You Heart What You Eat: Criss cross salad toss |

You Heart What You Eat: Criss cross salad toss

Tera Johnson Swartz/For Steamboat Today
Explore's food contributor, Tera Johnson-Swartz share her new recipe, "Criss Cross Salad Toss" inspired by South East Asian cuisine for a new kind of salad using a variety of new ingredients and tools.
Courtesy Photo

— I’ve said it before: Salad is something I crave one day and despise the next, depending on my mood. But given the right conditions — an across the world vacation to South East Asia, perhaps — or a new recipe, and I’m all in for the new regular version in rotation on my menu.

Because we live in the mountains of Steamboat Springs and have limited access to a couple of the traditional ingredients (banana flower, water spinach, Thai basil and Vietnamese mint), I’ve modified the original recipe we learned in my day-long cooking class. Fortunately, the outcome is equally delicious.

In addition to the learning curve in shopping for, and cooking, a completely foreign series of recipes, using Asian kitchen tools was probably my favorite part of the trip. Incidentally, I bought pretty much everything the market allowed, simply because the outcome of the freshly grated or cut up produce was so cool, I had to bring something back home to share a new skill with my dinner party friends.

That said, you certainly do not have to have the “magic knife” or special splitter to make your salad equally enticing. Using a standard grater is fine. However, if you’re similar to me and need that extra “oomf” in your presentation to feel as if you’ve got a shot at making the cut for next season’s Master Chef series, next time you’re in Denver, go to your local Asian Market store. Trust me, you’ll be so amazed at all the gadgets and gizmos, you’ll be clearing out another kitchen drawer just for your Asian cuisine tools.

One of the first things I learned from this recipe is that we Americans waste a lot of perfectly good produce. Consider how we throw away the peels of mangos and papayas, eating only the flesh part. Yeah, we’re really missing out on some interesting flavors and loads of health benefits.

Before you resign to making this dish when you see the dressing contains “fish sauce,” I personally am not a fan of fish sauce’s smell or, frankly, the idea of fish sauce being a regular addition to my pantry. But, trust me when I say, you will not smell or taste it when it’s combined with the other ingredients, and the flavor is just extraordinary.

Criss Cross Salad Toss

Marinate Mixture

  • 2 cups thinly sliced chicken or pork pieces, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 
1 teaspoon sugar
, 2 pinches ground pepper
  • 2 pinches Five Spice (you can get it at the grocery store or Asian market or make it yourself — it’s a combination of equal parts of star anise, cloves, cinnamon Szechwan pepper and fennel seeds)

Salad Mixture

  • 2 cups grated green papaya (not quite ripe papaya peel), 
1/2 cup grated green mango (not quite ripe mango peel)
  • 1/4 cup grated carrot
  • 1 small, fresh-sliced chili (you determine your spice level)
, 2 finely sliced spring onions (aka scallions)
, 6 finely sliced Swiss chard stems


  • Juice of 1 lime, squeezed
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce


  • 1/2 cup of fresh mint

  • 1/4 cup fresh Thai basil (but if you don’t have it, regular basil will do just as well)
2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds

  • 1 tablespoon crispy shallots and oil

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, marinate chicken (or pork) with mixture listed above for at least 15 minutes. In a small mixing bowl, mix the dressing ingredients, set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large salad bowl grate and thoroughly toss the salad mixture, then add salad dressing and toss again until just combined. Grill chicken or pork until golden, then let cool for two minutes.

In a small sauce pan, heat 1to 2 tablespoons of oil — peanut, corn or grapeseed are best, as they have higher smoke points — add finely diced slices of a single fresh shallot and stir constantly (this is essential to prevent burning).

When it’s just about crunchy, remove from heat, drain and place crispy shallots on a paper towel to cool. Move salad mixture ingredients to a serving plate, place grilled meat strips over the top and sprinkle the top with mint, basil, roasted sesame seeds and crispy shallots. Serve and enjoy.

You Heart What You Eat is a weekly blog offering a twist of healthy alternative tips and recipes for some of our most coveted comfort foods. From decadent desserts to main dish favorites, you’ll look forward to our next edition. Questions or suggestions you’d like included in one of our future blogs should be directed to Tera Johnson-Swartz via email at

Tera Johnson-Swartz is a mommy first, but also enjoys working one of her many side gigs, whether freelance writing, music, massage therapy, independent childbirth, lactation or health educating. She is eternally grateful she is able to follow her passion every day, loves her supporting husband and their two young children and couldn’t imagine living a better life outside the city limits of Steamboat Springs.

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