Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lightening Up: Green Papaya Salad

I've been trying to eat a bit healthier lately. The battle of the bulge has really started to get me down, so I'm slowly turning over a new leaf. Yeah, I know, you've heard me say this before, but this time I really mean it. And I know what you're thinking . . . you've heard that one before too.

In an effort to make things light for me and keep them interesting for those I cook for, I have been trying out some new recipes. Since I can always throw something Asian or Mexican(ish) at my family, I have been turning to these two cuisines for inspiration.

One of the recipes I have been wanting to try for sometime, and the one I finally chose to make for this post, is green papaya salad. Green papaya's health benefits seem to be something that probably won't hurt any of us around here. Raw green papaya is not only low in calories and high in fiber, it contains vitamins, aids digestion, and also makes you beautiful and funny. Well that's an exaggeration, but the health benefits are many. The only downside is that it is a bit "carby", especially after you douse it in a sugary vinaigrette. I guess you can't win them all.

In the past I have looked over several recipes for green papaya salad and noticed right away that I was going to have to make a few alterations to the traditional Thai recipe because of the fishy ingredients which I am not a big fan of. So, after a couple of alterations, this salad is no longer your traditional Thai recipe, but for my taste, it is a bit better. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Green Papaya Salad

I found green papaya at a local Korean market. If you have an Asia market in your area, it should be easy to find. The only hitch was that the smallest one I could find was about 3 pounds, which is double of what I needed to serve 4 - 6. If you can't find green papaya I have read that jicama or firm mango will work, but I haven't tried these myself. My green papaya was a tiny bit tough, and while noticeable, I didn't find it undesirable. I served this salad with some jasmine rice and rotisserie chicken and the family loved it.

12 - 15 small green beans, cut to about 2 - 3" long
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 juicy limes)
3 tablespoons lightly packed light brown sugar
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 - 1-1/2 pounds fresh green papaya, peeled, seeded and grated or julienne sliced (I gambled my fingertips and did this with my mandolin slicer)
1/3 of a medium size English cucumber, julienne sliced and cut into 2 - 3" lengths
1 - 2 large green onions, cut into 2 - 3" lengths and julienne sliced
12 or so cherry tomatoes, sliced into quarters
1 large jalapeno (red or green, depending on your preference and heat tolerance), diced
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped unsalted, roasted peanuts (optional)

Place green beans in a small pot of salted, boiling water. Cook until they are tender crisp before draining and setting aside.

Place the lime juice, sugar, garlic, ginger, fish sauce and soy sauce in a small jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well and set aside until ready to use.

Peel and scrape seeds and any membrane like fibers from the center of the green papaya before grating.

In a large bowl, place the cooked and cooled green beans, papaya, cucumber, green onion, cherry tomato and jalapeno. Give the dressing another good shake before pouring it over all. Toss well and serve with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts if desired.

Serves 6

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