Sticky Lemongrass Chicken Thighs with Black Rice Salad

Chicken thighs nestled in black rice on a platter

After a long, hard Northeast winter, nothing makes me happier than looking out on the deck and seeing row upon row of fresh herbs, sitting up in their little pots all bright and perky, like, “what? I was always here.” No, Rosemary, you weren’t. And I know that for a fact because I paid a freaking fortune for a few measly sprigs in January since I just couldn’t bear to use the dry, desiccated jar of rosemary-scented dust that languishes on my spice rack through the winter. 

Even though spring is yet young, the herb garden still feels like a cornucopia. Chives! Mint! Cilantro!  Sure it’s still too cold for the basil, but don’t be greedy, it will be here soon. Anxious for a recipe that uses this green bounty, we decided on a Black Rice Salad which, along with crisp red cabbage, sweet golden raisins and crunchy peanuts, uses a full cup of fresh herbs. We went with cilantro and mint (because that’s what we have) but basil, when it’s fresh, would be fantastic too, especially spicy Thai basil if you’re growing it or can find it in the store. 

A platter of black rice sprinkled with herbs

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Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce Fresh, light and delicious, Vietnamese summer rolls are a great appetizer or light meal any time of the year. Crisp vegetables, bright herbs and shrimp are rolled in a rice paper wrapper, with a side of sweet and salty peanut sauce for dipping. 

If you’ve ever eaten at a Vietnamese restaurant (or had the pleasure of traveling to the country, you adventurer), you’ve probably had summer rolls. They’re sometimes called “fresh spring rolls” or “salad rolls”, but not to be confused with traditional spring rolls, which are often smaller, fried, and filled with cooked vegetables and pork. These are the epitome of fresh and light, filled with finely shredded raw vegetables (we used purple cabbage, carrots, cucumber & scallions, as well as butter lettuce), lots of bright herbs like mint, cilantro and basil, rice vermicelli noodles and poached shrimp, all wrapped up like a translucent burrito in a rice paper wrapper.

We love the flavors of Vietnamese cooking (as you can tell by some of our previous recipes: Vietnamese-style baked chicken and Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops (Thit Heo Nuong Xa). I first made Vietnamese Summer Rolls over a decade ago and I’ve been wanting to make them again ever since. When we found out we were going to have a weekend houseguest, our 12-year-old niece Charlotte, who is an adventurous eater and a great cook in her own right, we thought these would be a fun dish to make together.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Charlotte making a Summer Roll

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Red Cabbage Salad with Roasted Cipollini Onions

Red Cabbage Salad with Roasted Cipollini Onions

When the weather turns cold, you want a salad that brightens your table and can stand up to all those stews and roasts you’ll be serving. 

Note: This recipe is part of our series for Serious Eats. You can also find the recipe and many others on their site.

Once the weather turns cold it becomes harder and harder to keep salads interesting. Most of our favorite add-ins are a distant memory (I’m looking at you, glorious heirloom tomato).  A trip down the produce aisle, or even the farmer’s market, can feel more like a challenge than an inspiration. But this is when, with a little creative thinking, great combinations are born.

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Warm Kale and Caramelized Wild Mushroom Salad

Warm Kale and Caramelized Wild Mushroom Salad

Mushrooms are incredibly versatile. Here, we sauté them until deeply golden brown, then pair their savory flavor with hearty kale leaves and a nutty sherry vinegar dressing. It’s an easy vegetarian meal in a bowl.

Note: This article is from our series on Serious Eats. You can find this salad, and other great recipes there as well.

When you cook as a couple, you have to constantly deal with what each person does and doesn’t like to eat. One of us (Matt) loves mushrooms, though, admittedly, mostly fried up English-style for breakfast; the other (Emily) used to dislike them, finding them to be either chewy, slimy, rubbery, or otherwise unappetizing.

We eventually realized that the problem wasn’t with the mushrooms, it was how we’d been cooking them. We’d been treating mushrooms like most other vegetables, when we really should’ve been cooking them like meat. By searing mushrooms until deeply browned, you can bring out their earthy, meaty, umami-packed flavor, while their interiors remain tender and juicy. Now, we have no conflict—we both love mushrooms and work them into our meals all the time. Here, we toss them with baby kale and a flavorful sherry vinaigrette to make an easy, filling salad.

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Quick-Marinated White Bean Salad With Feta

Quick-Marinated White Bean Salad With Feta

A white bean salad doesn’t have to be boring. Creamy cannellinis absorb the bright flavor of a vinaigrette in just a few minutes. Paired with briny olives, fresh cucumbers, tomatoes and feta cheese, and served in lettuce cups, they make a quick and substantial dinner.

Note: This recipe is part of our series for Serious Eats.

We’re as guilty as anyone else of “lazy salad syndrome”. If we can get away with opening a box of pre-rinsed greens and throwing on a dab of supermarket dressing, we’ll do it. As a side salad, that might just about be acceptable. But if we’re making a salad as its own dish – for a quick summer meal, for example – it’s inexcusably lame. But with just a little effort and really no time at all, I can prepare this white bean salad with ingredients I already have in the pantry. Most of the ingredients for this recipe are kitchen staples, and the only things I need fresh are cucumber, tomatoes, feta, and lettuce.

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Basil Green Goddess Dressing

Basil Green Goddess Dressing

A creamy, herb-packed basil Green Goddess salad dressing that’s also light and refreshing. Our version uses basil in place of parsley, adding a sweet, summery note.

While you can’t throw a carrot without hitting a bottle of ranch dressing these days (seriously, Americans are obsessed with the stuff), in the 1960s and 70s, Green Goddess was king. Or Queen, I should say.

Invented in California and named after its distinctive color, the original version was a mix of tarragon, parsley, chives and scallions. It really took off in the 60s, the era of wedge iceberg salads and cream cheese stuffed celery sticks. Eventually, as trends  always do (sorry kale, your time is almost up), it fell out of favor. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve seen it on a menu.

And that’s a real shame because when made well, it’s absolutely delicious and so much better than ranch.

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