Sharp Things and an Asian Salad

Good morning, happy October – or something.  The sky outside, to quote my friend N, looks like someone forgot to upload the sky texture file – featureless and gray.  The sun no longer really goes very high up in the sky here, so unless it’s bright and sunny, the days are beginning to get pretty dim.  We are in the opening act of The Long Dark here, taking our Vitamin D fish oil capsules, lighting candles and drinking glögg (Nordic fortified mulled wine).  Cookies and chocolate and cakes come to mind under these conditions, but if I give in to that mode of thinking, I’ll not fit any of my nice clothes before Jul gets here.

Instead, I had gotten it into my head that I don’t eat enough vegetables, and the reason I don’t eat enough vegetables is that a lot of the really good healthy local vegetables we have here in winter season – beets, carrots, red cabbage, green cabbage, etc. – require a lot of slicing and chopping to make into easy-to-eat form.  I do own good knives, but julienne cutting and all of that takes forever, and I don’t have that sort of patience, and never did.  Enter my idea to buy a mandolin to make short work of these.  Now, I bought a big Italian one first, and it proved to be overpriced, huge and dull to boot, so I took it back the next day, and instead invested in a simple slicer by Fiskars (not a sponsored link), and a julienne cutter that looks like a vegetable peeler with cross-blades by I-forgot-what-brand-name.

And what better way to try those out than an Asian-style salad with my favorite dressing?  Eat the rainbow!


Well, maybe not the entire rainbow, but certainly a large part of the spectrum.  The beets are in the bottom, but there’s quite a bit of red in there hiding under the green.  Now, I am not going to give you a recipe for the salad, because that’s pointless.  Some sliced vegetables you like and have on hand (carrots, cabbage, radishes, beets, cucumber, onions, cilantro, etc.), or whatever else you like will be fine.  What really makes this salad awesome, however, is the dressing – and that comes together in 5 minutes and is really really delicious!


So, without further ado – to the dressing!  Now, I am no stranger to chili heat, but if you prefer to be cautious with it, reduce the amount or swap out the birdeye chili for something milder.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp soy sauce (I prefer Kikkoman, and no they aren’t paying me for saying that)
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • A splash of fish sauce (literally a splash, and to your taste)
  • A splash of rice vinegar (optional)
  • 1 flat teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 birdeye chili – I don’t seed it, and just slice finely across.  Adjust or replace this to fit your capsaicin tolerance
  • 1 solo head or 3 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 2-3cm knob of ginger, julienned (optional, depending on whether you like ginger, and want the added heat)
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil or other neutral oil
  • 1-2 tsp toasted sesame oil

Combine all the ingredients except the oils in a small bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  Add the oils, and whisk a little with a fork or whatever.  Let stand, and slice your salad vegetables up in meantime.

If you are carnivorously inclined (and I often am), salt, pepper, or season a nice thick entrecote (boneless trimmed ribeye) steak, and sear it 2-3 minutes on the side, or until medium rare, on an oiled cast iron pan preheated to medium-high heat.


Toss the salad with dressing, put the steak on your plate, and I don’t need to give you further instructions, do I?  We had this with a nice French Sauvignon Blanc, but that, too, is entirely up to you.

The whole thing tastes reminiscent of the Thai beef salads if you’ve ever had those, though I, as always, make no claims of authenticity at all, and it makes for a really great light and beautiful dinner with bright and sharp flavors that doesn’t leave you hungry or unsatisfied – just the right thing for a bland, colorless October evening.  Or at least so it is to me.


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