Thursday, August 11, 2011

Kale Salad with Red Radishes

I ran across some very small organic red beets the other day--an heirloom variety with hypnotic red and white concentric rings. I didn't want to cook them, because I suspected this would make the colors run and mute their intriguing design. On the other hand, they had a slightly off-putting aftertaste when raw, somewhere between a radish and a rutabaga. What to do? I had also bought a bunch of Tuscan kale (currently my favorite green) and a bunch of unusually thin scallions, which made me think along the lines of a Japanese-style salad.

I made a marinade-dressing with yuzu juice, microplaned ginger, tamari, a dash of toasted sesame oil, and just a dab of sriracha sauce. After scrubbing the little beets within an inch of their lives, I got out my truffle slicer and cut uniformly thin rounds into the bowl. I let them sit in the marinade, tossing every few minutes, until they softened slightly, and then removed them, swishing each one to rinse off any bits of ginger.

After removing the center ribs from the kale, I stacked the leaves and cut them thinly crosswise into thin strips, a little less than a quarter-inch wide. The scallions I cut thinly on a sharp diagonal. Reserving a few of the scallion slivers for garnish, I tossed the rest, along with the kale, in the marinade. I confess I used my fingers for this (I did wash my hands), because I wanted to work the kale a bit to help the marinade penetrate and soften it.

To serve, I made mounds of the kale-scallion mixture, and laid the rounds of beet all over the surface. Then I garnished with the reserved scallion slivers and a scattering of sesame seeds. The few minutes spent marinating had a profound effect on the beets; they were slightly tenderized, with a pleasant crunch just past the soft, yielding surface. A lively hot-sour-salty-pungent tang had replaced the disagreeable taste I had noticed before.

It's exciting to witness ingredients transforming one another this way, with a minor effort on my part, in a brief period of time. Of course, this wasn't the entire meal, so I had other dishes to make, but this one eye-and-palate alluring plate was the star of the night.

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