Sunday, June 12, 2011

Two Spicy Salads

Sometimes I bite off a little more than I can chew with produce. Stunned by the freshness and beauty of what I see on display, I get carried away and end up buying emotionally. Of course, I always have an idea or two as to how I will use the various fruits or vegetables, but, swept up in the passion of the moment, I bring home more than I could possibly prepare, let alone eat in a day--or even a week.

This is not an uncommon affliction, I've discovered, even among people who don't cook as constantly as I do. You buy vegetables with the best of intentions, and then you find some of them a week later, buried in the back of the fridge, and wonder if they're salvageable. I unearthed a fairly unhappy daikon radish yesterday, and rather than give up on it, I decided to grate it for a quick salad. I also found some baby cucumbers that, while much happier, needed using right away. Two spicy Korean-influenced salads in Speed Vegan seemed an ideal application--especially since they're laced with the same dressing. They became a sparky appetizer to precede the eggplant green curry I made for dinner--another hasty dish, designed keep three gorgeous Indian eggplants from going south.

The individual salad recipes are in the book, but I'll just tell it as it happened, and then you'll have them as a pair, with the workflow steps. To make just one of the salads, cut the dressing quantities in half. If you're not terribly keen on spicy food, you might want to reduce the amount of chile flakes slightly. Bear in mind, however, that chiles are the most anti-inflammatory food you can eat, so I recommend using them liberally and frequently. They also trigger the release of endorphins, so there's considerable pleasure involved once you get past the fact that your mouth is on fire.

I started the cucumber salad first, because it involves a step that eats up twenty minutes. I sliced six baby cucumbers about 1/8-inch thick, tossed them with a teaspoon of sea salt, and left them to drain in a colander.

Next, I made enough dressing for both salads. To do this, I crushed 2 teaspoons red chile flakes in a mortar. I added 2 cloves of garlic, minced, and 2 teaspoons Celtic salt, and pounded away until a mushy paste formed (this as the fun part). Then I added 3 tablespoons brown rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons Udo's DHA Oil Blend, and a tablespoon dark agave nectar (a little won't kill you), and worked it in.

For the other salad, I shredded the daikon and a couple of smallish carrots into a bowl and added a tablespoon of black sesame seeds.

The cucumber was still draining at this point, so I started prep on the eggplant dish. When about twenty minutes had passed, I thoroughly rinsed and drained the cucumber slices, and then patted them dry with a towel. I dropped them into a separate bowl and added a tablespoon of unhulled white sesame seeds.

I stirred the dressing again, divided it equally between the two bowls, and tossed each salad thoroughly. I had just bought a fresh bag of red chile flakes, so they were at their peak of potency, and had produced one fiery dressing. The salads were spicy, and crunchy-succulent, each with its own complex flavor profile--just the way I like it!

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