After a brilliant Thanksgiving dinner, an ample supply of leftovers and various other festivities during the weekend, I’m officially stuffed! With the holiday behind us, my husband and I were craving something clean, healthy, and flavorful – in other words, something that would taste good and make us feel good. We definitely don’t buy into the idea that eating well should feel like a form of deprivation. Last night, we put together a soup and salad combo that rose to the challenge.
I found this recipe for Tom Kha Gai (Thai coconut chicken soup) on Food52, one of my favorite sites to search for dinner inspiration. The galangal (use ginger if you can’t find it), lemongrass, and lime really brighten up the flavor of this soup and contrast perfectly with the creamy coconut milk. Since we’d eaten plenty of poultry over the last few days, we opted to use shrimp instead. They only require a few minutes to cook, so we added about 6 ounces of shrimp (peeled and deveined) to the hot soup 3 to 5 minutes before we were ready to eat.
To go with the soup, I made a cucumber salad with smashed ginger and garlic, based on a recipe in Plenty, one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s fantastic cookbooks. It’s been one of our favorites since it landed on the kitchen bookshelf a couple of years ago; it’s full of creative vegetable dishes that have definitely expanded our culinary repertoire and the gorgeous photography doesn’t hurt either. The cucumber salad is a great option when you’re looking for a fresh, clean dish. The cucumbers make a great partner for the garlic, ginger and vinegar and the result is vibrant and pleasantly sharp.
The soup and salad combo makes enough to feed a hungry couple for dinner, with leftovers to supply lunch for one of you the next day.
Cucumber salad with smashed ginger and garlic
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp sunflower oil or olive oil (not extra virgin)
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 a red onion, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 garlic cloves, peeled
4 small, or 8 mini cucumbers (about 1 1/4 lbs in total), peeled
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
- Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add the sliced red onion, combine well, and leave to marinate for up to an hour.
- Place the ginger and salt in a mortar and pound well with a pestle. Add the garlic and continue pounding until it is crushed, but stop before it becomes a paste. Using a spatula, scrape the garlic, ginger and salt mixture into the bowl with the onion and dressing and stir everything together.
- Cut the cucumbers lengthwise in half, then slice on an angle into 1/4 inch thick slices. Add the cucumber, sesame seeds and cilantro to the bowl. Stir well and let the salad sit for 10 minutes.
- Before serving, stir the salad again, and if a lot of liquid has accumulated at the bottom of the bowl, pour some of it out. Taste for seasoning, and add a few more drops of toasted sesame oil if you like.