This recipe is sponsored by Chicken of the Sea
Two weeks ago, I filmed an episode of The Dr. Oz Show where I talked all about making light and healthy salads. The episode will air at the beginning of July, which is perfect because we’ll be in the heart of summer by then, when there’s truly no better time to go out and buy fresh veggies. And isn’t that one of the best parts of summer? Not only does it feel like every fruit and vegetable is at its peak of ripeness, but there’s something in the air that makes us want to eat lighter and better, too. I love that. I kinda need that—for balance.
If you survive a long, hard winter, like I do in the northeast, summer always arrives like a pure oasis. June through August have this blissful vacation-like quality, and it feels like everyone is in a better mood instantly. It’s easy to develop a little bit of a seize-the-day or seize-the-season mentality, and let it extend to the way I eat, too…saying yes to s’mores or that extra slice of berry pie just because. If it were just a weekend, I’d say, who cares?, but having a ‘summer state of mind’ isn’t exactly eating in the middle. And 3 months of that will prooobably put me at Labor Day carrying an extra 5 or 10 pounds.
So, I’m going into this summer committed to eating more mindfully and intuitively. I instinctively know which foods are worth it to me to indulge in; the key is recognizing when I’m truly craving them, honoring those cravings in the moment, and eating wholesome, nutritious meals the rest of the time. Now, I think I can nail the wholesome part, especially when it comes to making great salads.
For me, most weekday lunches are almost always salads. Even after years of making them, I never seem to get bored because I switch up ingredients all the time, vary textures, and I believe adding fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, parsley, etc.), a crunchy nut or seed), and a little sweetness in the form of fruit, will take your salad from really good to restaurant good.
Tilapia Salad with Thai Red Curry Dressing
This tilapia salad with Thai red curry dressing is my new summer salad. The vegetable base is crispy, crunchy, and so fresh, with a filling mix of romaine, red cabbage, scallions, fragrant, fresh cilantro, sunflower seeds, and juicy, sweet mango.
Onto the tilapia. Now, I consider tilapia a gateway fish. It’s mild-flavored enough that even really picky seafood eaters enjoy it. And it tastes even better when you’re not the one who has to cook it and you can store it in your cabinet indefinitely. The secret is Chicken of the Sea Tilapia Fillets in Yellow Curry Sauce.
These 3-ounce pouches of sustainably caught tilapia fillets come in 4 different sauce varieties (Marinara, Santa Fe, Teriyaki Sesame, Yellow Curry), but for my thai-style salad I chose the tilapia fillets simmered in a savory-sweet Yellow Curry Sauce, with only 110 calories with 14 grams of protein. They flaked right into this salad and the flavor blended seamlessly with the Thai theme.
To bump up the curry feel, I whisked up a Thai red curry dressing by simmering a can of light coconut milk, peanut butter, red curry paste, lime juice, fish sauce, honey, garlic, and ginger. Even with a full can of coconut milk, the flavor is far more curry than coconutty, or even peanut-buttery. Texture-wise, I found that after about 15 minutes of simmering, the flavors really intensified, and even though it did thicken as it cooked (and cooled), it still needed a little help in the thickening department, so I added a teaspoon of cornstarch near the end.
Note that you won’t use all of the dressing in the salad (nothing worse than a soggy salad!) but you can store leftover dressing covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Whisk it vigorously and add water or broth if you need to thin it before using.
So tell me, how are you heading into summer? Do you ever struggle with that seize-the-season mentality I mentioned?
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