book reviews, salads, sides

spring vegetable salad + miso tahini dressing. also, a wee book review.

spring vegetable salad + miso dressing.

It. Is. Spring. If I just keep repeating that, will it become true? I certainly hope so, because it’s April, which means I’ve crossed over into full denial that it’s still chilly here. Warmth has become a state of mind more than it is an actual reality.

I’m wearing tee shirts.

I’m packing my scarves up.

I’m making this salad.

Because it’s 2 weeks to Easter, and there’s fresh produce everywhere I look, and it’s about time we kicked the chilly weather to the curb, even if right now that means eating like it’s 80 degrees and sunny out.

So this salad is terrific: a delightful transition salad that’s hearty but not heavy, bright and bountiful, filled with a rainbow of vegetables: radishes, avocados, scallions, snow peas, Napa cabbage, all sprinkled with a little black sesame seed. It’ll cheer you up just looking at it. Go ahead.

spring vegetable salad + miso dressing.

Do you feel warmer? I do. And it’s got a zippy little dressing that you would perk up any salad, really: a ginger-sesame-miso number that’s perfect for throwing on lots of things, so you needn’t worry about your leftovers going to waste.

Salads are wonderful for experimenting with; this one is no exception. Add chicken or tofu for some protein (chickpeas work nicely in this as well), or throw in different vegetables you have lying around. you could add some raw beet and carrot, a la my lettuce wraps, or make it even more green with some shaved or blanched asparagus, which is beautiful right now.

I think about vegetables a lot, especially right now, but what got my mind kicked into overdrive about them is the new installment of the Kitchen Club Kids series: Garden Safari Vegetable Soup. Remember when I reviewed the first one (End of the Rainbow Fruit Salad) as we were basking in the Florida sun last summer?

summer things.

end of the rainbow fruit salad.

It was pitch-perfect timing for a book about fruit salad, much in the way that spring is a fabulous time to release a vegetable soup book. What better time is there for vegetables than right now?

kitchen club kids series.

This one is very much like the first one, in the way that it teaches kids about all the things at once (and you don’t even know you’re learning): there’s counting 1 to 10, colors (orange carrots, yellow onions, purple potatoes), and the whole thing centers around kids being in the garden, which is great. And at the end of it all? You get a complete recipe for vegetable soup. The Wee One loves our little garden here, so she was pretty amped to get this book in the mail. We had to read it – twice – and then we had to go get the first installment and read that one – twice – as well. If you haven’t figured it out by now, she loves these little books.

You might be saying to yourself, “Hmm…the Wee One doesn’t love vegetables, though,” and you would be correct: she is mostly not a fan. However: books like these combined with me making salads like the one above, and having the garden we do in our backyard really let her get to know vegetables and fruits at her own pace, and although she’s not there yet, she’s getting there.

kitchen club kids series.

So if you have a totally picky kid like mine, or you have kids that will eat any and every vegetable or fruit you put in front of them, I’d recommend this little Kitchen Club Kids series: they are Wee One approved, and that’s big. And they have a pretty broad age range, in my opinion: great for little baby eyes because of the vibrant, colorful (and not too busy) illustrations and happy kid faces, great for toddlers because they’re familiarizing themselves with new foods, and great for older kids who like to help in the kitchen or are learning to read. The text is large and pretty easy on new readers, which is always a bonus: I love books like that for the Wee One because they were great when she was a baby, but they’ll be great when she starts really getting into reading. Because of that, they make a great gift for brand new babies to pre-K age kids, and beyond.

And by the way, not a sponsored post: I truly love these little books, as does the Wee One, and they’re written by local authors, and I think they do a great job. They did send me this book, as they did the first installment, and I was thrilled to get it, but if I had hated it? No review would happen. And if they knew how terrifyingly selective I am about praising kids books, they probably never would have sent me the book at all, but they did, and I love the series; yay! So all opinions on this are truly my own (and the Wee One’s). Thanks, as always, to Bread + Butter Publishing for gifting me with this book: I’m looking forward to the next installment, for sure.

spring vegetable salad + miso dressing.

So, here’s to spring, and vegetables, and books about vegetables, and salad.

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. I’ll never stop recommending this book, simply because it’s got a little bit of everything. If I’m just looking for some semi-relaxing but also elegant cooking, this is the book I start with.

Spring Vegetable Salad +Miso Dressing

Serves 4

for the dressing:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons shiro miso (white miso)
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality honey
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup flavorless oil, like grapeseed, vegetable, or even a light olive oil

for the salad:

  • 8 oz sugar snap peas
  • 1 large Napa cabbage (you’re wanting 4 cups of usable leaves here, so get 2 if they’re smallish), sliced into thin ribbons
  • 2 ripe avocados, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 bunch (8-10 individual) radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 scallions, sliced into thin rings, white and light green parts
  • 4-5 leaves basil, sliced into thin ribbons (optional: if you don’t like basil, pick another fresh herb, or go without)
  • 3-4 teaspoons black sesame seeds, for sprinkling over
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Make the dressing:

In a medium bowl, combine ginger, garlic, miso, tahini, and honey together until it is homogenous. Stir in the rice vinegar, whisking until everything is combined and smooth. Continue whisking as you slowly stream the oil into the dressing until everything has emulsified. Set aside in the fridge for at least an hour so for the flavors to blend.

Blanch those peas:

Set a medium pot of salted water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Prepare a small ice-water bath for post-blanch chilling and set aside. Once the water is boiling, add the sugar snap peas to the water and boil for about 2 minutes, until cooked slightly but still crisp and bright. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place them directly into the ice water bath to chill. Once cool, pat dry with a towel, trim the ends, and slice on the diagonal.

Make that salad:

I like to layer things onto plates and let guests mix things up. First, set down a nest of Napa cabbage, divided evenly onto 4 plates. Next, divide and scatter in the avocado cubes, radish rounds, and scallions. Throw your basil (if you’re using it) over top, and sprinkle with black sesame seeds. Season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Serve immediately alongside miso dressing: because I love a presentation, I’d serve the miso dressing in a jar to spoon over or in a spouted vessel for drizzling, since people tend to like to handle their own dressing quantities.

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  • Reply natalie @ wee eats April 9, 2014 at 8:38 am

    I need this salad. And the high today is 98 degrees (which is just as horrifying to me as the band was all those years ago). I am going to FINALLY have to stop talking myself out of buying miso and just BUY THE FREAKING MISO BECAUSE THIS SALAD LOOKS AWESOME.

    And when you say “broad age range” for these books… does that extend to 29 year olds? Or is that too far? I mean, the colors do look fun.

    • Reply shannon April 10, 2014 at 9:18 am

      I know you do: i feel like i was channelling your weather when i made this! Bonus points for that 98 degrees joke, because you automatically win at comments for that.
      BUY. THE MISO: it keeps forever in the fridge and when i featured it in the October column, i thought “sheesh: when am I going to use the rest of this?” answer? ALL THE TIME. I use it regularly, and it’s good for you.

      i believe the age range is 1-68? so you’re good. i think “fun personality” is more the criteria than number age. Brain age, maybe. 😉

  • Reply Emma April 9, 2014 at 9:21 am

    My kind of salad dressing, yum. I’m going to try for a second lunch salad in two days, actually the third salad meal in a row because i had cooked kale+shrimps for dinner last night. The only problem is my ingredients list is limited out here, so it’ll be the same salad as I had for lunch yesterday. Not really a problem, I say.

    • Reply shannon April 10, 2014 at 9:20 am

      I eat the same lunches/dinners repeatedly, and i’m not even out in the woods. You won’t mind eating this over and over…in fact, i recommend it. there’s probably enough dressing for 4 servings, easy, maybe 5 if you stretch it. kale and shrimps, you say? mmmmm. I know we’re all not on Team Shrimp, but I am.

  • Reply Ashley April 9, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Ditto – this is totally appropriate for 29 year olds too, right? The bright colors, the food, the recipe… You’re so wise to let Wee One find her own way to fruits and veggies (forcing it never turned out well in my family’s history, explaining why I never saw beets or cauliflower until I found them on my own) but exposing her to them as much as possible. So smart. I suspect she won’t resist things for long, with your kitchen skillz (with a z, of course!) and creativity.

    Also, I’m with you on wishing spring here. It’s getting better, but it is still so slow to warm up! Argh! Plus I have to go through wardrobe changes over the day – lots of layers in the morning, a jacket inside at work, tshirt for the drive home, sweatpants and slippers for late evening. It’s exhausting! But this salad is totally going to help my mental wishes.

    • Reply shannon April 10, 2014 at 9:26 am

      Completely appropriate, yes. Are you fun? you are, which means you would love this book, because this book is also fun. I’m not one to push things with the Wee: she’s not one that pushes back unless there’s a really good reason? so i follow her lead. I suspect she’s got some mouth sensitivity issues (i spend 24/7 with her, so i’ve observed this in action), and she’ll get there. she IS getting there, and it’s a process, but she LOVES knowing about produce, and she helps me make things, so i know she’s interested. Certainly she sees a steady rotation come through here, and not just broccoli and peas either: that kid’s known what celeriac and fennel is since she started talking. 😉

      cauliflower, really? that was relatively normal in my kid life (beets only in the pickled way)…so interesting to hear how/what we all grew up with.

      it’s almost here, right? it’s dang warm outside today, and yesterday, it was warm/sunny enough for me to run (in long sleeves) for couple of miles without my ears falling off. chilly, but i’ll take it as long as it gets steadily warmer. I know about the wardrobe changes: i feel like Beyonce in concert most days with all the outfit rotation that goes on here. 🙂

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs April 9, 2014 at 11:15 am

    The sure sign that spring is finally here? Our grass has greened up and is growing. Which means it needs mowing. 🙁 Glad to do it, though, since this was an unusually long and cold winter. Our thoughts are turning towards salads, too. Lovely mix of flavors, colors, and textures in this. You done good. Thanks.

    • Reply shannon April 10, 2014 at 9:29 am

      Ah, i have it on good authority (Mr. Table, Official Grasscutter of this House) that our grass will indeed need its first mowing of the year this weekend! 🙂 And i concur, because I was out prepping the garden soil yesterday…it’s time for some outdoor housekeeping, and i’m also glad to do it, because it beats being stuck inside.
      thank you! I figure we’re all going to be in a salad mood soon.

  • Reply Brianne April 9, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    That miso dressing sounds heavenly. I love your view on the Smitten Kitchen book; it’s spot on! Plus that lay-flat binding is my favorite thing ever. My roasted vegetable based winter salads have given way this week to raw fruit based salads–as in, I switched beets or squash up for apples or grapes. And I’m using all the herbs now because it feels right. Bring on spring and it’s light, refreshing salads!

    • Reply shannon April 10, 2014 at 9:32 am

      Thanks Brianne! You know, i thought about that description a little bit: longer than usual, because i was trying to put my finger on why i gravitate towards it so much at specific times. And the lay-flat binding? cookbooks should be REQUIRED to be like that, because it’s so convenient.
      isn’t it nice when we turn the corner from roots (although, i love a root) to fresh fruits? so refreshing and welcome. and fresh herbs, right? i use them all the time, but i get heavy-handed with them when the weather gets warmer.

  • Reply Deb April 9, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    I adore the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, so many recipes yet to try! My only issue, a very minor one, is I wish that the ingredients for the recipe were listed on one page. We are living spring here in California and I have planted kale and chard and added to my herb planters. I might try tomatoes again, but in a different location. It’s always so foggy here in the summer which is not tomato weather….. So all this is to say that spring is on the way! Which is indeed salad time with bright, crisp flavor that you have captured in the Spring Vegetable Salad with Miso Dressing!

    • Reply shannon April 10, 2014 at 9:36 am

      Same! every time i get it out i want to make all the things, but there’s not enough hours in the day. Easily a cookbook that someday I’ll cook my way through; everything is just so accessible and beautiful. I agree about the ingredients: that does get difficult…the layout is different from most of my cookbooks, so i think my eye tends to be used to one thing, and that book is quite another.
      i love hearing about your garden! it’s fun to know what all of us plant and grow during the warmer months, because there’s so much variety region to region. we have incredible weather for tomatoes most years, which is the only reason mine succeed (i don’t have a natural green thumb).

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog April 10, 2014 at 6:26 am

    Warm, spring-like thoughts are happening here, too. If I call think spring thoughts, it will come. I mean, it worked well for the peeps in Field of Dreams, so why not for us. I think this salad is the perfect way to kick the cold weather. Those books are darling. I love the name of the publishing company. So cute!

    • Reply shannon April 10, 2014 at 9:39 am

      I feel like if enough of us yearn for spring, then yes: it’ll get here. and it’s sort of getting here, right? warmer?
      Aren’t they just so cute! so well done, too…kids books, honestly, can be really pathetic; i see offerings all the time that i’m all “wha?” about. but these are really quality, and the Wee One is a book aficionado, so she would know. 🙂

  • Reply Abbe@This is How I Cook April 10, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    I am totally embracing this salad! And I love the miso dressing. Yes, I can’t wait to make this. As for kid’s books, well, I am a sucker. I LOVE kid’s books. I was always sorry when my kids got older, because I used to love books like this. I can’t wait for grandchildren so I can buy more books. Still have them all. On second thought-I can wait a bit longer!

    • Reply shannon April 16, 2014 at 10:29 am

      Thanks, Abbe! I totally embraced this salad, too: such a breath of fresh air after the cold winter we had. And aren’t kids books the best? We always joked that I was having a baby *just* to expand my library of kids books; they’re all so adorable, and it’s easy to fall in love with them.

  • Reply Elizabeth @ Eating Local in the Lou April 15, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I am so excited to see that the Kitchen Club Kids crew have their next book out! I hope to get my hands on a copy soon so that I can read it to the preschool kiddos at my work!!

    • Reply shannon April 16, 2014 at 10:30 am

      Me too! I was really looking forward to their 2nd book, and when they contacted me, i was thrilled; such an adorable series (and the next book is about bread, so i’m stoked for that one too).

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats May 2, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    I’m majorly behind on commenting on this, but this salad looks SO GOOD! It’s like all the things I crave in a salad. And I know my hubby would love it too. aaaaand I have miso in my fridge 😉 Totally making this soon, Shannon 🙂

    • Reply shannon May 8, 2014 at 7:38 am

      make the salad! it’s really good…and refreshing, and also good for you, because miso, right? and pretty easy to throw together, which is always a win. Plus, that dressing would be good on shoes, so make a double batch and just use it forever.

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