The perfect quick dinner for a hot summer day is an Asian main-course salad. Made by combining meat, poultry or seafood with noodles, snow peas, scallions and packaged cole-slaw mix, it’s easy to pull together in 30 minutes or less. Here’s a basic recipe that serves four and can be easily varied with different ingredients to suit your whim of the moment.
Choose a salad dressing that suits the type of meat or seafood you are using. Numerous bottled varieties are now available in larger markets, especially natural-foods stores. A shiitake-sesame vinaigrette goes particularly well with steak, while dressings flavored with ginger or citrus are better suited to chicken or seafood. Dressings made with peanut sauce are good with chicken or steak, but tend to overpower seafood. If you have problems finding a bottled Asian dressing in your area, see Resources for recipe recommendations.
Prepare your meat, chicken or seafood. If you are using steak, slice it crosswise into strips, as you would London broil. If you are using chicken, cut or shred the meat into bite-size pieces. Larger scallops should be halved or quartered, but smaller ones can be used whole. Shrimp can be used whole or halved lengthwise. (If the shrimp aren’t already peeled and de-veined, you’ll need to do that.)
Cook your noodles. If you are using fresh noodles, such as Japanese soba or Chinese lo mein noodles, they will only need about two minutes in boiling salted water. Drain the noodles, rinse them under cold running water until cool, and place them in a bowl. You can substitute dried linguini; cook as per package instructions, then drain and cool under cold running water. Other Asian noodles, such as the varieties that are fried rather than boiled, can be used as well, but should be added after the other ingredients, just before the dressing. See Resources for more about Asian noodles.
Drizzle the oil over the noodles and toss lightly. You can skip this step if you're in a real hurry, but move quickly, because the noodles will soon stick together in a ball without it.
Add the cole slaw, snow peas, meat or seafood, daikon and scallions to the bowl. Toss lightly, pour the dressing over the salad and toss again.
Sprinkle the chopped cilantro and peanuts over the salad and serve with lime wedges.