Strawberry Watermelon Chicken Salad

The below photo is my lunch at Saffron, the best little Thai place ever. Me and this salad have had a thing going on for years. I LOVE it. I go to Saffron every time I’m in SD, it’s hard for me not to. Recreating this so I could make it all summer as been on my list for a while.

It’s all about the dressing (not one drop of oil in this dressing, seriously I promise) and the freshest, ripest ingredients. The soft crunch of the juicy watermelon, super sweet strawberries, extra crunchy jicama, tender chicken meat shredded thin all covered in the most amazing citrus dressing. Oh the greens, lets not forget the greens, spicy arugula and fresh mint, torn or cut in a fancy chiffonade and then topped with some roasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. Summer on a plate. Here is how you do it.

Citrus Dressing, not one drop of oil in this dressing, seriously, really, promise!


Makes 1/2 cup

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cloves garlic pressed, using a garlic press

2 to 3 Thai Bird Chilies or 1 to 2 Serrano Chilies, minced with or without seeds

2 teaspoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons agave syrup

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons lemon juice

6 tablespoons orange juice

Combine all in a jar with tight fitting lid, shake to mix well, reserve for later.

Now lets get our prep on, here is what you will need.

Makes 4 servings

8 to 10 strawberries, sliced thinly to make 2 cups

2 cups watermelon cut into sticks

2 cups shredded chicken breast meat, grill yourself or use an already cooked rotisserie chicken from the market

1/2 cup citrus dressing

12 to 15 mint leaves, torn or chiffonade

12 to 15 arugula leaves torn or chiffonade

1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds

Jicama, cut into sticks/julienne hold in water until ready to serve.Slice strawberries in thin slices.Slice the watermelon same way you did the jicama.

Grill some chicken breasts Clean and chop the mint and arugula, have all your items ready to toss for service.  Put the strawberries, watermelon and chicken breast in a mixing bowl. Toss gently, add dressing and toss again with the mint and arugula.  Transfer to service dish and garnish with roasted sunflower seeds.Enjoy this guilt free and delish meal!

I hope everyone is enjoying the bounty at the farmers markets this summer, I sure am. I finally found lemon cucumbers!

Thai Sweet Sticky Rice

You know it –  Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango – at your favorite Thai place- warm, coconut, sweet & the sharp tang from the Mangos YUM!!!! I intended to use Mango, but I couldn’t find any ripe enough – don’t stress on the mango, try soft fruits with sweet and tart flavors – sliced peaches, kiwi fruit, pears, strawberries, raspberries – whatever you like best.The process for this rice is not quick, but the rewards are so worth it. First off the rice.You will need to find long grain Thai jasmine rice or glutinous rice – the above is the brand I found at a huge asian market in San Diego. Ask for help if you can’t find it, tell them you’re making sticky rice, you’ll get hooked up with the right stuff. Next how to cook this magical rice.This is the traditional pot and basket used for sticky rice – most Asian markets will have these and they are super cheap – the set cost me under $10. If you don’t want to get all silly like me and buy more stuff that you have to store in a kitchen that is packed out already – this will live in my garage which I’m slowly taking over with kitchen gear – poor Jim – you can use a pasta cooker/steamer basket. If you use the pasta pot – line the steamer basket with dried corn husks – the ones you use for tamales – oil the husks a bit so they don’t stick to the steamer insert. You MUST soak the rice over night, the quick boil method does not work on this rice.Rinse 2 cups of rice 3-4 times until the water starts to appear clear. Fill a bowl with cold water add rinsed rice and soak overnight, minimum of 6 hours. After the soaking you should be able to break the rice easily between your fingers.

Fill the basket with the soaked rice and rinse several times. Place the basket over the pot with boiling water. Cover the rice with a pie pan or a lid that will fit down in the basket – as close to the rice as you can.

Steam for 15 minutes – the rice will form a ball as you move it around the basketflip the ball to the other side – steam 15 minutes more – flip again – steam 15 minutes more -check the rice as you flip – it should be soft – you cannot over cook this rice but it can be undercooked and thats no good. Once the rice is done it can hang over the boiling water and stay hot while you prepare the syrups.

Syrup#1 – sauce syrup – in a small sauce pot combine 2 cups coconut cream/milk combo fresh or canned -1/2 cup sugar – 4 Tablespoons Palm Sugar or brown sugar – couple drops of almond or orange extract added at the end of cooking.Palm Sugar is sold in – you guessed it – Asian markets. While you’re there buying your cool new rice steamer, which is also a really neat hat, buy the palm sugar.It comes in these little hard rounds, you ‘ll need to chop them up a bit so they melt nicely. Cook the syrup on a low heat for about 10 minutes, don’t let it boil- you want to see steam but no boil – add the extract at the end of cooking. Keep warm and set aside. When the rice is done and still very hot, transfer to a mixing bowl and add the warm syrup #1Mix really well with a wooden spoon -the mixture will be soupy – cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 10 minutes. Mix again and let sit for 10 more minutes until all the syrup is absorbed.While the rice is resting and absorbing the yummy syrup #1, start making

Syrup # 2 –  topping syrup – 1 cup coconut cream -1/4 cup sugar -1 teaspoon salt – couple of drops of almond or orange extract added at the end of cooking. Combine all ingredients except the extract, cook on low/medium heat  no boil for about 10 minutes until thickened, add extract and keep warm if serving right away. Both of the syrups can be made ahead of time – cool completely and keep in fridge for up to a week. 

Time to shape the rice/syrup #1 combo – take a wooden spoon and shape with your hands or use a ring mold. Run your hands in cold water to prevent the rice from sticking to everything, if using a ring mold oil the inside for easy release.You can shape all the rice in single portions – try cool shapes for fun presentation wrap with plastic keep in fridge for up to a week– to reheat the individual portions heat in microwave for 30-60 seconds depending on your microwave powerTo serve, place warmed rice portion a plate – ladle a small amount of warmed syrup #2 over the top – place fruit on top or to the side – ladle a bit more syrup over the fruit. The combo is amazing, the salty sweet coconut of syrup #2 is the prefect balance for the sweet sticky coconut rice and the tart sweet fruit.

Wow this was a long post!! It seems like a lot to do, but it went really quickly and its an awesome make ahead dessert that will WOW all the Thai food fans in your life. As always I get all my Thai knowledge from Su Mei Yu, if you’d like to go further with Thai food get her books, especially her first book Cracking the Coconut, which I hear is out of print – makes no sense at all to me, its seriously like my food bible.

I will be teaching Thai cooking classes this summer at Laguna Culinary Arts, this dessert will be part of my July 9th class – check out the schedule here and sign up!

Hope you enjoy- any questions let me know- Cheers- Sarah

Chicken Satay

Chicken Satay

Makes 2/3 cups
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 red bird chiles, or 2 red Serrano chiles, unseeded, minced (1 tablespoon)
1 stalk lemongrass, green parts and hard outer layers removed, minced (1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
3 shallots, minced (1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon blanched almond, ground
1 teaspoon red miso
1/2 cup combined coconut cream and milk (consistency of whole milk)
            Put the coriander seeds in a skillet and dry-roast over medium-high heat. Slide the skillet back and forth over the burner to prevent burning. When the spice exudes a pleasant aroma, about 1 minute, remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool. Grind in a mortar with a pestle and set aside.
            Pound the salt and chiles in a mortar with a pestle into a paste. Add the lemongrass, coriander seeds, turmeric powder, shallots, almonds, and red miso in sequence, and only after the previous ingredient is pureed and incorporated into a paste.
Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the coconut cream. Mix well and set aside.
Store the marinade in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Refrigerate, it will keep overnight.
1 pound boneless and skinless chicken breast or thigh or pork loin
10 to 12 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes, then dried
Vegetable oil spray
1/3 pineapple juice
Makes 10 to 12 skewers
Slice the chicken, if using, diagonally across the grain into thing strips, approximately 1/10 inch wide, or as thin as possible.
Add the meat to marinade in a zip lock bag. Mix well and let sit for 30 minutes.
            Mound the charcoals onto one side inside the grill, leaving the other half empty. Heat the grill.
            While waiting for it to get hot, thread 3 to 4 pieces of the chicken or pork onto the bamboo skewer into a tight bundle, covering 5 inches of the skewer. Repeat with the remaining skewers. Add the pineapple juice to the leftover marinade and set aside.
            Spray the skewers generously with the vegetable oil. Lay the skewer with the meat portion on the rack directly over the hot coals at medium-high heat. Line the skewers tightly close to one another. (The uncovered portion of the skewers should not be over the coals.) Brush lightly and frequently with the  pineapple juice mixture. Turn frequently to prevent burning. Grill until the outside is crispy brown and the inside white and tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately with Peanut Sauce, Cucumber Salad ( recipe coming soon ) and Jasmine Rice.

Peanut Sauce

Indonesian Peanut Sauce

Makes 1 cup
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 garlic clove, minced (1 tablespoon)
12 chiles de arbol or chiles Japones, soaked in hot water, seeded, died, minced
1 tablespoon minced galangal or ginger
1 stalk lemongrass, outer-hard layers and green parts removed, minced (1/3 cup)
2 shallots, minced (1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon red miso
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut cream
4 tablespoons tamarind juice
Pound the salt and garlic in a mortar with a pestle into a fine paste. Add the chiles and pound to puree. Add the galangal, lemongrass, shallots and red miso in sequence, and only after each has been completely pureed and incorporated into the paste. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Refrigerated, the seasoning paste will keep for a month.
            Or, if using a blender, add the 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the above ingredients and puree. Transfer to a bowl and set aside or store the seasoning paste in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.
            Saute the oil and the chile paste in a saucepan over medium-high heat until it exudes a pleasant aroma, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Lower the heat, and add the sugar, peanut butter, tamarind juice and coconut cream and milk. Stir to mix until the mixture boils and thickens, about 2 minutes.
            Transfer to a bowl; and let cool before serving or storing in a glass jar with a tight lid. Refrigerate until ready to use. It will keep for a couple of weeks. If the sauce congeals and thickens, dilute with 2 to 3 tablespoons of water, heat over low heat in a saucepan until dissolved.

Tamarind Juice

One of the ingredients for Peanut Sauce is Tamarind Juice. You can find compressed brown blocks of Tamarind wrapped in plastic at Asian markets. Rough chop the Tamarind and place in a glass bowl.

Pour hot water to cover, let cool and soften.

Once cooled massage into a pulp, let it rest to thicken up. We call this making poo. Kinda gross but it’s yummy.

Drain with a strainer and set aside for the Peanut Sauce.

Thai Food !! Coconut Cream and Milk

Coconut Cream and Milk, fresh home made is another nectar item.

It’s labor intensive, but so rewarding. Try it at least once, if it’s too much for you, buy it in a can.
Buy a good coconut, it should feel heavy and you can hear the water inside sloshing around.
On the top of the coconut are 3 eyes, dark looking holes, take a screw driver and hammer the holes so the screw driver breaks into the coconut. 

Pour out the coco water, keep or discard it’s not needed for the coconut cream or milk. Bake the coconut in the oven for 375 degrees for 20 minutes, let it cool. Now to the cracking ! Hammer in hand, get to cracking, break off the outer hard shell.

The flesh will have a thinner darker skin that you will need to peel off with a vegetable peeler. Break up the peeled flesh and grind it up in a heavy duty food processor to a pulp. Transfer the pulp to a large bowl and fill with hot water to cover the pulp.

Now it’s spa time, get yours hands in the bowl and massage, squeeze & milk that pulp ! Do this eighty nine times, this is a Thai ritual believed to produce a rich and creamy coconut milk.

It’s great for your skin too, your hands will feel amazing after this. Drain with a strainer into a smaller bowl, all the liquid, this will be the coconut cream.

Reserve the pulp in the same large bowl, add more hot water and do the whole process again.
This liquid will be the coconut milk. As I’ve stated before I’m not a writer, so if there seem to be holes in my info buy Su-Mei’s cook book, she goes in to great detail about all of these recipes.

Set aside for the Peanut Sauce and Satay marinade we’ll make later.

Thai Party !!

Chicken Satay w/ Peanut Sauce, Cucumber Salad and Jasmine Rice. 

My son Ben is home for the weekend. He and I are going to go Thai crazy in the kitchen today. I learned all these recipes from a cooking class I took with Su-Mei Yu, owner of Saffron in San Diego. She taught me so much in one class, it was life changing. I’ve since read all her books and try to learn more every time I cook her recipes. Since I’m not a writer, I’ll run through these recipes and I’m sure I’ll miss details, so If you like, get her cookbooks you won’t be sorry. 

There are a lot of ingredients for today’s menu, so I’m going to post as we go.