I am not a huge fan of leafy salads, there I said it! (Sara Tane will not be happy when she reads this). I mean I’ll eat a salad if someone else is making it, but I am not making one. Okay, so when summer rolled around and all my team members were pitching amazing salads, I went into a slight panic. “Think fast, Rachel and it better not be boring”. Well, it’s not a secret that I have a healthy obsession with chilies, the Thai variety to be specific. I use it a lot in Indian cooking but also always try to show people and my coworkers how versatile they are. Which brings us to “Nuoc Cham”, a sauce in Thai cuisine. Let me tell you, this stuff is addictive. Sweet, salty, spicy, tangy and filled with umami flavors, it hits all the right flavor notes and can be used as a dipping sauce for spring rolls and grilled meats. It has only a few ingredients, packs a punch and highlights chilis in a subtle supporting role. Bingo! I knew this would be the dressing for my summer salad.
I used juicy peaches, charred corn, avocado, and quinoa as the base. Topped with lots of fresh herbs like Thai basil and cilantro, it's light and refreshing. You may think fish sauce and fruit might not go well together but the fresh lime juice, brown sugar, and garlic balance everything out so well, complementing the juicy peaches and charred corn. There is just the right amount of heat from the Thai chilies but if heat is not your thing, the creaminess of avocados helps to mellow everything out. Fresh herbs tie the whole thing into a sweet summer bundle of joy. This was a home run at the test kitchen and everyone wanted to make it. Everyone is very honest in their opinions, so I take this as a win!
- 3 ears corn, shucked
- 3/4 cup multicolored quinoa, cooked according to package directions
- 1/2 cup Thai basil, torn
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 4 peaches, pitted and sliced
- 1 avocado, pitted and sliced
- Olive oil, as needed
- 1 batch Nuoc Cham, recipe below
Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat until slightly smoky. Drizzle corn with olive oil and add to the grill pan. Cook for 5 minutes on each side, or until charred. Set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, cut corn off the cob and add to a large bowl.
Add quinoa, Thai basil, cilantro, peaches, avocado and Nuoc Cham dressing to the bowl of corn. Using a spatula gently fold the salad until everything is well incorporated.
Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.
For the Nuoc Cham
- 2-3 limes, juiced (1/3 cup)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
- 3 Thai chilis, or serrano chilis, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
To Make the Nuoc Cham
In a medium bowl, add lime juice, fish sauce, light brown sugar and Japanese rice vinegar and whisk to dissolve sugar. Add chopped chilis and garlic, mix and set aside.