I’ve been so good. Seriously. On Friday I took one last bite of an oatmeal-brownie-butterscotch sundae (true story) and vowed That’s it. That was the last piece of junk that was going down the hatch until…when? That’s always the question, isn’t it? Does it speak to my pathological optimism or my deep-seeded denial that every year I vow to tweak my dietary habits — not the kind that involve a piece of homemade apple pie with the family; the really bad kind that involve shaking the kids’ carseat to unleash the last few nickels I need in order to uncoil the Milky Way Midnight from the vending machine. And every year, I come up short. As in, after few short days, I am right back to my I-hate-myself habits. I mean, how is it that I am already a little less excited by the whole-grain-packed cookbook that arrived on my doorstep today, which I one-clicked in a fit of steely resolve only five days ago. I was going to do it this time! I really really was! (Charlie Duhigg! Where are you when I need you?) This is not to say I have given up…entirely. All of this is merely an attempt to stay one step ahead of my worst self. This year, I’m embracing her instead of pretending she doesn’t exist — keeping my enemy close and all that. In the meantime, my best self has been enjoying some majorly healthy dinners — like this incredibly flavorful shredded salad with chicken that was spiked with a clean Asian-ish vinaigrette. I thought your pathologically optimistic selves might appreciate too. At least for the next few days.
Asian-ish Shredded Chicken Salad
Warning: This recipe has one of those annoying ingredient lines that says “2 chicken breasts that have been poached in mirin and soy sauce for 15 minutes,” as though you just so happen to have that kind of thing lying around with the peanut butter. Feel free to use whatever leftover chicken you’ve got, or, even better, the white meat from a storebought rotisserie.
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fish sauce (available at Asian specialty stores and better supermarkets)
lime juice from half a lime
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 drop of hot pepper paste (or, for heat, you can use hot sauce or mince a jalapeno or serrano chile; we just happened to have this leftover from a 99-ingredient David Chang recipe)
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
2 to 3 large handfuls of shredded cabbage (both Savoy and Red)
half a handful of shredded baby spinach
1 handful of shredded carrots
1 bunch (about 5-6) scallions, white and light green parts only, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 chicken breasts (poached/simmered for 15 minutes in a pot filled with 3 cups of water, a 1/4 cup rice wine, a little soy sauce, a half an onion) shredded
handful of chopped peanuts to taste
sesame seeds (optional)
In a large bowl whisk together all the dressing ingredients. To the same bowl, add all salad ingredients and toss until combined. If you are afraid your kids won’t like it, separate out the components you are sure they will like and reserve some dressing for them as a dip.