by Alison Novak
Everything about it was sheer bliss, especially the chance to luxuriate over meals without having to think about getting home to relieve the babysitter. The Asian-inspired restaurant at our hotel produced uniformly excellent dishes — beef rendang, Thai-style barbecue chicken and all manner of fresh seafood. But it was the unassuming appetizer we shared on our last night that lingered in my mind and got me thinking, “Hey, I could do this at home.” The dish was a salad of Asian greens with white beans and ground chicken, finished with a spicy, salty, vinegary sauce that gave it some kick.
When I came out of my vacation haze, I realized there was no way my kids would go for it. But with a couple of tweaks, I was able to make a meal that satisfied both factions of our household. I started with the white beans and ground chicken, and bulked it up with some finely chopped carrots and celery. For the grownups, I served it on a bed of wilted baby bok choy and topped it with my own version of the spicy, salty sauce. For the kids, I started with some colorful pasta, added the ground chicken and bean mixture (a tomato-less meat sauce, if you will) and sprinkled the whole shebang with Parmesan cheese.
Our family dinner certainly wasn’t as serene as the restaurant meal that inspired it, but it was nearly as tasty!
Ground Chicken and Bean Salad/Ground Chicken and Bean Pasta
Serves two adults and two children
Ingredients for the shared dish:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground chicken
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
¼ cup chicken broth
1 28-ounce can cannellini beans
salt and pepper to taste
In a heavy pan, warm the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, 6-8 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
Add the ground chicken and cook until no longer pink, 5-7 minutes.
Add the carrots and celery; cook until slightly soft.
Add the chicken broth. Turn the heat to medium-high and let the broth cook off.
Add the beans and cook several minutes, until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer the mixture to an oven-proof dish and keep it in a warm oven until ready to serve.
Ingredients for the adults’ dish:
½ tablespoon vegetable oil
2 heads baby bok choy, roughly chopped
soy sauce to taste (optional)
For the sauce:
1 ½ tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese rice wine)
1 ½ teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 of a small chile pepper, seeded and cut into thin slices
Heat the vegetable oil in a pan. Sauté bok choy until slightly wilted, about three minutes. Add a splash of soy sauce during cooking if desired.
Divide bok choy between two plates.
Top with half of the ground chicken and bean mixture.
Mix together all sauce ingredients and drizzle over dish.
Ingredients for the kids’ dish:
8 ounces tricolored pasta (We love the Vegetable Mix Flowers from Grand Isle Pasta, available at the Burlington Farmers Market and Healthy Living)
Parmesan cheese, to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions. Divide between two plates.
Top with the other half of the ground chicken and bean mixture.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
This post was written by Kids VT contributor Alison Novak, who lives in Shelburne with her husband and two kids.