A Japanese Salad Tale

The birth of my Japanese salad, in so many words: I have to say that I did stumble on this concept a while ago during some experiments on fermented vegetables. I was trying to make a simple gingered red cabbage side dish for a hot Thai curry. Originally, I macerated the chopped cabbage with just a few slivers of fresh ginger in a little sesame oil and fresh lime juice, then added shredded coconut and a few sprigs of coriander (cilantro) to match the fabled Thai flavors. It wasn’t bad but it bothered me somewhat. I tasted bitter, not fully realized, a bit like your average politician. It needed an intense flavor, something that would linger on one’s tongue, and could accompany a fiery curry. Or stand on its own.

I thought of raspberry vinegar, one of my favorite vinegar flavors. It could do the trick, if blended with another acetic liquid so I bought a bottle of Japanese rice vinegar. I got a decent sized purple cabbage and proceeded to cut it as finely as possible, lengthwise. Then I added a whole head of ginger, also cut finely, and turned it into a myriad of inch-long slivers. I got hold of a large glass jar, with a tight lid and began to fill it with layers of cabbage and ginger, all the way to the top. Then I virtually drowned the contents with an equal amount of rice and raspberry vinegar. No sugar, no salt, nothing.

I put the jar in the refrigerator and waited for three days before opening and tasting. I loved the color of the cabbage, almost translucent. The ginger had blended in nicely, same color as the cabbage. I ate some, then wrapped a spoonful into a lettuce leaf. Not bad. But not great either. Not enough bite to it though the ginger gave it a small kick. I knew I had to add other flavors, perhaps in the form of root vegetables. I got some carrots and a head of celeriac.

I made a julienne of the carrots and the celeriac, and added more ginger, for good measure. However the liquid itself was wanting, it lacked a back taste. I didn’t want to use salt or pepper, the obvious levelers, and since I was toying with balsamic reduction for another dish, I poured half a glass worth into the jar, and mixed well. Next I squeezed four of five limes and added the juice to the concoction. And waited another three days.

Still, not happy. It was close but not there yet. You’d think I was creating some kind of rocket fuel! I went out to my local greengrocer and bought a head of fennel. This would add a new dimension, I thought feverishly, and that it might be the “game changer” in the world of salads. I added the whole head and again, another wait of three days, but not before I poured a half glass of toasted sesame oil into the jar, on a hunch. And that proved to be the clincher! Suddenly it sang to me! It had all the qualities of a grand salad, good color, taste, a crunchiness to die for. And it looked great.

Next I had to think about how to serve it, and how, and should it need the company of leaves.

I have a constant supply of Italian salad leaves, a mix of sorrel, baby spinach, rocket and rucola.

Note how all the vegetables took to the purple color!

A few leaves of radicchio complimented the final set-up in which I would serve the salad. I love the faint bitterness of radicchio, a must-eat salad in Italy between courses, it stimulates the appetite.


 photo 001-18.jpgAnd this is the final product, with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and a feeble attempt to imitate Japanese art with a bottle of thick Balsamic reduction.

The next post will be about how to make the perfect cannelloni, with pics.

This entry was posted in Food, Fun, Health, Recipes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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