Final Salad Days of Summer
I’ve been falling in love with salads again as I frantically try to cook up the summer’s bounty before the chill sets in here in Maine. In Oregon and here, September is prime salad-making time. You’ve got just about every fresh, locally-grown vegetable at your disposal.
I’ve brought salads to several events of late, so I’m in a groove. And rather than bring the same old dressed lettuce, I’ve sought out variety, recipes that really test our sense of the word “salad.” I love how deliciously broad a category it is.
Take, for example, otsu: the tangy, gingery cold soba noodles tossed with toasted tofu, cucumber, scallions, toasted sesame seeds and shredded carrot kraut (last ingredient my addition). I gladly stumbled upon the recipe in popular food blogger Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking book, a thank-you gift I received for judging a hazelnut cooking competition. Swanson’s technique of roasting the drained tofu cubes in a dry non-stick pan (or well-seasoned cast iron skillet) was a revelation to me. Finally crispy cubes of tofu that didn’t require additional oil. I might use this technique to prepare tofu for a stir-fry or simmer sauce, to give in a more satisfying texture. Be careful not to overcook the soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles) here…those thin suckers cook up quickly.
Other salads I made this week included a visually-grabbing tri-colored beet salad with cut blanched green beans and yellow tomato. Tonight, I was inspired by the Samin Nosrat‘s grilled pepper and corn salad. It came out more like a liquid-y salsa, but a nice acidic complement to greasy ribs we picnicked on from a surprisingly authentic BBQ place in nearby Bath (great domain name, Beale Street!). The liquid leftover from the salad would make nice Bloody Mary’s. Nosrat’s recipe calls for pre-pickling the onions in red wine vinegar and pressing garlic with salt into paste for dressing–techniques I recognize from my beloved Tamar Adler. Which isn’t surprising, I suppose, since both women worked at Chez Panisse. Must have learned the techniques from Alice Waters.