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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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
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.