Asian Chicken Salad

Man, it’s HOT out there! Five days in a row with 100+°F heat indexes has really taken its toll. Everyone is miserable and crabby, and nobody wants anything to do with sweating over a hot stove.

Fortunately, I was browsing  Serious Eats and came upon this main-dish-salad from Once Upon a Chef. It’s light, tasty, quick, and the only cooking involved is boiling noodles.  Talk about a life saver.

2 cups of cooked, shredded chicken (I used the leftovers from a store-bought rotisserie bird)
12 ounces spaghetti, broken in half (I used Mrs. Leepers gluten-free corn pasta)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped salted peanuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sugar

Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Drain and rinse well under cold water.

Make the dressing by putting the garlic in a food processor and pulsing until the garlic is minced. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, peanut oil, sesame oil, peanut butter, ginger, and sugar, and give them a whirl until they are well-combined.

In a large bowl, toss together the chicken, noodles, dressing, bell peppers, peanuts, and cilantro. Cover and stick in the fridge for 15 minutes. Give it a shake to coat everything, and refrigerate for another 15 minutes before serving.

Serve with a topping of sesame seeds and a drizzle of siracha.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I’ve made versions of this recipe as a side dish before, but it really shines as a dinner salad. The chicken makes it a light, but complete meal. The sauce is rich, creamy and tangy, and there’s plenty of crunch coming from the nuts and veggies.

Next time I might try using no-cook rice noodles and precooked frozen shrimp to make this a completely “no stove required” meal.

Stay cool.

Kindle Here I Come!

Using my crappy Photoshop skills and channeling my best Billy Mays impression (bless his black-bearded, huckstering soul)…

Food & Fire is now available via Amazon’s Kindle Blogs. For a measly $0.99 a month you can get recipes from this blog delivered automagically to your Kindle so you can read it anytime, even when you’re not wirelessly connected.

But wait! There’s more… you get a 14-day free trial! Don’t like it? Cancel in 14 days and you pay nothing. Like it? Don’t do a thing and your subscription will automatically continue at our special low monthly rate of $0.99.

Special thanks to the the fine folks over at She Cooks He Cleans for helping me to get this deal set up. I appreciate it! I hope this is another way for folks to discover my blog so I can share my geeky love of food.

Food & Fire App

Boy am I a geek. I got a new smartphone not long ago and it took just seconds for it to make itself indispensable. I use it to check the weather, read email, make dinner reservations, see when my bus is due,  update grocery lists, surf the web, play Angry Birds, get directions, scan SKUs to look up prices, ready blog feeds, and even sometimes make phone calls. If I have even a minute of downtime, I’m poking at my phone like a chimp, going “Ooo-oo-oo!”

So it was a natural that I create a mobile version of Food & Fire. You can either view a compact version of Food & Fire with any smartphone’s browser, download the site as an Android-only app at:, or scan the QR code at the start of the post. Note that since this is not an Android Market app, you’ll have to click the “Settings” button on your phone that lets you download non-market apps.

I am very excited (in a bespectacled, nerdlinger kind of way) about this because I now  essentially have all of my recipes with me all the time. I can hear it now:

“Do you have a good barbecue sauce recipe?”

“Sure, there’s an app for that.”

Ah, geek nirvana.


Nothing says spring like morel mushrooms. These wild ‘shrooms have a short growing season and it takes a sharp eye to spot them in the woods, but their wonderful nutty/meaty/smoky flavor makes them worth the hunt.

While I don’t seem to have the knack for finding them, I am lucky to have two brother-in-laws who have a special gift in that area, and sometimes they even share!

The only wrong way to prepare morels is to either overcook them or hide their flavor. I like them with just a little olive oil or butter, a grind of sea salt, and then a quick sauté. If I can do it on the grill, that’s even better.

A Little Delay

We were having guests over for dinner, and I was trying to get the side dishes ready when my dear wife squeals, “OMG, we’ve got eagles!”

I went out onto the deck and sure enough, this big guy and his partner were sitting in an oak tree right by our house. They were there for the better part of an hour, taking turns fishing from our pond. It was fascinating.

Needless to say, dinner ran a little late.

Grilled Beef and Chicken Kabobs

It was warm enough over the weekend that we could finally sit out on our deck. To celebrate, I made up these Mediterranean-ish kabobs. Marinating the meat overnight not only added a ton of flavor, but helped to keep it moist and tender despite the high grill temps and short cooking times.

Step 1 – Get Everything Marinating

Beef Kabobs

1 1/2 pounds beef sirloin, cut into large cubes
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1  teaspoon dried oregano (Turkish if you can get it)
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Put the garlic and salt in a food processor and give it a spin until the garlic is minced. Add the parsley, rosemary, oregano, oil, and lemon juice. Process until well-mixed.

Put the steak in a zip-top bag and cover with the marinade. Toss to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it, and put it in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.

Chicken Kabobs

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into large cubes
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (full fat)
1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper (or 2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper plus 1 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano (Turkish if you can get it)

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, Aleppo pepper, salt, black pepper, and oregano. Put the chicken in a zip-top bag and cover with the yogurt mixture. Toss to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it, and put it in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.

Step 2 – Make the Tzatziki


1 cup plain Greek yogurt (full fat)
2 tablespoons feta cheese (crumbled)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano (again, Turkish if you can get it)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons mint, finely chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled and grated

Combine every thing in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Step 3 – The Cook

Veggies (and Fruit)

3 bell peppers (red, yellow, and green), chopped into 1  1/2 inch pieces
8 ounces fresh mushrooms
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup dried plums
1/2 dried cherries
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon garam masala

When you are ready to grill, toss the veggies and dried fruit  together with the oil, vinegar, salt, and garam masala in a large bowl. Let sit while you bring the grill up to temperature.

You’ll need 8 to 10 bamboo skewers. Soak them in water for at least an hour.

Set the grill up for a direct cook over very hot (500°F +) heat.

Using a veggie basket, grill the veggies and fruit (stirring often) until the peppers soften and everything gets a little char on them, about 10 minutes. Remove the veggies to a bowl and keep warm.

Remove the meat from their respective marinades and thread onto skewers (the flat ones work great as they keep the meat from spinning around).  Grill the chicken about 6 minutes per side. Grill the beef for about 3 minutes per side. In both cases you’re looking for some crispy bits on the outside without overcooking the meat.

When the meat is done, remove from the grill and let rest for about 5 minutes. Then remove the meat from the skewers, toss with the veggies, and serve over a rice pilaf with a dollop of the tzatziki.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I really liked the way the flavors of these individual dishes complimented each other – juicy bites of charred-yet-succulent meat, sweet and savory veggies, tangy and refreshing tzatziki, and the rich blend of herbs and spices bringing it all together. It was a little United Nations on a stick.

Flashback Friday

Christening (April 7, 2010) – a year ago I named my Big Green Egg Bella, and got her a fancy personalized handle. I think she likes it.

Grilled Lamb (April 7, 2009) – two years ago was the last time I’ve made lamb. It was a good dish, but just not something I think to put on the grill. Might have to give it a try again.

Beef Tri-Tip (April 8, 2008) – three years ago I started my love affair with tri-tips roasts. It’s a cut that’s got great beefy flavor while still being lean and tender

Flashback Friday

Shrimp & Corn Chowder (April 1, 2010) – a hearty weeknight meal from Real Simple. This is one of the first shots I took with my new Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens. Man, I love that lens.

Beef Sate with Peanut Sauce (April 2, 2009) – meat on a stick with a wonderful peanut sauce flavored with red curry paste. I’ve since used a similar sauce to make a great cold noodle salad.

Tuna Confit (April 1, 2008) – my 4th post! Great-tasting tuna, as I recall, but it’s like looking at your high school yearbook; crappy photo, too much text, and not very well written. Yeesh. Glad I grew out of that stage.

Oven-Baked Oatmeal

My version of breakfast usually focuses heavily on eggs, pancakes, and fried pork products. While that’s great on the weekend when I’ve got time to cook, it’s tough to pull off during the week. Monday through Friday I need something that I can take to work and enjoy while my computer is booting up.

I borrowed this wonderful breakfast recipe from fellow Accidental Hedonist alumnus Cheryl over at 5 Second Rule. It’s a seriously hearty and filling casserole with all kinds of fruity bits in it that was originally from Faith Durand’s cookbook Not Your Mother’s Casseroles. It keeps well in the fridge, so I made a double batch and my dear wife and I have had it every morning this week. She likes it hot with a little whole milk. I really enjoy it cold topped with a scoop of Greek yogurt.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups steel-cut oats
4 cups water
3 cups milk
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup raisins or dried plums
1 cup unsweetened dried coconut
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease a 9×13 baking pan.  In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter and then add the oats. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until the oats brown and everything starts smelling toasty. Add the water and milk and bring to a simmer for a minute or two.

Remove from the heat and stir in the rest of the goodies – sugar, fruit, coconut, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Pour into the baking pan. Bake for until the top starts to brown, about 35 minutes. They might still look thin and soupy, but they will thicken up after they have cooled.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This is an excellent rich and creamy breakfast. The browned oatmeal and coconut gives it some crunch and texture, and the apples and dried fruit add a lot of sweetness without adding much extra sugar. Adding some Greek yogurt and a few chopped walnuts makes it a complete breakfast that sticks with me until lunch. I can see trying this with fresh apricots and dried cranberries, or with dates and almonds too. Thanks Cheryl

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