Watch chef Blake Sterling make the perfect quarantine salad

The perfect quarantine salad by chef Blake Sterling in a white bowl

“I was frying things for the first month of quarantine,” says chef Blake Sterling, as he preps the sauce for a spicy peanut cabbage salad, the pandemic comfort food he made with me on Instagram Live this past Wednesday. The crunchy, mildly tangy salad represents both a departure from fryfest, and an acquiescence of sorts. As soon as he realized that quarantine wasn’t going to be just a month-long affair, Sterling says he settled into a new reality: that we can eat well and feel comforted by satiating flavors and textures, all while and avoiding a premature grease-induced heart attack during this pandemic.

And so, eating well and feeling good was the theme of this week’s Look What I Made, Mic’s IG Live cooking show for newly minted quarantine chefs (us) — featuring actual, professional chefs (like Sterling, a recent graduate of the International Culinary Center).

The 30-minute episode is filled with professional techniques — such as how to actually poach a shrimp — and moments of culinary insight that can only come from someone who respects the thoughtful layering of flavor profiles (watch the episode to become a part of this inside joke). Sterling’s light-hearted yet innovative approach to preparing meals, especially for someone you love, is something we can all dig right now, even if we have no intention of hauling our behinds to the kitchen today.

But seriously, make the salad. It was so good, I almost stopped frying everything myself. Almost.

Spicy Peanut Cabbage Salad with Poached Shrimp


1 T soy sauce (or Tamari for gluten free)

2 T rice vinegar

2 T fresh lime juice

3 T sesame oil

1 T sugar

1 T honey

1 t salt

2 medium garlic cloves

1-inch square fresh ginger

1/4 C creamy peanut butter

red pepper flakes to taste

1/4 C unsalted peanuts (blanched preferred)

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor.

Salad mix:

4 C Napa cabbage (shredded cole slaw mix)

1 C red cabbage

1 C shredded carrots

(the above three can be substituted with fresh bagged coleslaw mix)

1 large red/yellow/orange (not green) bell pepper, chopped into thin bite-sized slices

1/4 small red onion (or scallion if preferred) diced

Poached shrimp:

Make shallow cuts into shrimp backs lengthwise through shell to expose veins and remove. Prepare a large ice bath (half ice, half water). Bring a small stockpot of water to a boil and season generously with salt. Squeeze lemon juice into pot, then add lemon halves.

Add onion, celery, bay, peppercorns and wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15-20 minutes. Lower heat just below simmer. Add shrimp and cook till they form a "C" shape, 2-3 minutes. Using a strainer/slotted spoon, transfer to ice bath till center is cool.