If you’re like me, you receive the brochure from the City of Seattle at the beginning of the summer – the one with all of those great summer activities like concerts at City Hall, or dance lessons at Freeway Park, or the Night Market at Hing Hay Park in the International District – and you set it in a Very Important Place to be perused and those great summer activities calendared… at some later date. Or Seattle Magazine’s June 2011 issue of “Summer Cravings,” which should have been my roadmap for the summer because of its food focus and tips on all sorts of different places to eat in Seattle and further afield. I have the best intentions for all of those things, and yet somehow summer seems to slip away with too many activities left undone and food left unsampled.
I am pleased to report that due to the diligence of my SO, one of the things that DID happen this summer was Shakespeare in the Park. It has been on my radar for what seems like forever, but I just never got around to doing it.
So it was that last Sunday afternoon, three of us were camped out on blankets at Discovery Park in Magnolia, having arrived early to stake out our territory. We were there for a performance of Antony and Cleopatra by the actors of GreenStage, one of a couple of different Shakespeare-in-the-Park-performing groups in the area. GreenStage and Wooden O put on an impressive number of performances, something like 70 shows all the way from West Seattle, to Mercer Island, to Redmond, to Lynnwood. Even with minimal staging, this talented troupe from GreenStage managed to put on an utterly engaging show – and that’s saying a whole lot given the 2+ hour length and especially hard ground under our picnic blankets.
Which brings me to one of the great joys of things like outdoor theater, movies, and musical performances: The picnic aspect. I confess that it’s a big part of the appeal for me, and I embraced the chance to fill our retro picnic basket with tasty salami, Leyden cheese hoarded from a visit to the James Ranch in Durango, CO (thanks, Dan and Becca!), freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, and summer salads. Food eaten in the out-of-doors always seems more interesting, and the act of organizing it all into a basket and packing it off to be laid out on a blanket in the grass, makes it even more so for me.
Although this particular salad didn’t make the cut for Sunday’s performance – no time for hot oil and puffing of maifun noodles – it is an excellent candidate for your next picnic. I don’t know its origin, just that it was a favorite of my mother’s and thus appeared regularly, especially in the summer. As a result, Maifun Salad also figures prominently in my childhood memories, though for many year as this mythical, too-hard-for-me-to-contemplate kind of recipe. I’ve no doubt that it was the hot oil required for the noodles, but after much cautious practice dropping a small piece of un-puffed noodle into slowly heating oil to test its readiness I got over that fear.
From then on I started making it really quite often, so often that I finally had a friend say in response to my offer to bring something to the potluck, “Are you bringing your Foon salad?” (In what I hoped was a hopeful tone rather than a resigned one.) But the funny thing about it was that having never seen the name written, I think that my friends always heard me saying I was making “my Foon Salad” rather than “Maifun Salad.” And forever after that’s how I think of it whenever I spy the card amongst the others in my recipe box.
The chicken and shrimp make this more of an entrée salad, and the maifun noodles themselves are just plain fun. As for the iceberg lettuce I know it’s not fashionable, but it seems to be just the right variety for this recipe. I’ve often thought to make this dressing and use it for other things – it’s wonderfully tangy – but somehow for me it only ever appears when maifun noodles are involved.
1 qt. vegetable oil
5 oz. maifun noodles (available at most grocery stores)
1 whole chicken breast, with bone and skin
1/2 lb. shrimp, without head and tail, cooked
1 head iceberg lettuce, sliced in thin ribbons
3 green onions, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1/4 c. toasted slivered almonds
4 T. toasted sesame seeds
1 T. ginger, minced
1/4 c. sesame oil
1/4 c. rice vinegar
6 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 c. lemon juice
1. Pour entire container of vegetable oil in a large pot. (A stock pot is ideal because of its size and shape). While the oil heats over high heat, break the maifun noodles into approximately four or five large chunks, depending on the size of the container. Test the heat of the oil by dropping a single piece of maifun into the oil: If it puffs up right away the oil is ready. Working quickly, drop a batch of maifun into the hot oil, wait a few seconds for the maifun to puff up, flip over to ensure that the top side got its share of the oil, then remove with a slotted spoon. Place on paper towels to soak up a bit of the oil. Once you have cooked all of the maifun immediately move the hot oil off the heat so it starts to cool. (Once cool, the oil can be poured back into the container from whence it came and thrown out, or reused if you happen to have a vehicle around that runs on such things. This is Seattle, after all – you never know!)
2. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Rub the chicken with a bit of olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a cast iron skillet on the stove, sear on all sides, then roast in the oven for about 20 minutes; set aside. (Or, forget this step all together and use one of those handy roasted chickens from the grocery store. And don’t feel bad about the shortcut, either!) Once cool enough to handle, pull the chicken off the bone, discard the skin, and cut into bit-sized pieces.
3. Put the maifun noodles in a LARGE bowl or two large-ish bowls and break into smaller pieces. Then add remaining ingredients (chicken through sesame seeds) and combine.
4. For the dressing, combine all ingredients and shake well or whisk together. Pour over salad and toss.