definitely add some of the yuzu kosha, which I had never heard of. Thanks for the link.
From Susan P.:
When I crave Asian food, I make the 30-minute drive to Cleveland’s Payne Avenue area. One of my favorite spots is Szechuan Gourmet next to Tink Hol grocery. The wonton in spicy sauce as well as the dan dan noodles are addictive.
I will definitely have to try House of Hunan’s and save myself the almost weekly trip to Cleveland. I’ll let you know how they compare…but do make the trip to Szechuan Gourmet if you haven’t already. They have an extensive menu of foods not available in this area.
One item I don’t see in your recipe is bits of actual Szechuan peppercorns. You might try toasting and then crushing some and adding them to your sauce. I think it gives a greater depth of flavor than just the chili oil.
I will return to Szechuan Gourmet now that I know the spicy dumplings are on the menu. Thanks for the tip about the peppercorns. I have a bag of them to use up.
From Dorothy G.:
The recipe for pork roast (last week’s newsletter) looks good, but I do not like rosemary at all. What could I use instead?
Sprigs of thyme would be a good substitute. Fresh sage leaves would work, also.
From Jan and Bob P., Tallmadge:
We’re excited to see the new Uzbek carryout place on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls. We ate at an Uzbek restaurant called “Silk Road” while snow birding in the Ft. Myers area. It was delicious! You should try it next time you’re down that way.
Dear Jan and Bob:
I did get to the Ft. Myers area last trip. If I swing that way next January, I’ll search out Silk Road. Thanks — I love restaurant tips.
In your newsletter you mentioned an African peanut soup. My wife used to love the one they served occasionally at West Side Bakery in Fairlawn (not sure if they still do). Anyway, can you hook me up with a good recipe for one?
I couldn’t get the bakery’s recipe, but I found perhaps the next-best thing. The peanut soup recipe in the classic “Sunday’s at Moosewood” is one of the most popular recipes in the book, according to the Washington Post. It sounds delicious.
WEST AFRICAN PEANUT SOUP
1 tbsp. oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small celery rib, chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1 tbsp. peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp. Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce, plus more to taste
12 oz. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups tomato juice, preferably low sodium
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro, plus more leaves for garnish
1 scallion, white and green parts, sliced thin, for garnish
Heat the oil in a medium soup pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion and celery with the salt until softened. Stir in the ginger and Tabasco. Add the sweet potatoes and water. Increase heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat so the liquid is barely bubbling around the edges. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the tomato juice and peanut butter. Use a stick immersion blender to create a creamy, pureed soup, or puree in batches in a blender. Stir in the chopped cilantro and warm through. Taste and add salt and/or hot sauce as needed.
Divide among bowls and top with the scallions and cilantro leaves. Serve hot. Makes 4 1/2 to 5 cups.