Friday, 30 September 2011

Food & Wine Magazine: September Cover Recipe

Thai Chicken & Watermelon Salad
Rating: 5 out of 5

Despite being out of university and an academic environment for several years now, I still tend to run my life on an academic calendar. September, for me, is the time for turning over new leaves, for taking on extra projects, and for feeling rejuvenated and re-energized to tackle some personal goals. It's when fitness routines and devoting myself to personal betterment take precedence, forsaking more social activities in order to prepare of my all-time favourite winter activity: hibernation! By April, I've given it all up and am ready to embrace summer and all its terrible habits again.

Along these new, September lines, I'm once again teaming up with Jasmine of CookThatBook to create and rate the cover recipes from Food & Wine magazine every month. Jasmine has been doing this all year, but I'm joining in now anyway. Better late than never, right?

For now, here is my experience making the Food & Wine cover recipe for September 2011: Thai Chicken & Watermelon Salad.  Make sure you head on over to CookThatBook, as well, to see what Jasmine did with this recipe, as well as some great wine pairing advice from Kendall Harris.

THE TEST: When I saw this recipe I was worried it wouldn't be terribly filling, especially in the original method of placing everything in Chinese soup spoons. I opted to use their suggested variation of arranging all the ingredients in a salad bowl, especially considering I was making this dish for me, myself, and I, while F. was off traveling for work. Filling 5 dozen soup spoons (this recipe's yield) for myself seemed a little - I don't know - extravagant?

Going over the ingredients check-list, I was pretty excited to see the inclusion of lemongrass. Long an ingredient I've loved and have been fascinated with, I had yet to actually experiment with it. I first tasted lemongrass while traveling with my friend Niki in Cambodia in 2009. We were only there for a week, but we both fell head-over-heels for Cambodian food and especially for the flavour of lemongrass. We vowed to try making some of our own Cambodian food upon our return to Seoul, where we were both living and working, but had difficulty tracking down many of the ingredients.

Two years later, I now know that Tian Phat (my local Asian grocer) stocks lemongrass, but I hadn't had the chance to use it until now. Happily, I picked up the two, big stocks the recipe called for, along with some other key ingredients - fish sauce, red chillies, limes, watermelon, cilantro, mint - and then got to work learning how to prepare the lemongrass. Where would we home cooks be without Google? Really?

Is that you, pale inner core? Any ideas on how to use up or create less of the scraps?

Watermelon rounds, a beautiful dressing, and butterflied, marinated chicken.

THE RESULTS: Ah, lemongrass. At last we meet. What a beautiful ingredient to work with! While a bit difficult to handle, I was awarded with a soft, lemony aroma that immediately filled my senses after stripping off just a few of the outside layers. The recipe said to mince only the pale inner core, but considering it peeled in continuous circles inwards, and only the very lower half of the stalk had a pale core, I was unsure of how much to peel off. I felt that I was wasting quite a bit of it in the end. Any ideas on how to use up the scraps, or create less in the first place?

Despite the fact that you don't need chopsticks for Thai food, with everything swimming around in the sauce (I used the whole serving over my one bowl. Just because.), I thought it was a great excuse to break out a set of my Korean chopsticks. I remember being baffled by people who would eat salads with chopsticks in Korea, balking at all the extra effort it surely must take, only to learn to prefer it as a method of getting those damp pieces of lettuce off a plate, or for snagging that cherry tomato that would undoubtedly burst onto your (obviously) white shirt once pierced with a fork.

Perfect as a starter or for lunch, and once the chicken is marinated, this salad is quite easy to throw together and is packed with remarkable flavour. I once read somewhere that Thai food, in particular, takes pride in ensuring the perfect balance between sweet, sour, salty, spicy and savoury (or bitter) in every meal. That balance certainly was accomplished with this salad! The combination of the watermelon, lime, fish sauce, salt, chillies, lemongrass and cilantro, all soaked into the chicken, was truly a delight to the palate.

Take this to work for lunch tomorrow and you'll never pack a frozen entree again!

Beautifully seasoned and aromatic chicken strips.

Thai Chicken and Watermelon Salad

Captured, spoon-side.

As part of CookThatBook's culinary New Year’s resolutions, we have committed to creating each month’s cover recipe from Food & Wine Magazine.

NOTE: If any of you would like to follow along with us and join in on the fun, we’d love to compare notes! So pick-up a copy of the latest issue of Food & Wine and get cooking.

The mission of Food & Wine Magazine is to find the most exciting places, new experiences, emerging trends and sensations in the culinary and wine industries. From travel and entertaining to luxury and design, this magazine brings an energetic and stylish take on food and wine. For more information on Food & Wine Magazine, please visit


  1. Aimee I absolutely LOVE your photos! Especially the one with you in the spoon (clever girl!) So happy to have you cooking alongside me with the Food & Wine covers, there have been so many great recipes this year that I wouldn't normally have tried. Can't wait for next month :)

  2. I LOVE your photos and I think they are better than the magazine actually! What a GREAT challenge too, to cook from covers of magazines......lovely looking recipe and great post.
    Karen @ Lavender and Lovage

  3. Lovely looking re-creation of the magazine cover and wonderfully photographed. Love your chopsticks, they look like they are made of pewter or silver!

  4. I guess folks already said it... fantastic photos!!! taking good photos of food is soooo hard!

  5. I am flattered that my plates are making a cameo appearance!