I take Japanese lessons on Thursday nights and it’s nearly 7:00 by the time I get home, so I usually ask Alex to make dinner on those nights. A few weeks ago my teacher cancelled our lesson so I wouldn’t have to bicycle there in the cold, raging wind. I asked Alex if there was anything I could do to help with dinner; he said, “I found an interesting looking salad recipe online, so why don’t you make the dressing.” I got out the ingredients and started to measure. “Hey, this recipe looks awfully familiar,” I said, and he answered, “It should, you wrote it.”
It turned out that the recipe was Shiitake and Edamame Salad with White Miso Vinaigrette, which I created for Sunset magazine’s reader recipe contest in 2006. The recipe contest was advertised in the magazine as a chance to win a dream vacation. The prize vacation for the salad category was a trip for two to Kauai. Kauai sounded like a wonderful place, but salad… hasn’t every combination of fruit, vegetable, and dressing already been published? I remembered standing over the blender late one night, measuring spoons in hand, trying to get inspired to create a stellar salad.
I knew I liked honey-miso dressing: seasoned with sesame and a bit of soy sauce, but with its heavy dose of sesame oil, sometimes it tastes a little heavy. I spied a navel orange in the fruit basket. Mmm… citrus and miso, now that sounds good. Into the blender went the orange juice. For the miso, I decided to use just white miso, not a heartier, saltier red miso. I blended those with rice vinegar, honey, and shallot, then drizzled in a mix of vegetable and sesame oil to make a creamy, golden dressing. The rest of the salad, I admit, was just what was in my refrigerator: shiitake mushrooms, leftover edamame, some thinly sliced green onions. I put it together and Alex and I tasted it: pretty good, but it needed some more color. “Baby beet greens,” I wrote in the recipe; it was a long shot. Who even has beet greens anyways? Well, I do in the spring if I’m growing beets, but I certainly didn’t expect that anyone would go out and buy them.
I typed up the recipe, sent it off (as usual, just before the deadline), and forgot all about it. Imagine my surprise when I heard from Sunset’s editors a few months later. I was so excited, and we really did use the prize money to go to Kauai for our honeymoon the next summer.
Alex still loves this dressing, and making our own dressing is cheaper than buying bottled dressing at the store (what a waste!). I’ve made a few improvements over the years. I think the most important thing is to use freshly squeezed orange juice. In fact, if you have the orange’s zest, add that too. I have made the dressing with bottled orange juice, but the flavor just isn’t the same. If you must use bottled juice, add some lemon juice or vinegar to give it a little extra zip. I use Kyoto’s sweet, light, Saikyo miso. I switched from rice vinegar to a milder brown rice vinegar and the dressing was a bit on the sweet side. The balance of acid and sweetness will vary between different vinegars and miso so you’ll have to adjust the amount of honey to your own taste. Finally, less is more with the shallot—the dressing will be thick and have an assertive oniony funk if you add too much. If you don’t have shallot, don’t worry about it, try seasoning the dressing with a bit of ginger or even myoga instead.
I noticed that Sunset recently published a similar very recipe that added tahini and adjusted the amounts of vinegar and honey, so it looks like they’ve been making improvements too.
Back to the other night: since it was vegetari-ish night, we had large servings of the salad for dinner. Alex came up with a great way to add more protein and crunch at the same time. Deep fry sheets of abura-age, drain well, and season lightly with salt. Chopped up, they’re like high-protein croutons (maybe we can call them tofu-tons 😉 ).
Honeymoon Miso Dressing
by Laurel Swift
1 small shallot
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons high-quality rice vinegar
2 scant tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Saikyo miso
3 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds.
Roughly chop the shallot. Add the shallot to the orange juice, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, and miso. Blend until smooth. Next, drizzle the vegetable and sesame oil into the dressing with the blender running. The dressing should be creamy and slightly thickened. Finally stir in the sesame seeds. This recipe makes a generous cup (about 300 mL) of dressing.
*Tip: I make my dressing with a tall, half-liter measuring beaker and a stick-blender. It’s just the right size and easier to clean than a standard blender.
Honeymoon Miso Salad
1 head butter lettuce, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
2 sheets abura-age (thin fried tofu)
10 medium shiitake mushrooms, or substitute king oyster, maitake, or other mushrooms
1/2 cup shelled, cooked edamame (frozen edamame are fine)
3 scallions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
Honeymoon Miso Dressing
Fill a pot or wok with vegetable oil about 1-inch deep. The oil should be hot enough to sizzle when you add the abura-age. Cut the abura-age into strips and fry them one sheet at a time until they are crispy. The abura-age will float, so use wooden chopsticks or tongs to flip them. Drain well on paper towels and season lightly with salt.
Slice the mushrooms about 1/4 inch thick. In a frying pan, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil (You can use a bit of the frying oil). Add the mushrooms, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned.
In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with 2 tablespoons of dressing. Pile the dressed greens on large plates. Top with mushrooms, fried abura-age strips, edamame, onions, and oranges. Sprinkle with more sesame seeds and serve the remaining dressing on the side.