Yotam, meet Nancy. Nancy, this is Yotam. You are separated by thousands of miles, but we think you will get along just fine…we certainly hope so.
One of the fun things about cooking and blogging is the volume of recipes we read and cook (we have a
obsession thing with cookbooks). And sometimes when we are cooking one recipe, another recipe jumps into our heads as a potential compliment (then again, sometimes we have to look around for a while). In this case we adapted a recipe for Sashimi With Hot Rice and Broth from Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s book “Japanese Farm Food“, and this recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Plenty” immediately came to mind as our salad. We hoped for a good fit.
The fish was a simple, warm, umami-bomb of a dish (but oh so good). We wanted a salad that complimented the savory umami flavors but was also cool and crisp. Few things are as cool as a cucumber (ugh), so we pulled out this recipe that added a serious dose of ginger, onions and garlic to the cukes with a big splash of a rice wine vinegar and sesame oil-based dressing. A very good recipe and one that we would have just as likely seen in Singleton’s cookbook as Ottolenghi’s. Either way, they seemed like a natural match.
And they were quite complimentary. The ginger, onion and garlic are marinated in the dressing for a bit, so you still get their flavor with the cukes, but the harder, hotter edges are taken away. Sesame seeds and cilantro add some depth (we think peanuts would also be good) so the first bite was as good as the last. And the final benefit was timing, this salad was easy to make and took about the same time to prepare as the sashimi in broth. An excellent salad and a good foil to any flavorful or savory main dish.
The only downside of this salad is that, even if the rough edges are smoothed, you are still using crushed raw garlic. It sticks with you for a while. I went to a town council meeting later that night and bet that sitting next to me wasn’t a real treat (or was worse than normal). And when I spoke I could almost see the council member’s eyes water. I would like to think it was my moving oratory at work, but I suspect it was something else… ;-)
(Adapted, ever so slightly, from Yotam Ottolenghi)
Notes Before You Start:
- And crisp cucumber will do here. Smaller ones are easier to chop, but just aim for bite sized pieces if using large cukes, it will take just a bit more time.
- The recipe suggest sunflower oil, but what you really need a is neutral-flavor oil. Olive oil will overwhelm the other flavors and turn an Asian-inspired salad into something else.
(Serves 4 as a large side salad)
- 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, or other neutral flavor oil
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 and 1/4 pounds cucumbers (4 medium, 2 large), peeled
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (or chopped roasted peanuts)
- 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
- For the dressing, place all the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until combined. Add the sliced onion and mix until coated. Let sit for 45-60 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the ginger and salt in a mortar (or small bowl) and pound well with a pestle (or other implement of destruction). Add the garlic and pound until the garlic is crushed into small pieces, but isn’t quite a paste. Scrape all the ginger / garlic mixture into the bowl with the onions and dressing. Mix until combined.
- Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and then slice, at an angle, into 1/4 inch slices. Add the cucumber to the bowl, followed by the sesame seeds and cilantro. Mix well and let sit for 10 minutes.
- To serve, tip out some of the liquid from the salad (the cukes give up a lot of liquid), then stir. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve.