Chinese Chicken Salad

This salad could go either way. It could be called a Chinese chicken salad or it could simply be called a chopped salad.

The only real difference between the two is the dressing and the crunch.

In the past, I’ve used dry, fried chow mein noodles to achieve the crunch. In restaurants, I think the guest expects this. But because I’m trying to cut down on white flour (and fried foods), I substituted a little fresh cabbage.

There was definitely less crunch, but it wasn’t really missed in the texture. And the cabbage added better flavor than chow mein noodles, which to me always taste kind of sawdust-y anyway.

The other difference is the dressing. On a chopped salad, I would use a simple vinaigrette or a low-fat creamy dressing. But because I was going for an Asian feel here, I used a fat-free sesame soy ginger vinaigrette I picked up at Trader Joe’s.

My sesame soy ginger vinaigrette is delicious, but it is not fat free. I wanted to try TJ’s version, and although it was sweeter than mine, I found it to be delightful.

On both a chopped salad and this Chinese chicken salad, all the ingredients are cut into small peices. This gives it a texture that is a little different and is easier to eat.

Any salad can be made into a chopped salad, including a Caesar salad, a Salade Nicoise, a Cobb salad or a chef’s salad. It’s all about the size that you cut the ingredients and it makes for a nice change of pace once in awhile.

This salad also is sometimes called a garbage salad, although I’ve always stayed away from that name on my menus. It just has kind of an off-putting connotation to me: “And here’s your plate of garbage, madame!”

Chinese Chicken Salad

1 Boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked and small dice

1/2 head Green leaf lettuce, chopped fine

1 cup Shredded green cabbage

1 large Tomato, ribs and seeds removed, small dice

1/2 Red onion, small dice

2 Green onions, sliced thin

1/2 Green bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, sliced thin

1/4 cup Crumbled Blue cheese

1/4 cup Crumbed Feta cheese

For Sesame Soy Ginger Vinaigrette

1 TBS Sesame oil

1/2 cup Extra virgin olive oil

2 TBS Rice wine vinegar

2 tsp Low-sodium soy sauce

1 tsp honey

1 TBS Fresh ginger, chopped fine

1 clove Garlic, crushed

Sea Salt

Fresh Cracked black pepper

1. Combine the oils in a bowl and mix. In a separate bowl, combine the vinegar, soy sauce, honey, ginger and garlic. Slowly add the oils to the vinegar mixture, starting with a drop at a time and slowly building, until dressing is emulsified. Then season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Combine all salad ingredients in large bowl. Dress with vinaigrette and mix throroughly. To plate, use a tongs to pile the dressing high in the middle of a large salad or pasta bowl, trying to attain as much height as possible. Make sure large peices of the chicken are visible.

A word about lettuce: In this salad, I used a green leaf lettuce, which is my lettuce of choice, along with red leaf. You also could use Romaine, a spring mix blend or a mixture of escarole and any other kind of lettuce to get a great texture and a healthy salad.

One lettuce I would never recommend is iceburg lettuce, which ironically is the most popular because it also is the cheapest. Iceburg lettuce is composed almost entirely of water and that’s exactly what it tastes like. Also, it has almost no nutritional value.

It pains me to say this because this is supposed to be a budget cooking column, but where’s the savings if the flavor is poor and there aren’t any usable vitamins or minerals? Do yourself and your family a favor and spend the few extra pennies for greens that not only taste better but are much better for you!