Crispy Pan Fried Pesto Salad

Sautéed healthy greens dressed with sesame pesto over crispy pan fried noodles.

By Kevin RR Williams

RECIPE Ramen noodles: To many people they are an inexpensive meal. Drop the wheat-based dried noodles into boiling water with a handful of vegetables; add the bullion flavor packet and in three minutes you can be slurping soup. But how about a challenge to make a gourmet meal from this humble noodle? You can embellish it with what you have in your refrigerator. In a serendipitous moment, I did that.

I wanted a salad with contrasting textures. The thought of blanching wet noodles atop lettuce greens didn’t quite appeal to me. So I decided to pan-fry them. While this was happening, it seemed the fibrous veggies could be sautéed a little. Initially considering a balsamic reduction, a pesto sauce was decided upon. (I ruminate over flavor profiles while cooking.) This dish has been made twice. The first experiment was critiqued. The second time, the acidic element and protein were added to balance the oils. This dish is vegan-vegetarian friendly but you can substitute protein for omnivores.

Ingredients

As a main entrée, measurements serve one. As a side dish it can be portioned for two. Scale ingredients accordingly.

Starches and Pasta

  • 3 oz. pkg Top Ramen noodles

Produce

  • ¼ cup Cabbage, chopped (one large leaf or three thin slices through head)
  • ¼ cup Green Kale, chopped (remove large stem and center vein)
  • 18 cup Onion (or one scallion), chopped
  • 4 Snap peas, chopped
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 2 Cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 Tbs Lemon juice (or rice vinegar)
  • 2 Thin slices Serrano or jalapeño pepper (optional)

Protein

  • 2 Vegetarian chicken strips, sliced (Beyond Meat), or leftover real chicken

Oils and Spices

  • 5 Tbs Olive oil
  • 2 Tbs Sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Vegetable broth paste (Smart and Final)
  • 18 tsp Turmeric (optional)
  • 2 Basil fresh leaves (optional)

Recipe

By overlapping preparation, this dish can be completed within 35 minutes.

  1. Fill a small pot about halfway with water. Add a third of a teaspoon of vegetable broth paste and a teaspoon of sesame oil. (Alternatively you can use organic low-sodium vegetable broth.) Turn the burner past medium until it boils rapidly. photo ▿
  2. Chop enough cabbage, kale, fresh snow peas, onion to fill a skillet along with one minced garlic clove. (It will shrink as it warms.) photo ▿
  3. Add the veggies to a hot non-stick pan with a tablespoon of sesame oil and 2 tablespoons of olive oil (eyeball it) on medium heat. Stir occasionally until cabbage wilts. Pour into interim bowl while greens remain vibrant. photo ▿
  4. Break ramen noodles in quarters before opening bag. Discard the flavor packet with all its monosodium glutamate and preservatives. Lower heat beneath boiling water to simmer and add the noodles. Just cook them long enough to be al denté. photo ▿
  5. Wipe out the non-stick skillet and add a tablespoon of sesame oil and 2 of olive oil as you did before. Turn the burner past medium to get the oil hot. photo ▿
  6. Drain ramen noodles. Sprinkle with turmeric (optional). Mix well then slide into hot oil, spreading it out flat. For smaller portions fry half of the noodles. photo ▿
  7. While crisping the noodles, make the pesto sauce. Add a few tablespoons of the sautéed veggies to a food processor. (I used a NutraBullet.) Drop in a couple of fresh basil leaves and a few slices of Serrano or jalapeño pepper if desired. Then add an eight of a teaspoon of vegetable paste. (The paste has salt in it so it is the seasoning.) The pesto needs liquid to blend so drizzle with sesame oil and olive oil. It doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth. Pulse the blender a few times until ingredients break down and are well mixed. photo ▿
  8. Flip the noodles that are frying in the skillet and lower heat. It only needs about a minute or two more. photo ▿
  9. Taste the pesto sauce. It’s alright if it seems salty. It is a seasoning and can be used in other dishes. Toss sautéed veggies with 2 tablespoons of pesto and a squeeze of lemon. Then set aside. photo ▿
  10. Remove crispy noodles from pan with spatula and place on paper towel. Blot to absorb oil. photo ▿
  11. For the protein, I used thin sliced Beyond Meat grilled “chicken” strips. They can be thawed for a minute in microwave or if removed from freezer at the beginning, they can thaw at room temperature. photo ▿
  12. Warm 6 fluid ounces of water with an eighth of teaspoon veggie paste and two tablespoons of pesto.
  13. Place the crispy noodles on the bottom of large bowl or deep plate. Pile sautéed veggies in the center. Arrange chicken strips. Slice two cherry tomatoes into thirds for contrasting color. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional). If this is a side dish to another main entrée, you can omit the chicken. photo ▿
  14. Serve with remaining diluted pesto broth (not the paste) to pour over center of salad just before eating. This will slightly soften the crisp noodles.

Seems like quite a bit of steps but each averages 1 to 3 minutes as you keep busy while waiting for something else to complete. Everything cooks really fast. With more servings, boil more packages of noodles at once and sauté more vegetables; depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in batches.

Since it is a salad, it is fine to eat at room temperature even though the veggies are sautéed. The broth is warm. Aesthetically, the dish looks better with a few strips of protein; a full serving of six strips actually what I ate. photo ▿

The turmeric was added for contrasting color and nutrition. Turmeric has a gingery pepper taste and is vibrant yellow. It also reportedly improves circulation. The dish works fine without it if unavailable. I like my noodles crispy with a soft interior; you can experiment with your desired texture. Will it work with other noodles? Pan fried noodle is a real dish in Chinese restaurants. Asian egg noodle combines flour for a slightly chewier texture. Try it out and let me know what you think is most nutritious.

This 1021-word article passes with grade-4 readability by the Hemingway Editor.

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Tags: asian cuisine, quick family recipe, vegetarian