Try Tatsoi Salad

IMG_1822I like to think of myself as being pretty well versed in vegetables, particularly in the members of the brassica family. One of the more of the brassicas, broccoli, was my favorite vegetable as a child. My mother would steam it until it was bright forest green and then serve it to me with a little dollop of mayonnaise. My brother, who is one year my senior, didn’t want anything to do with the texture of mayonnaise, and would prefer starvation over having to taste anything that wasn’t white, brown, or orange. He would recoil in horror at the display of green and white that I would excitedly shovel onto my fork.

The praise that I earned for eating my vegetables was encouraging, but it was not my sole reason for getting excited about them. I know this because I would often trade foods with my brother when my parents weren’t looking, sliding my chicken breast onto his plate and taking his asparagus or cauliflower. When it came to broccoli, I almost always favored those bright green little trees over everything else on my plate.

Like many young people, my mind was opened to new experiences in college, the more appropriate of which can be discussed in this blog and includes a long list of brassica vegetables. I prided myself on my familiarity with some of the more obscure varieties, and would smile inwardly when I had the opportunity to introduce someone to something new. When, at the farmers market, I wandered by a booth and noticed a shiny little bunch of unfamiliar leaves sitting decoratively in little metal tubs in a section market ‘brassica’, I took notice.

“umm..what’s this?” I asked out of the side of my mouth, pretending to convey embarrassment.
“That’s tatsoi, you have never had it before?” the vendor asked.
“I knew that” I said, in the tone of an eight year old, “I just wanted to see if you knew” the vendor laughed. “It’s kind of a buttery, peppery, type green, with a spinach-like texture.” My mind conjured up flavors of spinach, which I often to find to be boring, and I slowly began to back away.
“it’s kind of like arugula” she added, and I snapped forward like a yo yo and dug out a dollar from my bag. “Sold!” I said, snatching up the tatsoi and handing her the dollar.

The flavor of tatsoi is just as the vendor described. It is grassy and mild, with a buttery texture and a black peppery finish. It has less of a bite than arugula, and a more smooth mouth feel. Delicious!

Try Tatsoi Salad
1 small bunch tatsoi
3 small fresh carrots, sliced
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1 small heirloom red tomato, sliced into wedges
1 small heirloom yellow, sliced into wedges

Dress with: 
3 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp dark honey
grated fresh ginger (if you have it around, I didn’t have any when I made this, but I imagine it would fit well)

Christina’s vote: “This salad made me want to yell at the cheese curd vendors ‘what is wrong with you people!'”

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Vibrant Duet Salad

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It was the best kind of connection: effortless. Dunja just appeared at the market one day and within five minutes of her arrival we were chatting 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 first culinary heroes, Christina Pirello (Technically, Christina Pirello was my second culinary hero after Graham Kerr, whose show I used to watch religiously back when I was sporting footsie pajamas). I also discovered that Dunja practices a vegan macrobiotic cooking style, which was exciting for me since I rarely encountered macrobiotics during my time in the midwest.

Dunja is from Croatia, ¬†which she informed me is one of the largest (if not THE largest?) macrobiotic institutes in the world. She loves food and cooking as much as I do, which is apparent from her vibrant and delicious original vegan macrobiotic recipes. If you want to be amazed, check out her site http://www.rentajchefa.com/recipes.php (click on the “English” button in the upper right corner).

In an act that sealed our friendship, Dunja and I prepared these salads together side by side. 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. 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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