A Chinese Caesar Salad with Umami

above photo by Sarah Anne Ward for The New York Times
My brother sent me a link to this recipe with the request that I try it out as a bon appétempt on his behalf. I was intrigued from the start, as he rarely makes such requests. And when I clicked on it, I was almost completely won over by the title alone: "A Chinese Caesar Salad with Umami." Then I looked at the list of ingredients (kasha, hijiki seaweed, shio kombu) and was discouraged. But then, I actually read the article and was sold once again. See, the chef responsible for the salad, Danny Bowien, gives you carte blanche to skip any of the ingredients you don't have on hand. Here's the quote, just to be clear: “Yeah, if you don’t have it, leave it out... That’s cool. It still works.”

If you say so, Danny! 

Here's the recipe's original ingredient's list with my changes:

½ 3/4 head red cabbage
1 medium-size beet, ideally candy-striped 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into thin rounds
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon dried hijiki seaweed  2 teaspoons wakame seaweed (For some reason, at Whole Foods, a small bag of hijiki seaweed was $20 so I went with the $5 wakame.)
1 teaspoon ume vinegar or red-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sweet white-miso paste
3 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon shiro shoyu or light soy sauce (Somewhere along the way, I started buying shoyu instead of soy sauce.)
8 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola
½ cup kasha
2 tablespoons aonori seaweed, green seaweed or finely shredded nori

3 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon shio kombu or salted kombu, optional Pinch of salt, or to taste

Cut cabbage in half, and remove core. Cut into 1-inch wedges and then into 1-inch pieces. Toss these lightly in a bowl, and set aside.

Under running cold water, scrub beet with a vegetable brush or paper towel. Trim the beet top and beet root to provide a flat base for slicing on a mandoline. Set thickness to 1/8 inch, and slice beets into flat rounds. Toss the carrots into the bowl with the cabbage and season with half the lemon juice. Set aside.

Make sesame-anchovy dressing. In a small bowl, cover hijiki wakame with warm tap water. Allow to bloom for 15 minutes, then drain well, and season with the red-wine vinegar. Add miso, tahini, rice vinegar, shiro shoyu, the remaining lemon juice and the anchovies, and whisk to combine. Dressing should have a thick, almost mayonnaise-like consistency.

Make the kasha furikake. Pour neutral oil into a sauté pan, and place over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Pour kasha into the hot pan, and stir it quickly with a spoon to coat with oil. Allow kasha to fry in the oil, stirring constantly, until it has darkened by two shades of brown. Drain kasha through a fine strainer, and transfer to a plate covered by paper towel. While it is hot, season with the seaweed, which should adhere to the kasha. When it has cooled, mix kasha in a small bowl with the toasted sesame seeds and, if using, the shio kombu. Salt to taste.

Make the salad. Add 3 tablespoons of the sesame-anchovy dressing to the bowl with the cabbage and the beets carrots, and mix well to combine. Add more dressing if necessary. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl, and sprinkle 4 tablespoons or so of the kasha furikake over the top with lightly toasted sesame seeds.
All I can say is: Danny was right. Despite all of the changes, this salad was so delicious. We served it with a couple of grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts I'd marinated in some rice vinegar, garlic, and shoyu, which without the accompanying salad, would have been pretty sad. 

Everyone should now go and leave a personal thank-you note to my brother Bill in the comments section. (Something about how cute Teddy and his two teeth are would also work.) 

Until next time!


Matthew said...

Thx, Bill! Teddy couldn't get enough of this thing.

Unknown said...

Thanks Bill, this salad definitely has me intrigued. Oh and Teddy, you and your teeth are adorable!

Duly Inspired said...

Yea! Thank you Bill! Also, Teddy is the cutest 2-toothed creature ever!

Sara said...

Thanks, BILL! Also: this salad is super beautiful (as is Teddy).

Unknown said...

The salad is gorgeous! It is so good to be provided with permission from the writer of the recipe to skip ingredients, as needed. Here in Italy it is hard to find Asian ingredients (really any ingredient that is not super, traditional Italian) so I often skip recipes like this but I might just make a go at it.

Kara said...

Oh man, the salad is so beautiful and still the Teddy picture is so welcome, you know?! Like, at this point, there is nothing more radiant to me than drool on a smiling baby's face.

Amelia Morris said...

Hahaha thanks, Kate!

Amelia Morris said...

:) :)

Amelia Morris said...

Way to get that Teddy compliment in there!

Unknown said...

Very healthy salad n the baby is very cute :)

mliss said...

Scrolling down & seeing that face made me forget all about the salad. His photos always make me smile. Thanks.

Amelia Morris said...

awwww, thank youuuu!