During the hot summer months, we're always on the lookout for healthy and easy-to-make pasta salad dishes. Over the past week it's been so hot that even the mere thought of turning on the oven to cook something makes me break out into a sweat.
That's why today's recipe, Thai Pasta Salad, is simply perfect for this time of year. It's low in fat, yet it also contains a healthy dose of protein, carbs and veggies. You'll have a balanced and complete meal with just this dish alone. After a hot afternoon spent mowing the lawn or playing tennis--or perhaps riding an inadequately air-conditioned bus from your job in New York City?--this dish really satisfies.
Best of all, it involves just a few scant minutes of stove time. And as you'll see below, the mix of spices is a lot more creative and exotic than some boring macaroni salad.
You can also make this recipe vegetarian style, either by leaving the chicken out, or (preferably) replacing it with 12-16 ounces of very firm tofu.
Thai Pasta Salad
1 lb chicken breasts, cut into smallish pieces
1 lb box of dried linguine
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
30-40 cilantro leaves (Unfortunately, for those of you who hate cilantro, you're SOL on this recipe--it's too critical an ingredient to leave out)
1) Season the chicken pieces with cayenne and/or black pepper. Heat oil in a large non-stick pan and then sear the chicken on high heat for just a few short minutes (certainly cook it through, but try not to overcook the chicken). Set aside.
2) Cook linguine according to directions. While water is boiling/pasta is cooking, make the dressing mixture (see below). Combine pasta with tomato, red pepper, cilantro and dressing mixture. Add the chicken and stir well. Can be served warm or cool.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce*
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3) Heat oil in a very small saucepan. Add chopped garlic and red pepper flakes. When the garlic and pepper flakes begin sizzling in the oil, remove from heat and add the remaining dressing ingredients. Set aside.
* Hoisin sauce can be found in the Asian food aisle of any major grocery store.
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Photographs courtesy of Laura L. Perrin.