Quick Dinners: Soy-Tahini Chicken Salad with Marinated Avocados

This recipe was recently published in our “rotisserie chicken magic” series for the San Jose Mercury News’ “Fast and Furious Weeknight Cooking” column. It’s light and fresh and perfect for a summery lunch or supper! Get the recipe here:


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Avocado TimeAvocados! Love ’em in avocado toast, guacamole, grilled (!)….. but I recently discovered the magic of marinating them which is especially great for salads or sandwiches. I’m learning, the more I cook, about the importance of seasoning each element of a dish — especially for things like tacos, salads and sandwiches. The result is so much more than the sum of its parts…. and avocados while dreamy and creamy, definitely need a boost in the seasoning department.

This avocado marinade/salad dressing is a good quickie because it requires no mincing of shallots or garlic, simply a vigorous shake in a jar (a nice mini cooking project for kids). I love the nutty, toasted sesame flavor of the tahini in this but you could certainly substitute your favorite creamy nut butter.  I’m a big fan of the tahini they have in the bulk section at Rainbow Grocery in SF (sometimes jars of tahini can be off in flavor if they’ve been sitting too long). There’s also a DIY tahini how-to over at the Kitchen, if you want to give making it from scratch a try.

Get the recipe for Soy-Tahini Chicken Salad with Marinated Avocados

More avocado & tahini yumminess:

 

Mission Street Food’s Sesame-Avocado Brown Rice

A recent brown rice bowl with green beans, tomatoes, roasted eggplant, cilantro, a poached egg and... of course avocado and toasted sesame seeds.

Before I get get to the awesomely easy and extra delicious Sesame-Avocado Brown Rice, I’ve got to give a shout out to one of the new favorites on my bookshelf, “Mission Street Food: Recipes and ideas from an Improbable Restaurant“, which chronicles the creation of a San Francisco dining hot spot that broke the mold. In it’s all-too-brief run, Mission Street Food provided a showcase for up and coming guest chefs and presented innovative menus around themes such as “homage to Auguste Escoffier”, “new school tapas”, “super bowl party”, “breakfast for dinner”, and “ottoman cuisine” — all served out of a hole in the wall Chinese restaurant, with proceeds benefiting local nonprofits. Mission Street Food evolved into Mission Chinese Food which serves up a menu of tasty “Americanized” takes on dishes like Hainam Chicken Rice, Sizzling Cumin Lamb and Ma Po Tofu. [If you want to check out our visit to Mission Chinese Food earlier this year, click here.] Interwoven into the story of Mission Street Food are recipes, techniques and a whole lot of inspiration. You cannot browse this book without coming away with at least a dozen ideas to incorporate in your own cooking.

Sesame-Avocado Brown Rice was an immediate “must make” and it’s been on our regular rotation for both lunch and dinner ever since. This one is so easy it’s hardly a recipe and the variations are endless. Make the rice, whisk together the 3-ingredient dressing and serve alongside your favorite toppings. Anthony Myint (of the duo behind Mission Street/Chinese Food) suggests sauteed beech mushrooms, blanched broccoli rabe, sliced avocado, bbq-ed unagi. We like everything from green beans to poached or scrambled eggs, chopped raw spinach, roasted chicken, scallions, pickled carrots and sliced radishes. I’ve even gone so far as to add toasted sliced almonds and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

This is a perfect weeknight family meal because you can make most or all of the components in advance, it’s a great canvas for leftovers, and you can serve it hot, room temp or straight from the refrigerator depending on your laziness level. This is also a fantastic recipe to teach to older kids who are starting to learn to cook on their own. Younger kids can get into the action too by designing and assembling their own custom rice bowls and even our bambino loves it because he can nibble along with the family on some of the softer items and try out the tangy-salty flavors of the dressing.

It’s as easy as this:

  • Cook 2 cups of your favorite brown rice
  • Whisk together the dressing: 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 3 TBL sesame oil
  • Toss your cooked rice with the dressing, reserving a little of the dressing to serve at the table
  • Fold in some toasted sesame seeds
  • Serve the seasoned rice alongside your favorite toppings. Start with a sliced avocado and go from there.

We like these quick pickled carrots. They are great addition to any rice bowl, Banh Mi-type sandwich, or taco, you name it!

  • Mix 1 cup water, 1 TBL each of rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt.
  • Cut carrots into thin matchstick and let them stand in the pickling mixture for 1 hour or up to several days in the refrigerator.

Luca dreamed up this bacon and eggs version. I like your style, kid.

You'll find ideas and inspiration aplenty in the Mission Street Food cookbook.

If you liked this, you might also like: Japanese Comfort Food: Harumi’s Three Topping Rice, “There’s Nothing to Eat”: Bacon and Egg Rice, Cooking with Mom: Chicken Biryani

Banana-Avocado Bread

Stay with me here….. You might be as dubious as I was to see an avocado infiltrating a harmless banana bread, but this is one of those healthy “recipe makeover” substitutions I can whole heartily endorse. I’m all for healthy food of course, but I’m not a big fan of healthy versions of not-so-healthy things if they fall short on the yumminess factor.

It turns out you can substitute avocado for half the butter in many baking recipes. So you’re not only replacing bad fat with a healthier one, you’re also adding some extra nutrients. In our banana bread test, the avocado didn’t end up altering the flavor or color significantly and the end result was as moist and tender as the original. This is excellent news since my family has a major addiction to banana bread and I have become “the banana bread lady” at my son’s preschool. So now we’re eager to see how the avocado fares in some of our other favorite baked goods.

We decided to put this “healthier banana bread” experiment to the ultimate test by making it for a recent family soiree put on by the awesome folks of SF Music Together. [If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, Music Together is a fabulous children’s music program not only here in San Francisco, but around the world, where families can share and create music.] The party was tons of fun with face-painting, singing and tambourine shaking galore — Simran even snagged some totally cute hair clips from Made in the Haight.  The banana-avocado bread was a big hit across the board and there wasn’t a crumb left to take home. We heard many a “yum” which is definitely music to our ears.

Banana-Avocado Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup softened butter (half a stick)
  • Half an avocado (approximately 1/4 cup)
  • 2 cups flour (I used 1 1/4 cups app purpose, and 3/4 cup whole wheat)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 very ripe bananas (this is not worth making if your bananas aren’t super ripe)
  • 3 TBL milk
  1. Cream together sugar, butter and avocado.
  2. Stir in the eggs and vanilla extract and mix well.
  3. In a seperate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt until well mixed.
  4. Fold together the butter and flour mixture until well incorporated.
  5. Mash 3 very ripe bananas. Mix in the mashed bananas and milk.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until the top springs back when you press it.

Cooking with Luisa – Taquitos

My friend Luisa, who taught me how to make Sopa De Tortilla recently, also taught me how to make Taquitos.  Taquitos are a Mexican dish made of rolled-up tortillas with a filling. The filled tortilla is fried and served with a variety of toppings.  Luisa demonstrated the dish with store-bought rotisserie chicken but these little crunchy rolls can be easily made vegetarian by using beans and cheese or any other vegetable of your (or your kids’) liking.  A side of rice and beans will complete this meal.  I am thinking these are a good vehicle for any kind of leftovers – I may try them with leftover curry one day! 🙂  Could work for school lunches and this will be a tasty addition to your birthday party buffet.

I am looking forward to my next lesson in Mexican home-cooking with Luisa.

Serves 2 adults and 2 kids

Ingredients

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed (leftovers or store bought rotisserie)

10 small corn tortillas

Vegetable oil for shallow frying taquitos

Garnish with:

1 cup salsa (store bought or home-made, red or green)

1 diced avocado

Sour cream or yogurt

Feta or queso fresco

  1. Place 1-2 tbsp of shredded chicken at the center of tortilla and roll up like a cigar
  2. Secure the roll with a toothpick and place the taquito in the heated oil (use a large frying pan or fry in batches)
  3. Fry on all sides till golden brown and crispy
  4. Garnish with toppings of choice (kids will enjoy this!)

If you make the taquitos ahead of time you can re-heat them in the oven and add the garnishes right before serving.