3 Unexpected Salads That Feel Fresher Than Spring

Photo: Courtesy of Joseph De Leo.
Despite the fact that we often fall into the trap of making the same recipes over and over again, salad is one of the most versatile meals out there. You can dress up the veggie-heavy dish up for any occasion — whether it's hot or cold, casual or fancy, main or side. But, it's especially satisfying to crunch into a forkful when it mirrors the freshness of the warm weather outside.
Because spring-ish temperatures are now upon us, we're busting out the best of these refreshing recipes with Ilene Rosen's aptly named cookbook, Saladish. Rosen defines the term as, "like a salad, and yet so much more." From a wide range of creative ingredient combinations (tofu to chickpeas), textures (crunchy to fluffy), and flavors (sweet to salty), the three Saladish recipes ahead will transport you to seasonal bliss.
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Photo: Courtesy of Joseph De Leo.
Vietnamese-Style Tofu Salad
Serves 4

Marinade Ingredients
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp sambal oelek
3 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
4 1⁄2 tsp flavorless vegetable oil
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp honey
One 14 oz. block firm tofu
1 English (seedless) cucumber
Carrot-Daikon Pickle (recipe follows)
2 Fresno chiles, or other medium-hot red chile, thinly sliced
1⁄4 cup fresh cilantro sprigs
1 tbsp black sesame seeds, lightly toasted
Rice vinegar to taste
Kosher salt

1. Marinate the tofu: Whisk all the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl. Transfer to a covered container or a plastic storage bag. Add the tofu and turn it over several times so it is well coated. Cover or seal and refrigerate for at least 1 day, and up to 5 days—the longer the better—turning the tofu (or bag) occasionally.

2. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

3. Set the tofu on a sheet pan, reserving any excess marinade. Swipe the tofu around to grease the pan. Cut the tofu block horizontally in half, then cut the still-stacked halves into quarters. Cut the quarters in half to form triangles and spread them out on the pan.

4. Baste the tops with the reserved marinade and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until slightly crisp around the edges.

Let cool, then transfer to a wide serving bowl.

5. Meanwhile, cut the cucumbers crosswise into quarters. Stand each quarter on one end and slice into sticks.

6. Drain the carrot-daikon pickle, reserving the liquid, and add to the tofu. Add the cucumber, Fresno chiles, cilantro, and sesame seeds and toss gently together, taking care not to break up the tofu. Drizzle with a tablespoon or so each of reserved pickling liquid and rice vinegar and sprinkle with salt to taste. Serve.

Carrot-Daikon Pickle
Makes ½ cup

1⁄4 cup julienned carrot, preferably cut lengthwise on a mandoline
1⁄4 cup julienned daikon, preferably cut lengthwise on a mandoline
1⁄4 cup rice vinegar
1⁄4 cup sugar
A pinch of kosher salt

1. Combine the carrot and daikon in a small heatproof bowl.

2. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil gently, stirring occasionally, for a minute or two, until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the brine over the vegetables and steep until cool. Use right away or store refrigerated in the brine in a tightly covered container for up to 2 weeks.

Excerpted from Saladish by Ilene Rosen (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2018. Photographs by Joseph De Leo.
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Photo: Courtesy of Joseph De Leo.
Gem Lettuces, Avocado, & Tomatillo With Buttermilk Dressing
Serves 4

Buttermilk Dressing Ingredients
1 small garlic clove
1⁄4 tsp kosher salt
1 1⁄2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp mayonnaise
3⁄4 tsp honey
1⁄4 cup buttermilk
2 to 4 (depending on size) heads Gem lettuce or 1 large head of Boston lettuce, leaves separated, washed, and dried (about 6 cups)
1 ripe avocado
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 small tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and cut into small dice
3 tbsp chopped red onion
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
4 tbsp Tomatillo Salsa (recipe follows)

1. Make the dressing: Smash the garlic clove on a cutting board with a chef’s knife and mash it into a paste with the salt. Transfer to a small bowl and whisk in the mustard, vinegar, mayonnaise, and honey. Gradually whisk in the buttermilk; the dressing should be creamy. Set aside.

2. Arrange the lettuce leaves on a large platter. Halve and pit the avocado and spoon out the flesh in bite-size pieces directly onto the lettuce. Drizzle the dressing over the lettuce and avocado. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Scatter the tomatillo, red onion, and pumpkin seeds over the top. Spoon small dollops of the tomatillo salsa here and there and serve immediately.

Tomatillo Salsa
Makes about 2 cups

1 lb. tomatillos, husked, washed, and any stems pulled off
1⁄2 medium onion, quartered and root end trimmed
1 small jalapeño, halved and seeds removed if concerned about heat
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Place the tomatillos, onion, and jalapeño on a parchment- or foil-lined sheet pan and roast for about 25 minutes, until the tomatillos are soft and somewhat deflated and the onion and jalapeño are lightly browned. Let cool briefly.

3. Transfer the vegetables, along with any juices on the sheet pan, to the bowl of a food processor or to a blender and pulse, adding water 1 tbsp at a time, until the salsa is a thick puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Excerpted from Saladish by Ilene Rosen (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2018. Photographs by Joseph De Leo.
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Photo: Courtesy of Joseph De Leo.
Red Cabbage & Chickpeas With A Kick
Serves 4

3 large scallions
2 cups cooked or canned drained chickpeas
12 oz. red cabbage, trimmed of outer leaves, cored, and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
3⁄4 cup Spicy Tahini Dressing (recipe follows)
1 tbsp white sesame seeds, toasted
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for garnish

1. Trim the scallions and slice them about ¼ inch thick, cutting the white parts straight across and the green parts on the diagonal; keep them separate.

2. Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl. Add the cabbage and the white parts of the scallions and toss to combine. Add the dressing, sesame seeds, and lemon juice and mix thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and scatter the scallion greens on top. Garnish with the lemon wedges.

Spicy Tahini Dressing
Makes 1¾ cups

1 cup roasted tahini (stir well before measuring), at room temperature
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 small garlic clove (optional)
3⁄4 cup water
1 tsp harissa, or to taste (brands vary in concentration and spiciness)
1⁄4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste

Combine the tahini, lemon zest and juice, garlic, if using, and water in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender and process to combine. Check the consistency—it should be thin enough to toss with the cabbage; add another tablespoon or two of water if needed. Add the harissa and salt and process until smooth. The dressing keeps for several days in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Excerpted from Saladish by Ilene Rosen (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2018. Photographs by Joseph De Leo.
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Saladish: A Crunchier, Grainier, Herbier, Heartier, Tastier Way with Vegetables by Ilene Rosen, $21.87, available at Amazon.

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