Napa Cabbage Salad with Chicken, Edamame, and Creamy Sesame Dressing

After the last post, here’s a more seasonal lunch I made with ingredients I already had. We had some Napa cabbage and bell pepper that needed to get used up, and this is the salad that they turned into. Napa cabbage is my favorite cabbage—it’s crunchy and mild, and it lacks the toughness and pungency that some other cabbages have.

IMG_4826I wanted to use the Napa cabbage raw and make some sort of salad with it, but most of the recipes I found with it were meant to be used as side dishes, and I wanted something that would be more filling so I could take it as a one-dish meal for lunch. I went with carrot, bell pepper, and red onion for the other vegetables, partly because that’s just what I had, and —you guessed it—I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store. I imagine that cucumber, sugar snap peas, and/or snow peas would also be good in it.

IMG_4827For the dressing, honestly, I was hoping to re-create something similar to the sesame coleslaw at Café Asia, which is dynamite. Usually, trying to imitate something I had in a restaurant is a recipe for disaster. (Pun intended.) My version inevitably ends up significantly inferior to whatever I was trying to mimic, and it just leaves me with an even worse craving for the restaurant dish. This dressing, though—this dressing turned out pretty darn well. Just be sure to read the note about the consistency.

Note: If you’re going to use the dressing right away, you might want to thin it down with extra vinegar or some water. If you’re going to keep it on hand for a while, just let it rest. Mine got much, much thinner after a night in the fridge, and I don’t have an Alton Brown-y scientific explanation for why.

Also, for the chicken, I used the spicy asian marinade from Epicurious.

Napa Cabbage Salad with Chicken, Edamame, and Creamy Sesame Dressing

serves 2

For the dressing—you might not use all of it:

  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise (I used light)
  • 1 Tbsp. tahini
  • 1 Tbsp. white miso paste
  • 4 tsp. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. mirin
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  1. Whisk together all of the ingredients until smooth. Taste for seasoning. I didn’t add any salt because the miso paste was salty enough.

For the rest of the salad and assembly:

  • about 4 cups chopped Napa cabbage
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shelled edamame, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 grilled chicken breast (or rotisserie chicken breast, or leftover chicken from whatever), sliced
  • optional garnish: toasted sesame seeds
  1. Divide the vegetables evenly onto two plates.
  2. Top with the chicken, and the sesame seeds if using.
  3. Add dressing to taste and toss. You might not use all of the dressing.

Curried Chicken Thighs with Okra and Potatoes

When my parents came to visit last weekend, I took them to H-Mart. Yes, the huge Asian supermarket. Yes, for fun! My parents don’t have any grocery stores like that where they live, and they wanted to check it out. Besides, over the years of my parents visiting, we’ve exhausted pretty much everything on the typical DC-area must-do list, so we’ve got to get a little creative with our adventures now. And the Saturday samples at H-Mart!—they put Costco to shame. As we walked in through the doors, my eyes lit up, and I’m pretty sure I exclaimed “Mangoes!” Imagine the delight of a little kid being offered an ice cream cone he wasn’t expecting, and you’ll get the picture. I didn’t realize mangoes were coming into season, and it was like a surprise present seeing them piled high in the produce aisle. I have a thing for mangoes, but specifically the small yellow kind, which are sometimes hard to find and usually more expensive. I’ve seen them labeled as champagne mangoes or ataulfo mangoes (which are apparently two names for the same thing), but comparing them to the more widely-available Tommy Atkins mango is like comparing Haribo Gold Bears to CVS brand gummy bears. It’s just laughable. The champagne mango is sweet and tart and delicious, but the real draw for me is its texture, which is just to die for: it’s unbelievably smooth and creamy, unlike the Tommy Atkins mango, which is so fibrous that sometimes you think it’s been crossbred with celery. I don’t want to have to go floss my teeth after I eat a piece of fruit. Obviously, a box of those mangoes came home with me. I reluctantly shared some with my mom, and hoarded the rest for myself. Mostly, I just like to eat them plain, or mix them into some yogurt with a sprinkle of nuts or granola for breakfast. I have a hard time finding recipes that I like that use mangoes because they rarely seem to do the mango justice. The main dishes are often too one-note sweet for my taste, and the desserts I’ve tried seem to detract from the mango flavor instead of complement it. These curried chicken thighs, however, are spot-on. I have to admit, when I read the ingredient list, it sounded pretty impossible that everything could come together and actually taste good. It’s got a lot going on. First, you blend up a spice mixture that includes fennel and curry powder—not a combination I’ve seen before—and use it like a dry rub on your chicken.

Next, after browning the chicken, you sear potato pieces in the same pan you cooked the chicken in, then dump the chicken back in the pan along with some water, cinnamon sticks, tomato paste and sugar. Sounds odd, right? Just go with it. After a few minutes, you add some okra pods and let them stew a little while. Once the veggies are tender, lemon juice brightens everything up, and it’s cooked a little more until it thickens.

IMG_4341Mango, peanut, and fresh cilantro top everything off, and the dish wouldn’t be the same without them. Seriously, they play a small but essential part; we’ve got some Best Supporting Actor nominees here.

Peanuts, mango, and cilantro for the final touch.

Heat from the cayenne and curry powder, sweetness from the brown sugar and mangoes, richness from the chicken and potatoes, and crunch from the peanuts and okra—it sounds like it would be a mess, but somehow it all works. IMG_4375

Note: This is adapted, barely, from the Curried Chicken Legs with Okra and Potatoes from Epicurious.

Curried Chicken Thighs with Okra and Potatoes serves 4

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 lb.), patted dry
  • 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp. curry powder; I used hot madras
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cayenne
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. peeled minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/3 lb. new potatoes (red-skinned)
  • 1/2 lb. fresh okra
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • kosher salt, to taste

For topping:

  • 1 champagne mango, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped roasted salted peanuts
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Grind the the coriander, curry powder, fennel, and cayenne in a spice grinder or coffee grinder, then place the mixture in a medium bowl. Add the chopped garlic and ginger to the dry spices, and stir to combine. Add the chicken thighs and rub all over. Season to taste with kosher salt. Let them sit while you prep the veggies.
  2. Cut the potatoes into 1″ chunks and trim the okra stems, but don’t cut the pods. Combine the water, brown sugar, and tomato paste.
  3. Heat the oil in a large 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. (I have also made this in a stock pot, and it works fine but you might have to brown the chicken in 2 batches.) Add the chicken and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and tent with foil.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium and add the potatoes to the same skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes start to brown.
  5. Add the chicken plus any accumulated juices back into the skillet, and also add the water mixture and cinnamon sticks. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the okra and simmer, covered, for another 5 minutes. At this point, the potatoes should be almost done, and the okra should be getting tender but still fairly bright green.
  7. Add the lemon juice and cook uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and season to taste with kosher salt. Divide among 4 plates and top evenly with mango, peanuts, and cilantro.

Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Baked Potato

This piled-high potato has been my go-to bachelorette dinner (and snow-day lunch) for the past week and a half. Whenever I have plans for the evening and my husband doesn’t, you can pretty much guarantee that he gets Peruvian chicken from a place near our house. (It has amaaaaazingly good chicken. And fries. And sauce. Two kinds of sauce actually. A spicy green one and a tangy mayo-y one. Sooooo good. I’d probably go there too but I am one of those people who hates eating out alone, even if it only means standing in the take-out line by myself.) So, if I’m the one on my own for dinner, I usually cook something easy.

This dish happened because, well, I had a lot of leftover cooked chicken from making that soup from the last post, but I really didn’t feel like making soup again and I wasn’t in the mood for chicken salad. And also because my parents made some dynamite scalloped potatoes over Christmas that I was kind of craving, but that’s not the type of thing you can easily make a single serving of. I ended up making a cheese sauce based on the scalloped potatoes recipe my parents had, and then using it to top a baked potato filled with leftover chicken and steamed broccoli. Even though the cheese sauce tastes rich, it’s not over the top: it contains the equivalent of one slice of cheese and has only a minimal amount of butter, and I used 1% milk because that’s what we keep around. Plus, it’s fast and simple. Seriously it takes less than 10 minutes from prep to finish. You essentially sauté a little chopped onion and garlic in some butter, then add some milk and cornstarch, then add some cheese, and voilà. The only way to mess it up is to turn the heat up too high.

Except for the sauce, everything else can be made ahead of time to make it even easier to throw together. You could cook several potatoes and steam a bunch of broccoli, then reheat them when you want them. My leftover chicken was in the freezer, and I just defrosted a little bit at a time as a needed it. I’m sure rotisserie chicken or grilled chicken would work too. It’s a whole meal delivered on a spud—you’ve got your starch, your veg, your meat, and your dairy. No sides necessary. And you could easily omit the chicken to make it vegetarian.

In other news, pantryhero is now on Instagram. Some of the photos will overlap, but I’ll also be adding photos of other (non-leftover-using) culinary adventures that don’t make it to the blog.

 Note:  The cheese sauce is an adaptation of this scalloped potatoes recipe from It firms up pretty quickly as it cools, so you want everything else to be hot/reheated and ready to go before you start making it.

Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Baked Potato

serves 1 quite generously; can easily be double, tripled, etc.

For the potato, fillings, and assembly:

  • 1 medium russet potato
  • 1 1/2 c. broccoli florets (about 1/2 medium crown)
  • 1/2 c. diced cooked chicken
  • 1/2 Tbsp. chicken broth (optional)
  • kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 recipe of cheese sauce (see below)
  1. Cook the potato: Preheat the oven to 350º. Scrub the potato clean and prick it with a fork a few times. Rub it with some olive oil and kosher salt, and place it directly on a rack in the center of the oven. Bake until the skin is crispy and the inside is easily pierced with a fork, about 1 hour.
  2. Cook the broccoli: Steam the broccoli until cooked to your taste. For this recipe, I like it bright green and not overly tender.
  3. Reheat the chicken if necessary. I added 1/2 Tbsp. chicken broth to it and popped it into the microwave for 20 seconds.
  4. Split open the warm potato and sprinkle it with a little kosher salt and pepper. Add the chicken, then the broccoli, and season with another sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  5. Make the cheese sauce and drizzle it on top of everything. Serve immediately.

For the cheese sauce:

  • 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 c. milk (I used 1%)
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. minced onion
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. table salt
  • small pinch of cayenne
  • 1 oz. cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (I used sharp)
  • more salt and pepper to taste
  1. Whisk the cornstarch into the milk and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
  3. Add the onion and garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, until the onion is soft and translucent, 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the milk/cornstarch mixture, salt, and cayenne, and bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the grated cheese. Whisk until the cheese has completely melted into the sauce—this will hardly take any time at all. You will still see some lumps because of the onion and garlic. Let it bubble for a minute or so to thicken.
  6. Remove from heat, adjust seasoning if needed, and use immediately.

Chicken and Vegetable Soup with Butter Beans

It’s time for a recipe that uses the Twizzler-celery I mentioned in the About section.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted because I’ve been out of town. I spent most of the week of Christmas at my parents’ house, and I helped my family make and eat deliciously unhealthy holiday food, but we left all the extras with my parents. I also went to California for a friend’s (3-day Indian-American celebratory extravaganza that was simply called their) wedding, where the guests were all generously fed the most amazing Indian food for 3 different meals.

Dinner on the night of the sangeet ceremony.

So when I got home for good about a week ago, the cupboard was pretty much bare, except for some 2+ week old celery. I thought I should cook it since it obviously wouldn’t be bringing any crunch to anything if I left it raw. Soup sounded good because yes, like pretty much everyone else, I’m motivated to be a little healthier after the holidays. Also, the polar vortex has come back in full force, and I am refusing to consume anything that will make me feel even colder. Soup instead of a sandwich, red wine instead of white… You might even find me drinking lukewarm water.

That's right. I'm going to cook with this.

That’s right. I’m going to cook with this.

This soup is one that we had regularly when I was growing up. When I was in college and asked my mom to send me the recipe, the answer she gave me on the phone was something like, “Uhhh…well…(imagine a genuinely concerned sigh of stress here)…I don’t really have a recipe but I can tell you what I generally do.” So, this is the first time I’ve ever actually measured out the ingredients while making this soup. In any case, these are the elements that absolutely have to be a part of it if we’re going to refer to it as the chicken and vegetable soup that I grew up with:

  1. Homemade chicken broth.
  2. No pasta. This is not chicken noodle soup.
  3. The vegetables must be onion, carrot, celery, tomato, potato, corn, and….
  4. …lima beans. But who wants to eat lima beans? They sound so unappetizing, right? Whoever did the marketing to get people to start using the term “dried plums” instead of “prunes” needs to jump on the lima beans goldmine ASAP because they really should be called butter beans. Or, if you’re my grandma, “buttah beans.” Mmmm…butter beans…doesn’t that make it sound like they’re going to be rich-tasting and creamy and savory? (Which they are.) I like the bigger ones, but you could use the small ones. They will probably be in a bag labeled “lima beans,” but don’t let that turn you off.

The broth of this soup is really important because it’s where most of the flavor comes from. It will take a while to make because you will need to leave it on the stove for a long time if you want it to end up tasting really good. I usually make it a day or two ahead of time, or sometimes I just freeze it and then it’s ready to go when I want to make soup.

When I make broth, my goal is to have something I could drink a cup of plain and enjoy. I want it to be herby and garlicky and salty. And most of all, I want it to congeal so much after I put it in the fridge to cool down that it is scoopable instead of pourable.

After the broth is done, the rest of the soup comes together pretty easily. You just have to chop, sauté, and simmer. I would highly recommend serving this soup with fresh homemade biscuits topped with a warm pat of salted butter and then a spoonful of apple butter, but maybe that’s just nostalgia talking.

Note: You can freeze this soup, as long as you don’t mind that the potatoes will probably break down a little bit when you defrost it. Also, for the broth, you might notice that the photos don’t look like they have the same amounts of garlic and celery that I listed below. I used more garlic because my cloves were quite small, and I used the celery heart and the leafy tops for the broth because I didn’t have a ton of celery and wanted to save the stalks for the soup. For the broth, I like to put the crushed peppercorns and allspice in a metal tea infuser ball, which works like a cheesecloth but is easier to use. Lastly, I cooked this in a bigger pot than I normally do, and it made 3 1/2 quarts, which is about 1 quart more than usual. When I cook it in my smaller soup pot, I think I use 2 potatoes, maybe 2 cups of butter beans, and about 3 cups of chicken. Probably a little less stock, too. 

Chicken and Vegetable Soup

For the broth:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 14 c. cold water
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, root end left intact, peeled and quartered
  • 4-5 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the flat side of a knife
  • 2 medium carrots, cut once lengthwise and once crosswise
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into about 4″ lengths
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. whole allspice, lightly crushed
  • a few springs of whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. I used rosemary, thyme, and sage because that’s what was still alive in the garden. Parsley and oregano would work well too.
  1. Rinse the chicken and remove the gizzard/organs. If you have a dog and want to make her an especially happy puppy, boil those innards and then chop them up and mix them into her dog food.
  2. Put the chicken, water, and all other ingredients in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a bare simmer. Simmer gently for about 2 hours. Flip the chicken after an hour or so if it’s not fully submerged.
  3. After about 2 hours, the chicken should be falling-off-the-bones tender. Use a pairs of tongs to remove the chicken from the stockpot, but keep the stock simmering. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pick all of the meat off of it, but don’t throw away the bones and skin. Set the meat aside—put it in container and stick it in the fridge or freezer. You’re going to put some of it back in the soup later.
  4. Add the chicken bones and skin back to the stockpot. Partially cover the pot with a lid and keep it at a bare simmer for another 3 hours or so.
  5. Strain the broth into a bowl or large container. I ended up with a scant 8 cups of stock. Let it cool for a little while, and then refrigerate it overnight, or until the fat on top has congealed. Remove as much or as little of the congealed fat as you want. The broth can now be used or frozen.

For the soup:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 c. chopped yellow or white onion
  • 2 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 3 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced about 1/4″ thick
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and diagonally sliced about 1/4″ thick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 14 oz. whole tomatoes in juice
  • 8 c. of the broth you made
  • 1 16-oz. package frozen butter beans
  • 3 medium Yukon Gold or other boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 15-oz. can whole kernel corn, drained
  • about 4 c. shredded or diced meat from the chicken you made the broth with. I like a combination of light and dark meat, but use whatever you like.
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • freshly ground pepper
  1. In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrots, 1/4 tsp. of the kosher salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent but not brown, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the oregano, tomatoes, and the remaining 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Break the tomatoes up with the back of a wooden spoon.
  4. Add the bay leaves and stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.
  5. Add the butter beans and simmer another 10 minutes.
  6. Add the potatoes and simmer until almost tender, about 10 more minutes.
  7. Add the corn and chicken and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes.
  8. Before serving, remove the bay leaves and adjust seasoning season to taste.

Grilled Chicken, Grated Carrot, Golden Raisin, and Goat Cheese Salad with Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette


Where is the post-Thanksgiving post?, you ask. What should I do with my Ziploc of turkey scraps, my Tupperware of roasted cauliflower, my entire Pyrex of stuffing that didn’t get touched because we made two entire 9 x 13″ pans of it to feed 5 people (yes that actually happened) ? My answer: enjoy them as is. Personally I don’t feel any great compulsion to try to improve things like turkey and gravy and corn soufflé, and it’s pretty great to get to eat them for two or three dinners in a row. Plus when they’re leftovers you get the added bonus of not needing to cook that night and having minimal dishes to clean. (The one exception maybe being potato cakes. Maybe that will be a post for another time.)

So, there is no post-Thanksgiving post. There is, however, this salad that I actually made pre-Thanksgiving in order to clean out the fridge a bit before leaving town for the holidays. It’s one of my favorite ways to use up a small amount of lettuce and goat cheese, and I usually have all the other ingredients (chicken, raisins, lemon, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mustard) on hand.

IMG_2548By having chicken on hand, I mean boneless, skinless chicken breast. That’s right. Pork belly seems to be the current prom king of meat cuts, and boneless, skinless chicken breast is its uncool little cousin that nobody wants to be friends with, or admit they’re friends with anyway. They’re boring and bland and dry, people say. Yeah, so are plenty of things when you underseason and overcook them. So I’ll be liberal with my salt and conservative with my heat and I’ll keep using the boneless skinless chicken breast. Also, they are super cheap because they go on BOGO all the time and you can stock up on them. (See About section.)

I started making this salad while I was studying abroad in France during college. I was living in a tiny apartment that had a range but not an oven, and it was during that semester that I was taught that anyone can make Dijon vinaigrette, was first introduced to carottes râpées—a raw grated carrot salad that is ubiquitous in France—and learned that goat cheese was actually really good and wasn’t, in fact, supposed to taste the way that a goat smells. Here, instead of having carottes râpées as a side dish, they are used as an element of the salad, and a vinaigrette is used to dress the whole thing instead of just the carrots.

PS: Even when I don’t make this particular dish, I am a huge fan of grating carrots if they are going to be served raw in a salad. Unlike with chunks or slices of raw carrot, which are impossible to eat because they ricochet hopelessly off of your fork as you try to stab them, grated carrots are satisfyingly fork-friendly.


Grilled Chicken, Grated Carrot, Golden Raisin, and Goat Cheese Salad with Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette

serves 2

For the Grilled Chicken:

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • vegetable oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. In the winter: heat a ridged grill pan over medium-high heat. In the summer: preheat a grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Pat the chicken dry and pound to an even thickness. You want it to be about 1/2″ thick so that it cooks evenly.
  3. Brush your grill pan or grill with vegetable oil. (If you use olive oil it will probably smoke on medium-high.)
  4. Generously sprinkle one side of the chicken with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. Place the chicken salt-and-pepper-side down on your grill pan or grill, and let it cook for about 5-6 minutes.
  6. Before turning the chicken, sprinkle the unseasoned side with more salt and pepper, then flip and cook for another 5-6 minutes, until the chicken is done.
  7. Remove the chicken from heat, tent with foil, and let it rest while you make the rest of the salad.

For the Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette:

  • 2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 small clove of garlic, microplaned or finely minced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste; I used about 1/8 tsp. of each

There are two ways you can make this vinaigrette. The traditional way: mix the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and garlic together. While whisking constantly, slowly add the olive oil in a small stream in order to emulsify the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. With such a small batch though, I prefer the easier, more fun way: Put everything in a small jar with a tightly-fitting top and shake vigorously for 10 seconds or so.

For the Rest of the Salad:

  • about 4 cups of chopped crunchy lettuce, like romaine
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 oz. goat cheese
  1. Peel the carrot if you want. I usually keep it on because I’m lazy / because that’s where all vitamins are (right? isn’t that what our moms all told us?), but be warned: it will make the grated carrot turn brown if you keep the peel on. Grate the carrot in the small holes of a box grater—not the holes for hard cheese, but the smallest ones besides those.
  2. Divide the lettuce over 2 plates or bowls. Cut up the grilled chicken and divide it over the two salads. Sprinkle on any accumulated juices from the chicken.
  3. Top each salad evenly with the carrots, raisins, goat cheese, and vinaigrette. Mix it up a little to distribute the dressing and so that the goat cheese starts to melt from the heat of the chicken.
  4. If you’re a pepper fan, finish with some freshly ground black pepper.