By Scott Leysath

When the temperature rises, it's hard for me to get excited about a big, hot meal. With any luck, I've spent my day on the water seeking relief from the sweltering summer heat. In the evening, my dinner choices lean toward cool, crispy dishes that won't load you up, like refreshing chilled salads.

While we seldom associate waterfowl with salads, I've substituted duck and goose for chicken, beef, and shrimp in several warm-weather dishes. Adding seared, sliced duck breasts to a bowl of spinach leaves, blue cheese crumbles, red onions, and balsamic vinaigrette is a sensational lunch or dinner and an excellent way to use leftover duck. Another tasty summer treat is thinly carved goose breast with horseradish sauce on crusty bread.

I'm also a fan of Asian flavors, and the Thai salad recipe featured here is one of my favorites. It's a great way to end a summer day. Thai food is often associated with lava-hot dishes that will set your mouth on fire. Don't get me wrong; there are some screaming-hot Thai dishes that you may want to avoid. But more often than not, the recipes are quick, simple, and full of fresh tastes and crunchy textures without extremely hot spices. Thai cooking doesn't require exact measurements. Recipes are used as guidelines, but the cook determines how much of each ingredient to use.

Spicy Thai Duck Salad

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Marinating Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: less than 10 minutes
Serves: 4


  • 4-6 skinless duck breast fillets
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 heads red leaf lettuce (outside leaves removed) torn into large pieces
  • 1 head romaine lettuce heart, roughly chopped
  • 4 radishes, rinsed and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1. Rub the duck breast fillets with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown the meat evenly on both sides, but not past medium-rare. Allow to cool and then slice the duck breasts diagonally into thin strips. Place them in a medium bowl.

2. Next, prepare the dressing. In a medium bowl, whisk together fish sauce, sugar, lemon juice, garlic, mint, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. While whisking, add the remaining olive oil in a thin stream until emulsified. Pour half the dressing mixture over the sliced and cooled duck and toss to coat. Refrigerate for an hour.

3. In a large bowl, toss together lettuce, sliced radishes, cilantro leaves, onion, and the remaining dressing. Remove the sliced duck from the bowl and shake off excess dressing. Gently toss the duck pieces with the salad mixture and then mound salad onto plates and serve.