Asian Chicken and Cabbage Salad

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I’m not one to make a long list of New Year’s resolutions, but there are a couple of things I’d like to accomplish in 2016. One is to clean out my attic, the other is to feed my microbes.

Yes, microbes. All of a sudden, it seems, there are new books and TV shows about the bacteria that live in our intestines. Scientists have discovered they play a crucial role in our health, affecting everything from how we digest our food to the strength of our immune system and our outlook on life. Imbalances in our flora have been linked to disease, obesity, and depression. But how we feed these microorganisms is key: junk food kills them off, but a diet high in high-fibre fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, nuts, seeds, probiotics, prebiotics, and fermented foods will encourage their growth, nourish their diversity, and make us healthy.

If you’re interested in exploring this fascinating subject, there’s no shortage of material. I started with the charming and hilarious Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ, by Giulia Enders, a PhD student at Frankfurt’s Institute for Microbiology. Then I watched the CBC’s The Nature of Things: It Takes Guts, which introduces viewers to, among others, UK genetic epidemiologist Tim Spector, author of The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat. There are other new books on the subject, two featured recently in the New York Book Review. The subject is all over the Internet.

Spector has made a list of 10 particularly gut-friendly foods that will “fertilize” our microbiome: Jerusalem artichokes; leeks; garlic; lentils; apples; nuts; yogurt; extra-virgin olive oil; red wine; and dark chocolate. He’s also big on Belgian beer from the south-west of the country, unpasteurized cheese, coffee and celery. This is not a diet of deprivation, it’s a feast!

My friend Annie Thurlow from Charlottetown, PEI, send me this recipe for Asian Chicken and Cabbage Salad, from Bon Appétit magazine. She has been making it lately to help her recover from all the cookies she ate over the holidays, a situation that no doubt most of us find ourselves in this month. This salad would perk up any microbe, so packed is it with the nutritional powerhouses of raw, crunchy cabbage, dark leafy spinach, and bright orange carrots. It also contains all the goodness of nuts and seeds and the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger. Put your leftover rotisserie chicken to good use here, or substitute fried shrimp or tofu cubes. The dressing is delicious, and brings it all together. You will want more, more more.

Asian Chicken and Cabbage Salad
Ingredients
  • 1 red jalapeño or Fresno chile with some seeds, chopped
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled ginger
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ small head of red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, shredded
  • 6 scallions, whites and pale greens only, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (or equal amount of fried shrimp or tofu cubes)
  • 1 cup baby spinach, thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Whisk chile, oil, lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, fish sauce, and ginger in a large bowl; season with salt. Add cabbage, carrots, scallions, chicken, spinach, and cilantro; toss to coat. Top with peanuts and sesame seeds.
  • Serves: 4

 

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