Inspiration is an interesting concept. I often feel inspired by something or someone to do something, change something, experience something. Often this begins as "following footsteps" as it were; taking my turn to try something -- a new recipe, perhaps. Sometimes that is enough. But it is really exciting when you are inspired to push limits and try something new and fresh; to create something.
My friend Bobbie, is very creative. She is keeping me in the digital loop in the art and foodie worlds that she explores with gusto as she learns and looks for her own inspiration. An avid "pinner" on Pinterest as well as a subscriber and reader of multiple blogs, among other things, Bobbie keeps up on her passions of multimedia art and good food by making the most of resources online. I love Pinterest and have some favorite blogs, but the reality is, I just don't have the time required to track down, filter and digest all the great information out there. I don't think anyone ever could keep up with it all but Bobbie is wonderful at sending along the gems that she finds to people like-minded people and I am lucky to be considered one of them.
Recently Bobbie introduced me to a new blog, Alexandra's Kitchen. Great pictures, good language and recipes that are right up my alley -- down-to-earth, full of flavor, and very eatable, if you know what I mean. The first post that she forwarded to me was a simple, delicious-looking chicken salad with herbs and olive oil, created with the freshness of the herbs used in Thai cuisine in mind.
Then, unexpectedly, my husband and I realized that we were free to have a lunch date at the Wednesday Farmer's Market. Not so unexpectedly we found ourselves waiting in line for some of Anon's market fare -- pad thai and salad rolls with cilantro and mint. They were just perfect for such an oppressively hot and humid day. But while delicious, they apparently didn't quite satisfy my appetite for the freshness of Thai food -- my plans for the chicken salad that I was planning on making were already heading in a slightly different direction in my mind.
Later, at home and safely ensconced in the kitchen as the thunder crashed and rumbled outside, I looked around. The chicken was all ready to go -- leftovers from the previous night. I found cabbage (red and green), a red pepper, English cucumber and ingredients that would result in a fairly decent peanut sauce. Once the rain let up I headed out to the garden to gather handfuls of herbs -- cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, basil, oregano and mint. While in the garden it occurred to me that rice noodles would be really good in whatever this creation would end up being and I was quite sure we had some on hand.
Back inside things came together pretty easily. Inspired by the herbed chicken salad, pad thai and salad rolls, I came up with this dinner salad. While certainly not unheard of combinations, it was delicious and I liked how it seemed to be effortlessly generated from the inspiration of my two separate experiences. 1 cup cold, cooked chicken meat, cut into large pieces
1 2 cup finely shredded purple cabbage
2 cups finely shredded green cabbage
1 4 cups slivered red bell pepper
1 2 cup peeled cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced
6 ounces flat rice noodles
1+ cup(s) chopped fresh herbs -- whatever you've got available
1 4 cup creamy natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 2 teaspoon chili or curry paste
Cook noodles according to package directions; drain and rinse under cold water immediately. Combine chicken, cabbages, bell pepper and cucumber in a large bowl. Add drained noodles and herbs. Toss to combine. In a small bowl combine dressing ingredients and whisk until blended, adding more water if necessary to get to a pourable consistency. Heap salad on plates and drizzle a bit of dressing over the top of each. Excellent for dinner in the worst hot and humid weather.
This may seem like a take on peanut noodles, but really it is not -- it is much lighter and this recipe is all about the herbs. The more the merrier! And truly, use what you have on hand -- I don't think there could be a bad combination.
Acting on inspiration is a very satisfying feeling, and when you are pleased with the results, happiness abounds. When you can look back and see the path of exactly how you got here, it helps bring into focus the many ways we are potentially inspired each day. So thanks, Bobbie, Ali at Alexandra's Kitchen and Anon's. And thanks as well to my herb garden and the weather that made me crave something cooling and fresh. When that feeling of inspiration strikes, act on it -- you never know what you might come up with!
Julie Potter is a wife, mother of two, avid gardener and passionate cook who believes good food doesn't have to be complicated. Share your thoughts with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.