Salad 90: Reminiscing Miso-ginger Salad


90 salads have come and gone, like visitors stopping along a journey. Each one has delivered a story, some had tales of cold mornings and long days of laboring, some travelled through forest paths speaking of the business of woodland chatter and the sounds of feet pounding against the scratchy dirt, some spoke of lazy blue skies and summer sun in company of the carnival atmosphere of friendship.

In the mornings I have stood in my kitchen, readying dishes and fumbling about with the anticipation of an innkeeper, wondering what salad was going to come and visit with me that day, and what stories would it tell. I tried to be observant, noticing the colors, textures, and smells, so that after the visitor is gone I could share their story with you.

I hope you have enjoyed the second season of “90 salads in 90 days” as much as I have enjoyed telling it. In the winter months, check in with Leafy Reader at http://leafyreader.blogspot.com for more stories and recipes.

Salad 90: Reminiscing Miso-ginger Salad
peel and cut into rustic bites: 1 bunch small beets
heat 1 cup water in a frying pan or pot and simmer the beets until just tender.

In a food processor, or using a grater, grate 8-10 baby carrots, unpeeled.

Clean and chop 1 small bunch baby Swiss chard

Mix ingredients together and dress with miso ginger dressing:
in a saucepan, heat:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 cipollini onion, chopped
heat until just simmering, remove from heat and add 1 inch peeled fresh ginger and 1 tbsp mild miso paste. Transfer to a food processor and blend, adding
1 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp raw honey
adjust seasonings to desired flavor and serve.

Christina’s vote: “This salad put a fire under my hinder”

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Wild Rice with Apples Salad


Growing up, I remember how excited my mother used to get when some Midwestern relative or childhood friend would send us a package of wild rice as a gift. As she cooked the rice, she would emphatically tell us about what a nice treat we were about to receive. I would peer over the stove, waiting to taste the mysterious concoction that was releasing woodland odors into our family room. It was black, and creepy looking, and I half expected the stuff to come alive and attack me. My mother’s excitement was convincing, contagious even, it was fueled by the fondness of childhood memories.

When at last, dinner was served, I stared apprehensively at the pile of what looked like bird seed on my plate. I remember wanting to like it as I scooped that first bite up to my mouth, but then..
“It tastes like twigs” I whined, feeling let down.

It’s funny how our taste changes as we get older. I now understand exactly what my mother meant when she insisted that wild rice was a treat, though I’m not sure exactly when or how it earned my favor. Perhaps it was the first time I experienced wild rice with cranberries, or wild rice in chicken soup. Perhaps it was the first time I tried real, hand-processed, wild rice as opposed to paddy rice which has a more rustic texture.

Actually, I now find that I like both kinds of rice, for different reasons. I used paddy rice for this salad, mainly because I forgot to pick some up from the market and couldn’t get any of the real stuff at the store.

Wild Rice with Apples Salad
1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice
1/2 fennel bulb, diced
1 sweet tango apple
2 Tbsp hazelnut infused olive oil
pinch salt and pepper
1 Tbsp rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1/2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh marjoram (a little goes a long way)

To cook rice:
(If using hand cultivated rice, consider yourself a very lucky individual. It takes a lot of work to hand process rice, and the flavor is supreme. Generally hand cultivated wild rice cooks faster than paddy rice, and needs to be rinsed three times before cooking.)
Rinse the rice before cooking, then toast in 1 Tbsp olive oil in saucepan before adding water (I think it cooks faster this way). Add water in amounts indicated on package for desired serving sizes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until cooked (I usually turn the heat off toward the end of the cooking and just leave it on the stove covered for a few hours while I do other things).

Christina’s vote: “Strange combination”

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Welcome To Reality Salad


I left work early, determined to finally run some errands. The summer months had come and gone, and it feels as though I spent my hours hopping cars on a train of one commitment followed by another, trying to get to the engine up front. With frazzled nerves, I finally decided that this train has no engine, instead it runs on coffee and stress alone. So after a morning of lab work, I took an afternoon break and simply never went back.

It was a feeling of freedom, the kind that a child experiences when the radio announces that your school is canceled due to snow. I managed to hold on to the feeling while cleaning out my car, which is a testament to the theory that freedom is an attitude and not an achievement. I joyfully wiped coffee grime out of my cup holders and vacuumed sunflower seeds off of the floor mats, happy to be working toward something that fits in the category of self care.

While driving home, I noticed a sign for a hair salon that I have never noticed before, called “Chop”. On impulse, I decided to see about have a hair adventure. The salon was upstairs, in what looked and felt like an apartment of a 20 something. The wooden floors were uneven. The walls were painted lime green and decorated with black and white photos. There was an Eiffel tower painted directly on the wall along the way into the bathroom. The decor was a mixture of pottery barn and ikea. The shelves were lined with astrology books and containers of nail polish.

“I feel like I am hanging out at a friends house” I confessed to my stylist.
“I know” she said “we used to serve wine too, but then…” she trailed off, leaving me wondering. “So where do you work?” She asked.

From the confessional booth of my chair, I told her everything. As she relieved me from my tattered ends, I let go of some gnawing stress and mentally recommitted my energy. Sometimes I forget what I am working toward until I am forced to explain it to someone I have just met.

My stylish stylist shared some of her stories too “I had my palm read when I was younger, and I was told that I would have twins at 25. I never did have twins, but I did meet my now boyfriend back then.. and he IS a twin. AND he is a Gemini!” She shrugged and held my gaze as though to say ‘come on, who wouldn’t believe in psychic energy after that’
“How long have you been together?” I asked, unsure how else to respond.
“Well I am 33 now so..”
“Wow, you don’t look 33” I interrupted. She looked to me to be in her early 20’s, with dyed red hair, that she sometimes wears up in a mohawk.
“Well I sleep a lot” She told me. That was the moment that I noticed my own wrinkles, and I shot my stylist a sleep deprived look of desperation.
“Coffee?” She asked, and I nodded slowly.

I called Christina on the way home. “I am starting to look older” I said. “Do you think I should start getting more sleep?”
“Welcome to reality” Christina replied. “It’s good to have you back.”

Welcome to Reality Salad
Mix together:
2 Tbsp tarragon
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
the juice and zest of 1 minneola tangelo (substitute orange, or meyer lemon)
1/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries (find some that you like the taste and texture of on their own)
1 large carrot, diced
1/2 cup romanesco, broken into small pieces
1 Tbsp grape seed oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
:and serve!

Christina’s vote: “A fine crisp blend”

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Hayride Salad


The wagon bounced from side to side, it’s giant wheels catching on patches of grass and causing us to hop in our seats the way one does when trotting on horseback. The air had a snap to it, and smells of hay and pumpkins huddled inside my nose, as though they too were trying to keep warm. I nestled my head in the crook of your neck and listened to the crunch of the leaves as we turned off of the field and onto a woodland path. I half expected to see a headless horseman jump out of the woods, or bats soaring overhead, and so I crouched down low in my seat and tried to make myself into less of a target. From my huddled position, I marveled at how sweaters are the perfect armor for this kind of ride, allowing just enough chilly wind in to keep oneself alert in the event we should encounter a hay ghost or a live scarecrow.

The moon provided a blueish tint to the path up ahead, where the trees broke open in a gesture of offering to the sky. The sound of voices laughing, and merriment warmed my fear and melted the exhilaration into a calm and joyous serenity. When at last the wheels rolled to a halt, and we gingerly climbed to the soft, loose, dirt- covered ground, I saw that we were standing in a clearing before a giant cauldron of hot cider. Light emitted from a central fire, and licked the faces of the people as they talked, and listened, and sang into the night.

Hayride Salad
1/2 ronde de nice, cubed
1 sweet tango apple, sliced
1 small bunch sorrel (about 1/2 cup)

Dress with:
2 Tbsp hazelnut infused olive oil
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp dark honey
sprinkle of salt

Christina’s vote: “This salad was a freak of nature”

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Nature’s Treasures Salad


“Have you guys seen Tammy’s garden behind her restaurant?” I asked Shari and Don of Heinel farms.

“Yes she is growing our kale!!” Shari said, excitedly. “I gave her some to plant over there” Don chimed in “How is it doing?”

“Beautiful” I answered, recalling the prehistoric looking mass of rich green kale leaves growing unruly in the back corner of the parking lot. It stuck out oddly in the gravel parking lot, like seaweed growing in the middle of a desert. Tammy had given me a bouquet of kale to take home, and I recalled how the flat crinkly leaves dwarfed the refrigerator crisper. I scanned Heinel’s table, and noticed that they had an impressive and diverse array of, not only kale, but also other exotic members of the cabbage family. They had orange cauliflower, and green, spiky romanesco.

I took a moment to express my love for the delicious crunch of romanesco, and Shari told me that romanesco is a natural example of a fractal. In case you have forgotten your high school math (or, as in my case, had difficulty paying attention in high school) a fractal is a geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is a miniature version of the whole. See yesterday’s post for a delightful salad featuring this bizarre vegetable, which, when cooked on it’s own, tastes like a buttery cauliflower.
To my knowledge, today’s salad is not an example of a fractal, but it did inspire awe in me this morning, much in the same way as the romanesco. Parsnips, rutabaga, turnips, and potatoes, when freshly dug, are like sweet little jewels buried in the ground. Fire polishes them and enhances their sweetness, and oil brings about their shine. Salt hardens them to crisp little morsels, and kale livens them with color.

Nature’s Treasures Salad
Boil a pot of water. Add:
2 small/medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small/medium rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 small/medium turnip, peeled and cubed
Cook for 10 min or until just tender.

Rinse and chop 1 bunch kale.
mince 3 cloves garlic
heat a frying pan and add 2 Tbsp olive oil, kale, and garlic. saute for about 3 min, then add drained root vegetable mixture.
season with salt
add 2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
cook until kale is desired texture and color

add 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar,
OR
1/4 Tbsp lemon juice (and zest) and 1/4 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
OR
1/4 Tbsp ume plum vinegar

Christina’s vote: “This salad made me believe in the pot of gold at the end of rainbows.”

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The Restaurateur Salad


We drove up to the restaurant and parked at an empty meter on the opposite side of the street. The faded sign above the door spelled out the name ‘Rainbow’ in slanted letters, and a purple awning draped down leisurely over the entryway like the brim of a wide sun hat. Rectangular cafe style tables jutted out invitingly into the sidewalk, like window boxes waiting to be filled. It was early Sunday evening, and all the restaurants on Nicollet were relaxed and breezy.

After cooking with her at the farmers market all summer, we were finally going to check out Tammy’s Chinese restaurant for the first time.
“Let’s sit in the sun, eh?” Dunja said, and Christina and I emphatically agreed. Jesse stuck close to Dunja, in order to make sure that he secured a seat next to her. Although I was feeling shy about it, I went inside and told the waiter to tell Tammy that we were here to visit. She came bursting out to our table moments later and graced us with her eccentric energy and welcoming love. Soon we were all busy with conversation, and though we were sitting on the sidewalk of a busy city street, it suddenly felt as though we were five friends laughing in a quaint village cafe.

Tammy took us out back and showed us her garden, which at first glance looked like nothing more than a parking lot. As we walked around the perimeter of the restaurant, one by one the vegetables appeared against the brick. It was like when looking at a magic eye image. After staring at what appeared to be a pile of leaves and vines, I spotted a giant cucumber, then another. Tammy stroked one of the leaves, and suddenly one of the vines was filled with little cherry tomatoes. She wrapped her arms around a potted plant, and green peppers appeared. She plucked some shiso leaves for Dunja and I to taste, and then dug up a licorice root for Christina to take home, as though she knew without asking that Christina was into potted plants.

Soon the waiter came chasing us down, and it was time to return to our seats. Tammy grabbed and smoothed out the hem of her apron, the way a little girl would straighten her skirt after playing in trees, and then headed back into the kitchen. As she walked away, my mind followed her into a picture of one of many possible career directions that my heart might cheerfully go.

The Restaurateur Salad
1 package tri-colored ravioli
Boil a pot of water and cook tri-colored ravioli. Drain by scooping out with a slotted spoon and rinse with cold water. Let sit in the strainer.

In the boiling pasta water, cook 1 head romanesco (al dente) remove with a slotted spoon

Pour out the water and add 3 Tbsp olive oil to the pan. Add 3-4 cloves spicy garlic and salt and heat for 2 min (do not burn garlic). Add romanesco back into the pan and cook 2 min. Remove from heat and let cool.

Toss together 1 cup arugula, 3 small sliced heirloom tomatoes, and the romanesco and pasta. Season with salt and pepper (optional add 1 tsp apple cider vinegar).

Serve warm or cool.

Christina’s vote: “This salad made me feel fat.”

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Vibrant Duet Salad


Dunja showed up at the market one day recently, and within five minutes of her arrival she was helping me wash dishes. We began talking instantly as though we had known each other for years. It was while we were washing dishes that I discovered that Dunja is a friend of one of my original culinary heroes. I also discovered that she practices a cooking style similar to some of my college friends, and one which I don’t commonly encounter in the midwest. Perhaps this is partially why our conversation flowed so easily, and our friendship seemed effortless.

Dunja is from Croatia, and though she has only been here for two weeks, she knows more about what is happening in the Twin Cities than I do. I therefore didn’t feel too guilty about it when, after offering to show her around Saint Paul, I then took her instead to our apartment and suggested that we do some cooking.

I emptied out all of the vegetables from our refrigerator, and lay them gingerly on the counter. Then I handed Dunja a knife and a cutting board, and took one of each for myself. It was exciting to work side by side with a chef that I admire and respect, and I couldn’t wait to see what she would come up with given the choice of ingredients. Christina rushed to grab the video camera, and filmed as we steadily and methodically chopped and seasoned our way through the piles of vegetables in front of us. Then we sat down and enjoyed a nice meal together. Here is what was created.

Emily’s Cabbage Radish Slaw
1/4 shredded red cabbage
2 small kohlrabi, peeled and shredded
8 radishes, shredded
1/2 Tbsp ume plum vinegar
2 tsp dark honey
1/2 tbsp brown rice syrup
1/2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 cup ground cherries

Dunja’s Arugula Salad with Roasted Garlic Tomato Croutons
1/2 cup baby tomatoes
2 cups arugula
1 small sliced raw zucchini
1/2 clove garlic
1 spring onion, diced
1/2 cup basil
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt
1/2 Tbsp ume plum vinegar
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp capers
Toss salad together and garnish with:
2 slices toasted sprouted grain bread spread with roasted garlic tomato sauce

Christina’s vote: “This salad was wow, wow!”

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By Any Other Name Salad


“Maybe you could put some good recipes for sorrel soup or something on your blog”, my CSA farmer said, while gesturing her head toward the boxes of produce stacked inside the farm’s shabby green van. She and her partner spend hours each week generating hand written notes explaining the vegetables inside the share, and updating their customers about the growing season. It is for this reason that I assumed that they didn’t possess a computer, and so I decided to forgive the fact that, despite my constant reminders, this woman still had no idea what type of blog I have.

It’s not that I would expect a stranger to remember me and associate me with my blog, but I did I assumed they would be at least somewhat interested, considering their CSA is called “salad days” and they specialize in growing only salad ingredients.

“People keep asking us what to do with this stuff, I hope you can show them something”, she added.
“Sorrel is my favorite” I said, gazing starry eyed into the bag. At least she had remembered that one of the purposes of my blog is to inspire people to use produce that they might not otherwise use.

“Is Nathan coming today?” she asked.
“Actually, his name is Noah” I said, correcting her on one of my friends names, and feeling a little bit better that her forgetfulness of minor important details is not personal, but global.

Actually, I can relate to this kind of awkward encounter that plagues the person with no mind for details. I am pretty sure that I horrified an old friend this morning when, in running into her after 15 months of not seeing her since she had her twins, I gaped at them in amazement, commenting on how surprised I was at how different they appeared.
“That is because they are completely different, just born at the same time” she said, shooting me a worried look. “Right..they are not identical. But which one is which?” I asked, feeling that I might redeem myself by showing additional interest.
“Annie is the girl and Ben is the boy” She said, slightly irritated. I comforted myself by thinking, that in this age of gender fluidity, you really can’t assume anything. ‘In fact’ I thought to myself ‘it was a pretty progressive of me to ask. Why should I assume that the bigger baby with the baseball onesy was a boy, girls are growing up faster these days..and isn’t it a little passe to assume that boy babies wouldn’t be dressed in pink frills with little bows?’

While I was busy congratulating myself, their was a noticeable silence in the conversation, and I decided that the only thing left to do was to cut my losses and run before causing any further damage. Boy, girl, Nathan, Noah, salad, soup.. what difference does it make anyway?

By Any Other Name Salad
4 small-medium sweet carrots, sliced
3 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
3 tomatoes (heirloom), sliced
1/2 cup sorrel, chopped
1/8 cup mint leaves, chopped
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Christina’s vote: “This salad made me quite sure that life is what you make it”

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Hitchhikers Guide to Grad School Salad


“So, what’s next?” Dave asked, as I stood across from him in his office. I had two heavy shoulder bags strapped over each shoulder, so that they crossed my chest forming an X like a bandoleer. This is my standard going-to-work look, and it makes me feel like I am actually headed for combat. Dave was still wearing his bike tights and shoes with the little clips on the toes, as though work was just a little break in his day before returning to his real career in adventure sports.
“Well” I said, looking up at the clock “I have to get some samples run, and then I was thinking that I might have some time during lunch to go for a run”. I looked back at Dave. He appeared to be having one of those moments when you can’t decide whether to interrupt a person to clarify your question, or just let them lead the conversation away from your desired destination.

“No, that’s not what I meant” he said “I mean, what happens after the salads?”
“Oh. Um.. well last year I did ‘Soup on Sunday’s’ and then ’28 days of dinner at home’ as part of another blog “Leafy Reader”… but I think after this I should probably just focus on school.” I said, allowing myself to convey my feelings of guilt for spending time and energy on something outside of grad school.

I am not sure where I was when it happened, but somewhere along the line I have picked up a guilty conscience, and I have been carrying her like a hitchhiker along the road to my degree. It doesn’t matter that I work long hours both at work and at home, my guilty conscience stays with me, and chastises me for not focusing all of my energy on a single goal.

“Who do you think you are?” She says “you are never going to get anywhere if you don’t focus your efforts.” Then she likes to point out all of my deficits, and remind me that even the most intelligent people reduce their outside lives to near nothing while pursuing their doctorate.

“This is protein boot camp” one of the post docs had told me one day. She was standing over my shoulder, and I found myself fumbling with my pipetter while trying to work out a western blot protocol. “And you need to start getting manic about it if you are ever going to get this figured out. When it starts to invade your dreams, that’s when you know you are on the right track.”

I didn’t have to take this to heart, but I was compelled. The following week, after working long days in the lab and reading about blotting techniques at night, I had a dream about western blots, and actually felt a moment of pride.

Guilt is a terrible feeling, and is particularly cumbersome when it chooses to accompany things not particularly guilt worthy. Feeling guilty for robbing a bank makes a certain amount of sense, and the bearer might feel that they got a fair deal. Feeling guilty for working too hard just seems unfair. A friend of mine once pointed out that senseless guilt goes by another name.

Shame.

Later in the afternoon, I tiptoed away from my western blot and headed out to meet Dave for a short run. “I was thinking more about what’s next” I said, “I think I want to write a book, or maybe a cookbook, or maybe both. Christina suggests that I work on it the way I have been working on blogging, a little bit each day.”

Hitchhikers Guide to Grad School Salad
1/6 head romaine lettuce
1 red pepper, diced
1 bulb fennel, quartered and sliced
10 heirloom cherry tomatoes

Dress with:
3/4 cup whole plain yogurt
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
3/4 cup blue cheese or Gorgonzola cheese
1 Tbsp tarragon
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
black pepper
1 shallot, diced (or 1 Tbsp red or yellow onion)

Christina’s vote: “This salad made me blue”

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Talk Show Salad


Jesse arrived from California with a small suitcase filled with “my importants” as he calls them. Jesse’s importants consist of a few chipped back to the future toys, his “Men At Work” albums, an “I dream of Jeannie” costume with matching bottle, a talking ET doll, and a package of cigars. The fascination he has with “Back To The Future” is incredibly fitting, because Jesse himself is like a living, breathing, visitor from the past. Since we are roughly the same age (Jesse is about 5 years older than me), he is like a visitor from my past. He has reintroduced many relics into my life, like spaghetti o’s and phrases from old television commercials, like “Be cool, stay in school”.

I was unloading the dishwasher when suddenly “wooh wooh wooh JERRY JERRY JERRY” permeated the air, and I felt the way I do when woken from a dream by a sudden volume increase of the television. It was as though I were suddenly sitting in the middle of a live studio audience. I looked up from the dishwasher and saw the forgotten face of Jerry Springer holding a microphone and an index card, and staring out from a screen at a grinning and poised Jesse Christensen. The camera panned to the audience members, who pounded their fists through the air as though they were knocking on some imaginary door. Jesse rocked back and forth, and threw his hands into the air also, but rather than make a fist, he allowed his fingers to fly loose. Each time his hands came forward he would slow his rocking a bit and for a moment he would hold with his hands outstretched as though he were a wizard casting spells. This gesture is not meant to imitate the characters in the peanut gallery on Springer, but is rather the way Jesse expresses his excitement for anything that he especially loves. I wondered if Jesse likes Jerry Springer because the people on the show seem to express their excitement in a similar way to him.

After being reminded of the existence of talk shows, I found myself compelled to surf through you tube, and watch clips of Tyra and Maurie the other night.

“What are you doing?” Christina asked, her tone serving as a reminder that I really don’t have the time to devote to watching bad television shows.

“Ummm, I’m..weeeeell..you see.. this man is claiming to be a vampire..and um..Tyra is..never mind” I said, as Christina cocked her head to the side in a ‘you’d better not complain to me about how stressed out you are after I just caught you watching this crap’ gesture.

It was interesting, this business about vampires. The people on the show were claiming that being a vampire was an expression of their spirituality, and when phrased in that way, I began to draw comparisons between Vampirism and Christianity. Both religions contain a ritual of consuming blood, albeit the Christians use a more symbolic form of blood in the form of wine. Both stress the importance of meditation and prayer, while vampires retreat to their sensory deprivation chambers in the form of a coffin to do this, the Christians seem to prefer kneeling in the company of others. The Vampires on Tyra’s show were talking about how they believe that they are spiritually connected to others, and that they feed off of others energy..to which I ask myself, who doesn’t feed off of the energy of others (metaphorically speaking)?

Perhaps, with the help of a little of Jesse’s energy, in a few more months, I will be fully immersed in my second childhood. Perhaps you will find me, in the winter months, running around the house in flannel pajamas, microwaving spaghetti o’s and eating them, cross-legged, in front of the television set, fixated on some pregnant teenage mom lining up possible baby-daddy’s for a paternity test.

Talk Show Salad
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cubed (about 2 cups)
Boil potatoes in a pot of water (enough water to cover potatoes). Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. Meanwhile…
Heat a frying pan and add
1 yellow onion
1 Tbsp grape seed oil
a large pinch salt
cook for about 5 min on high heat, then add
4 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced
cook for another 10 min on high heat (until parsnips get soft), then add
4 long skinny carrots, peeled and sliced cook for about 5 min more, adding 2 tsp mirin (Japanese cooking rice-wine)
By the time the carrots and parsnips are done, your potatoes should be done too. Drain the potatoes and toss everything together, adding 2-3 Tbsp olive oil and some salt. Add about 1 inch fresh grated ginger.
Serve warm or cold.

Christina’s vote: “This salad reminded me that winter is coming.”

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