I was having one of those days today. You know the feeling you get when you’ve been wronged or when you’re the victim of gratuitous rudeness? Yeah, that’s what I felt today. There’s usually two sure-fire ways to alleviate that feeling: Confront the problem head on and contend with human unreasonableness or…drown your sorrows in something delicious that makes you feel great and is good for you. I chose the latter option. Actually I first chose the former option but that didn’t end well so here I am. I have to say, I’m in happy territory now, so alls well that ends with food!
If you’ve ever been to a Japanese restaurant waiting for your dinner to arrive, you may have been served a salad in a little bowl that looks similar to this. It is usually served to stave off your hunger as you wait for your sushi and hand rolls to be prepared. It is almost always served with iceberg lettuce with a medley of veggies such as tomatoes, red onions or, less often, avocado.
It’s not the best looking salad, but what is lacks in appearance it makes up for in taste. This dressing is pungent to say the least, with a generous bite of ginger, the taste of miso and rice vinegar and the unmistakable flavour of sesame oil. If you’ve never tasted sesame oil, you simply have to try it. It’s rich and nutty and has a beautifully pungent aroma. (I use if often in Asian stir-fry and rice dishes.) When paired with rice vinegar in this dressing, the acidic quality of the vinegar which brightens the dressing and the nutty quality of the sesame oil are a perfect match.
The miso paste has a wonderful depth of flavour. When you hear the word “miso”, it is almost always associated with a warm, comforting broth that is used in Japanese cooking but the paste has so many more applications than just soup, such as being used as a marinade for chicken or fish or as a flavour element in a salad dressing. Miso paste is essentially a blend of salt, soy beans and either rice or barley, which is fermented and ground. There are as many varieties of miso are there are uses. Some are sweet and light in colour and are best used in dressings and sauces while others are saltier and dark in colour and are best used in stews and meat dishes. Any variety of miso can be used to make miso soup.
When I’m enjoying this in a restaurant, I can’t get enough of it. They usually give you a tiny serving and I’m always craving more. Iceberg lettuce never tasted so good until it was doused with this delicious, bright and flavourful dressing. I’ve been in search of a recipe that comes close to what’s served in authentic Japanese restaurants and I reckon this is damn-near perfect! I won’t tell you that this is the best dressing you’ll ever taste because, although I LOVE this dressing, it is an acquired taste. If you’re not a fan of sesame oil or raw ginger, you may not be a fan. When I made this, I served it up to my mum and sister-in-law and while my mum was raving about how delicious it was whilst gobbling up a huge helping of this for lunch, my sister-in-law (who isn’t a fan of sesame oil or miso) took a few bites then passed on it and moved on to the rest of my Asian-inspired meal.
This dressing recipe is adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Lifestyle Publication, “GOOP”. I’ve made a few changes to her recipe and a few additions and the result is delicious. It is perfect on top of fresh lettuce and the creamy avocado pieces with the red onions give it a little extra bite and colour.
I’ve used baby carrots here because that’s all I had on hand. The baby carrots can be swapped out for one large, peeled carrot — in fact, I encourage that as I find the flavour of a large carrot is superior to its baby counterparts.
The miso I used is mild in both flavour and colour. It is a bit sweet and is perfect to cut the harshness of the raw ginger and shallot. The paste can be stored in the fridge for up to six months after opening (if it is kept in an airtight container) so its shelf-life is quite long and the paste is good to be used again for this dressing or any other dressing/marinade application you can dream up in the future.
The dressing comes together in mere minutes and can be stored (covered) in the fridge for a few days. You can even prepare this dressing a day in advance of a party for example, so all you have to do on the day of the party is cut the lettuce and chop the avocado and red onion before mixing in the dressing.
The dressing will be chunky and a little loose, and is the perfect consistency to spoon on to your lettuce.
You can use any type of lettuce for this salad — romaine, mixed greens, boston — although I prefer a neutral lettuce such a iceberg which has a high-water content and a hearty crunch to it.
The avocado in this salad is simply perfection. It’s creamy and provides more texture to the salad than flavour as the flavour is quite mild. The avocado will sop up some of the juices from the dressing and will be incredibly delicious. I prefer to use 2 avocados for this recipe because I can’t get enough of this vegetable but you may want to stop at 1. The avocado needs to be chopped right before serving to remain bright in colour and flavour. This makes a generous amount of dressing but I assure you that if you love the dressing as much as I do, it’ll be done in two days flat.
Avocado Salad with Carrot, Ginger & Miso Dressing
1 large carrot (or 12 baby carrots) 1 small shallot 2 tablespoons fresh ginger 2 tablespoons sweet white miso paste 2 tablespoons rice vinegar 2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar 1/4 cup grapeseed oil (or another neutral oil such as canola) 3 tablespoons water
1 medium head of lettuce (such as Iceberg) or any mixed greens 1/4 red onion 1 large or 2 small avocado
Peel and roughly chop the carrot, shallot and ginger and place in a food processor. Pulse the mixture until combined and finely chopped. Add the white miso paste, vinegar, sesame oil and sugar. While the food processor is running, drizzle in the oil and water.
Chop the lettuce in medium-sized pieces and place in a large platter. Slice the red onions very finely in long strips and sprinkle over the lettuce. Dice the avocado in large chunks and distribute over the lettuce. Drizzle with a generous serving of dressing and serve immediately.
[Note: you can also add one medium-sized tomato, sliced in wedges, to this salad. I prefer to make it without the tomato as I find the tomato interferes with the flavours, but the tomato does add a beautiful colour to the overall appearance of the salad]
Serves: 4 (with extra dressing leftover for later use)