I’m craving crunch, and I don’t mean underfoot. We have plenty of that, what with eight-foot snow boulders bookending our driveway.
What I mean is I’ve been craving crunchy food, crisp textures that wake your mouth by making you work for the flavors, so you’re actively involved in what’s going on in there. If we can’t get away from the snow, lets at least take a vacation from braises and brown foods, soft textures, one-dimensional flavors, and that weighted feeling you get after eating a big plate of stewed meat and mashed vegetables for the umpteenth time.
Our CSA has announced that there won’t be any winter greens for the foreseeable future because there’s nowhere for them to grow. So, I took stock of the refrigerator, substituting hearty cabbage that’s still kicking around from the fall harvest as the base for this bright and crunchy mid-winter salad.
I first ate a salad like this at our favorite local take-out spot. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so we ordered it over and over, sometimes with thai sticky pork ribs or crispy Korean fried chicken. Then I started working on my own version, serving it once with these yummy meatballs (using ground pork instead of chicken) and another time with Asian Beef and Noodle Soup.
The raw vegetables are colorful, crisp, and sweet, layered with three types of herbs, scallions, and sprinkled with honey-roasted peanuts. The simple sesame dressing isn’t much on its own, but as a foil for the vegetables, it highlights all of the assorted flavors. The salty soy sauce breaks down the stiff cabbage and the sweet honey and nutty sesame oil add balance. It’s so very light and refreshing – something you’d want to eat on a tropical beach vacation. If you close your eyes and take a bite, maybe, just maybe, you can believe for a minute that you’re actually on the sand somewhere, in a patch of bright sunlight, concerned only about choosing your next beach read rather than back here, breaking through ice dams and mounded brown snow with your broken shovel.
I’m right there with you.
- 2 cups green or Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
- 1 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced
- 2 cups Romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
- 2 large carrots, grated
- 1 medium or 2 small cucumbers, halved and sliced diagonally
- 3 scallions, white and light green parts sliced diagonally
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves, torn
- ¼ cup Thai or other basil leaves, torn
- 2 tablespoons mint leaves, torn
- 1/3 cup honey roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
- Black and white sesame seeds (optional)
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- Toss all of the salad ingredients, except the peanuts and sesame seeds in a wide, shallow bowl.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the ginger, soy sauce, sherry vinegar and honey. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add the sesame oil in a thin stream, blending until emulsified.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. The salad can be assembled several hours before eating, and dressed 15 minutes ahead of time. Top with the sesame seeds and peanuts just before serving.