One of the first times I flew in to Pittsburgh on business, my boss and I stopped at a local place (I forget the name) for lunch before going on to meet with the photo studio folk we’d be working with. Having had a long morning, first getting from my apartment in Edgewater out to O’Hare, then getting wanded and dusted at security (and this was in the 90’s, mind you!), and THEN finally getting to Pittsburgh; I just wanted a nice salad before an afternoon of yelling and banging on tables (ahhhhh – the art of negotiation).
Imagine, then, my surprise when I was served a salad (for one) in a bowl only slightly smaller than your average turkey platter – and covered with – wait for it – FRENCH FRIES!
Apparently, french-fry-topped salads are (or were?) a thing in some Pittsburgh establishments – and Sue, the art director at the photo studio, assured us when we told her the tale, that fries-on-top was the only way she could get her husband to eat a salad.
And you know, it wasn’t all that bad…
THIS salad is kind of like that Pittsburgh creation – tho instead of a topping of hot-from-the-fryer potato sticks, we’re using a combination of uncooked ramen noodles, slivered almonds, and sunflower seeds, sautéed in a mixture of butter and olive oil until lightly browned. The ramen, and the soy sauce in the dressing is what, apparently, makes this an ‘Asian’ salad. I got the original recipe from “100 Years of Fresh Family Recipes” from our local Jewel market. No date on the recipe, but no doubt this would have seemed kind of exotic back in the day…
I’ve cut down the amount of sugar, and indeed, a good bit of the butter called for, to make things a touch healthier; but still this is one nice salad – crispy things on top and all.
I’m not giving measurements for the veggie parts of this salad – I think it best to leave that up to you and the number of folk you’re planning at lunch or dinner – but the dressing should be more than enough to handle a horde at the table
First, make the dressing by combining the vinegar, sugar and soy sauce in your blender and mix well. Scrape down the sides. With the blender running, drizzle the oil in until it emulsifies (If you don’t have a blender, just mix all the dressing ingredients really well). Chill.
NOTE: this dressing WILL separate, so store it in a container you can well and truly shake before adding to your salad. You’ll probably also have some leftover, as that whole jar o’ dressing is way more than enough for even one large bowl o’ salad.
Second: melt the butter with the olive oil in a pan and add the ramen, almonds and sunflower seeds. Sauté until lightly browned and set aside to cool. Bits of mine always get a bit too browned, but it all evens out.
If you’d like, toss with the dressing and serve, but leftovers will be wilted, so for just the two of us, I add it at the table.
OPTION: If you’d like to turn this into a main-course salad, add some grilled buttermilk chicken breast, cooled and sliced. You won’t regret it.