My boyfriend described this salad as "exotic." Hence the name. Specifically, "exotic, without being spicy." For me, it was one of the most satisfying salad experiences I've had to date. That and delectable. Peanut dressing has a way of making you want to lick the plate clean. Sorry. It's true.
I've noticed that my salads are often outlets for inspiration coming from restaurant meals, other recipes, other bloggers. If I taste something I like and want to do something else with it, I throw some variation of the original into a salad. I have to thank two sources of inspiration for this one.
First, I made this recipe for the most perfect, summery no-cooking-involved Noodle Free Pad Thai from Minimalist Baker. Oh, it was great! Exactly what I needed in the middle of the hot summer, and it was so easy. I love my Thai, and I love my pad Thai, but this recipe opened my eyes to how satisfying it can be when made by subbing a plate of fresh summer veggies for noodles. Another thing I love are my salads, especially in the summertime, so I thought, how about making a version of that peanut sauce for some crunchy salad veggies?
Second, sushi night. We have one of those little Asian Bistro places nearby (it's actually named, quite simply, "Asian Cafe"). They have the most amazing vegetarian sushi. Tempura fried sweet potato rolls, mixed veggie rolls, and my absolute favorite, peanut avocado rolls. Do you live anywhere near the Valley Forge area in Pennsylvania? Any plans to visit? Go get those peanut avocado rolls! I've touted their deliciousness to some others who looked at me funny. I can't imagine. These little rolls are fantastic. I hate to say anything negative about them or sushi night, but they've kinda ruined takeout in my house. We used to be all like, "How about falafel? How about Chinese?" Now, peanut avocado rolls are the must have. They're almost like dessert...the peanuts are all crunched up and mixed with some kind of sweetness (which might be honey, so ask if you're vegan). Seriously, we actually always save the peanut avocado roll for last on sushi night, due to it's subtle desserty nature. Go get some.
So, I went and I got my plate of crunchy salad veggies, made a salad dressing adaptation of Minimalist Baker's peanut sauce, and topped it all with some buttery avocado and crunchy peanut clusters inspired by Asian Cafe's sushi. Tossed some scallions on top because I'm sure you know by now how much I love them, and I had my perfect Thai summer salad. Yum!
You could go one step further and top this off with some tofu or tempeh. I kept things simple here (I tend to eat a lot of tofu and sometimes I worry that I'm tofuing you guys out).
Exotic Avocado and Peanut Cluster Salad
2/3 cup roasted and salted peanuts
2 tbsp. natural peanut butter
2 tbsp. maple syrup OR sweet chili sauce (or a combo of the two, depending on your desired level of spiciness)
Preheat oven to 350. Coarsely chop peanuts in food processor, or use my quick and dirty method by placing them in a zippy bag and crunching with a rolling pin or similar object. Careful not to bust a hole in the bag, as I frequently do.
Spread evenly on greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, tossing once or twice during cooking.
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. lime juice
3 tbsp. maple syrup
Whisk everything together, heating up or even adding a bit of warm water if needed to get an even blend.
Now, for the Salad:
About 8 cups of greens (romaine and baby spinach work well here)
1 cucumber, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
4 scallions, sliced
1 batch of peanut clusters
1 batch of dressing
Divide greens among four plates, and top with sliced avocado, cucumber, scallions, dressing and peanut clusters.