Salad from a Late Summer Daydream
We're daydream believers.
WHERE HAS SUMMER GONE? How did the season go by without me creating a cantaloupe-celebratory salad, as I did last summer, or at least writing an adoring poem about my favorite melon. Or even a cranky one, like Ogden Nash did.
The Cantaloupe, by Ogden Nash
One cantaloupe is ripe and lush,
Another’s green, another’s mush.
I’d buy a lot more cantaloupe
If I possessed a fluoroscope.
Every year, I like to get a jump on mourning the passing of summer, as if it’s some big surprise. (Oh, lost!) But this year I promised myself I’d be a grownup about it.
So at a time of year when I would normally be stuffing myself with the last of the summer tomatoes while reclining in a patch of summer herbs and drinking from a bottle of extra virgin olive oil, I’ve been expressly dreaming about brassicas in salad.
For those of you who do not know, the Brassica genus (of the family Brassicaceae) includes a lot of the vegetables you may have run from as a kid and now run toward as an adult (especially if you know what’s good for you). Or, at least, that’s the way it happened with me. If I opened the front door of our house at the end of the day, after playing kick-the-can down the street, and the bouquet of cooked cabbage greeted me, I’d sit outside on the porch in the dark until people came looking for me. No thank you, I’ll stay out here and play with the skunks. But today I could eat smothered cabbage every day of my life, not to mention barrels of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, turnips, and kale.
In general, it seems like we’ve come around as a country of brassica lovers in the last 40 years, possibly as a result of the rise of the modern greenmarket. When I left Manhattan in 2003, it was considered cool in this greenmarket forward city to brag about your children begging for roasted Brussels sprouts. And in the intervening years, the kale salad practically became a badge of hipster kitchen cred, thanks most probably to Chef Joshua McFadden, who in his terrific cookbook Six Seasons describes the kale kraze he started with his archetypal, beautifully simple salad back in 2007; he was chef de cuisine at Franny’s in Brooklyn, and the New York Times came calling. I for one am going to try to get a turnip movement started.
And by the way, while I tend to think of brassicas as autumn vegetables, my gentleman farmer friend Kevin, whose Caesar salad recipe and love story is still one of our most loved by subscribers, pointed out they just happen to like cool weather, so they should be considered spring and fall vegetables.
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Anyway, when I say I’ve been dreaming about kale, I don’t mean literally—the only food I dream about as I sleep is coffee, although I did once have an extremely funny dream about a chicken. What I mean is that in my daydreams (as I’m driving or listening to certain people talk), kale in salad has taken over my mind.
This is partly the season and partly because it’s one of those foods that makes me feel like I’ve been given a peppy pill after I eat it. Another one is tofu—I love it and don’t understand people who continue to view it as a newfangled culinary curiosity the world is trying to force upon them (it’s been around for at least 2,000 years) while voluntarily eating Cheetohs. (I am not anti-Cheetoh, so don’t start with me.)
And the third one is edamame, those delicious, immature green soybeans.
So today I have a salad that incorporates these ingredients, all of which I would have considered poison back when I was parked on our front porch avoiding cooked cabbage. I got the idea of combining a sesame dressed kale salad with soba noodles from Deborah Madison’s great cookbook Vegetable Literacy, and boy oh boy was that a good idea.
*Recipe: Dreamy Kale and Edamame Salad with Sesame Vinaigrette and Soba Noodles
Serves 4-6, as a meal or as a side salad
1 bunch Tuscan or curly kale (I’m particularly in love with Tuscan right now)
1-2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil (if you can’t find this it’s okay to use light sesame oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1 large carrot, shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1 cup shelled edamame (you can buy these both frozen and packaged (in the fresh vegetable section); I get mine at Trader Joe’s
1 cup diced baked tofu (basically the whole packet if you’re using Trader Joe brand; I like the Sriracha flavor)
6 to 9 ounces soba noodles (2 or 3 bundles, depending on whether you’re serving it as a side or a meal), cooked according to package directions, cooled completely under cold running water, and held in ice water until ready to use (otherwise they’ll stick together)
1/2 cup chopped roasted salted peanuts
3 or 4 scallions, sliced crosswise or chopped (include some green top)
Hot sauce, such as Sriracha (super-optional)
Sesame Vinaigrette (recipe below)
NOTE: The truth is I tend to cook soba noodles for much less time than directed; they cook really fast so check them after two or three minutes on full boil.
Remove the woody stems from the kale. Stack the leaves and slice them crosswise into slender ribbons. Add the leaves to a large bowl; drizzle with the sesame oil and sprinkle with the teaspoon of salt. Now, grab the leaves and toss with your hands, coating each shred while also massaging the salt and oil into the leaves. Let this sit for 5-10 minutes (or more).
Top the kale with the carrot, edamame, tofu, and some of the dressing and toss gently but thoroughly to coat; taste it and imagine what could improve it. More dressing? A bit of lemon juice? Some salt?
Drain the soba noodles well and toss with the toasted sesame oil. At this point, you may line a serving bowl or platter with the noodles, top with the salad, adorn with crushed peanuts and scallions, and serve, drizzling more dressing over it and tossing it at the table after everyone has gotten a good look at it. Or you may toss it all together in a giant magnificent jumble, adjust the dressing, and serve. Bring the extra dressing to the table, along with your favorite hot sauce (and extra red pepper flakes? a small dish of toasted sesame seeds?) so that diners may tailor their portions. (The dressing already has a lil kick, but I do like a very small squirt of sriracha on mine.)
Makes about 2/3 of a cup
1 large garlic clove, grated (I have made this with 2 cloves; also super!)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons regular (not toasted) sesame oil
1 tablespoons canola oil
Zest of 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Good fat pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, optional (you may instead sprinkle the salad with sesame seeds at the end)
Add all ingredients to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well.
I KNOW I’M ALL OVER THE MAP regarding my lemon methods, but when it comes to getting every single drop of juice from a single lemon (as opposed to assembly-line juicing lotsa lemons for larger projects), the reamer is my favorite weapon. This one was a gift from my friend Elizabeth, who brought it back from Greece; it’s made of olive wood and it’s like the Terminator. You may not be able to find one this beautiful or powerful, but there are plenty of decent wood and plastic versions out there. Go for it.
🥬 ONE MORE THING We’ve gotten a start on PRINTABLE RECIPES! You’ll start finding downloadable PDF files (SEE THEM? ABOVE?) at the end of each recipe. We’re working backward, until we have them all done. CONFUSED? Check the archive if you lose track of your e-mailed newsletter.
🥬 🥬ALSO, I’M WONDERING: Do you follow me on Instagram? My feed is not a consistent array of uniformly styled photos of perfect food, which I know is what I’m supposed to offer. But I get too bored. So it includes videos of giant pandas loudly eating carrots and personal crap representative of my bad personality. I’d love to have you. Go here: Emily’s Instagram
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