Part I: The Salad

A simple salad you're sure to fall for.

Sometimes, it’s the simple things in life that bring such joy.

The feel of crisp, freshly laundered sheets on a bed.

The sensation of gulping ice-cold water after a hard workout on a blistering day.

The whiff of heady, fresh rosemary from the herb pots on my front porch.

And a shamelessly simple dressing that can transform plain ol’ lettuce leaves into a salad I can’t get enough of.

Indeed, “Romaine Hearts in Miso-Mustard Dressing” has become the new favorite salad in my house. The recipe is from the new cookbook, “The Japanese Grill” (Ten Speed Press), of which I recently received a review copy. The book is by Tadashi Ono, executive chef at Matsuri in New York, and food writer Harris Salat.

Inside, you’ll find recipes for everything from classic chicken yakitori to foil-baked onions with soy sauce to miso yaki onigiri (grilled rice balls). While most of the recipes do make use of the grill, there’s also a chapter on salads that does not. This is one of those cookbooks that will tempt you with every recipe because they are all quite straightforward and with manageable ingredient lists.

This miso-mustard dressing is like a Japanese version of honey-mustard dressing, only it’s made with fermented soybean paste, which not only lends a powerhouse savory note, but adds a creamy, luxurious body.

The dressing comes together in seconds in the blender with Dijon mustard, rice vinegar, water, sugar and olive oil. Since I had whole-grain Dijon on hand, that’s what I used, which created a lovely yellow dressing with speckles in it.

Drizzle the dressing on romaine hearts that have been split lengthwise, then sprinkle on chopped scallions and toasted pine nuts for added crunch.

If you love biting into a cold, crisp iceberg wedge salad with piquant blue cheese dressing, you’re sure to fall hard for this romaine salad, too, as it offers the same wonderful sharp contrasts in flavors and textures.

It’s a salad that’s both simple and simply good.

Romaine Hearts with Miso-Mustard Dressing

(Serves 4)

1 tablespoon pine nuts

1/2 pound romaine hearts

1/4 cup shiro miso (white savory miso)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons Japanese rice vinegar

2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives (or scallions)

To toast pine nuts, preheat a dry skillet over medium heat. When skillet is hot, add pine nuts, cooking and stirring until the pine nuts turn golden and release their fragrance, about 1 minute. Stir constantly; be careful not to burn the nuts. Transfer pine nuts to a cutting board and coarsely chop; set aside.

Clean romaine hearts, removing any limp outside leaves and trimming the stems. Cut them into quarters lengthwise. On a large platter, line up the spears in a row in one layer; set aside.

To make the dressing, add miso, mustard, vinegar, the 2 tablespoons water, sugar and olive oil to the jar of a blender. Cover and pulse on high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds.

To assemble the salad, pour dressing over romaine hearts. Sprinkle with pine nuts and chives and serve.

From “The Japanese Grill” by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat

Tomorrow: The Meat

More Asian-Veg Dishes: Edamame Shiso Salad with Yuzu Vinaigrette

And: Watercress and Sesame Salad

Another Asian Grilled Dish: Ginger, Garlic, and Honey Grilled Baby Back Ribs

And: Grilled Chinese Sweet & Sour Pork Kabobs

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Date: Wednesday, 11. May 2011 5:25
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Asian Recipes, Chefs, General, Restaurants

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24 comments

  1. 1

    Just the kind of fresh, crispy and tasty salad I am craving now! A very palatable combination.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. 2

    This sounds lovely…romaine hearts make the best salads.

  3. 3

    I frequently burn the pine nuts when I toast them. New idea from Alton Brown: Place in brown paper bag and microwave about 30 seconds. Works pretty well!

  4. 4

    Moe: That’s a nifty trick. I’m definitely going to have to try that.I wonder if that will work for all kinds of nuts, too.

  5. 5

    Salad sounds lovely. I used to burn pine nuts in the toaster oven. Now I use a small saute pan over med-lo heat. I can see how they’re going much better and it’s faster (but takes near-constant tossing).

  6. 6

    White Miso is being added to today’s list as we speak. I have been in a terrible salad rut lately — clearly this is just what was needed to break the doldrums. Thanks, Carolyn. And, Moe…great idea about microwaving the pine nuts!

  7. 7

    I need this salad right about now! ;)

  8. 8

    I’ve been on the lookout for some beautiful, crisp, simple, summer salads – thank you for this one!

  9. 9

    An excellent salad, miso-mustard dressing sounds so flavorful!

  10. 10

    I love the first shot, simple salads make the best lunch! I love the miso mustard dressing!

    sweetlife

  11. 11

    I love all kinds of miso dressing. Your salad image really brightened up the day!

  12. 12

    I love how simple this recipe is but looks so elegant! I’m definitely gonna try the microwave toasting idea cuz I always burn my nuts too.

  13. 13

    That sounds so doable and good especially since I’ve been telling myself I need to get on with more salads. And I wish I had found this recipe sooner as I had some shiro miso that I needed to use up. What a great idea!

    It’s also been super hot here in Malaysia so salads are the go-to dishes so I don’t have to cook in my hot kitchen.

    Thanks Carolyn!

  14. 14

    Carolyn, This salad looks so so good and what an interesting combo… pine nuts,dijon, miso… I am intrigued! Plus, I am always looking for a new Japanese cookbook. If this recipe is any indication of the simplicity and style of the book, I’m sold.
    -Erin

  15. 15

    Miso dressing sounds amazing! Have to try that next time instead of the usual mustard, oil, vinegar and honey!

  16. 16

    Absolutely! It’s the simple things in life that give us the most pleasure :) This looks lovely-I do adore cos and iceberg lettuce for the crunch.

  17. 17

    Life can definitely be about the simple things and good salad dressings are KEY. I love the flavor of miso so I’m sure this would be an instant favorite!

  18. 18

    You’re right about the simple things! Looks like this dressing is delicious and chock full of flavor. I love salad dressings like this where the only other ingredient I need is lettuce to have a great salad!

  19. 19

    […] More Tadashi Ono Recipes: Romaine Hearts with Miso-Mustard Dressing […]

  20. 20

    I’m such a fan of miso dressing. It’s either a little bit of that or nothing at all. I prefer my salads raw & crunchy!

  21. 21

    This dressing sounds absolutely delicious! I love both miso and mustard dressings but never thought to combine the two! Thanks for sharing.

  22. 22

    Funny, my hubby eats this salad several times a week! I love miso dressing and will eat it on a lot of things!

  23. 23

    […] More Japanese-Inspired Dishes: Romaine Hearts with Miso-Mustard Dressing […]

  24. 24

    […] And: Romaine Hearts with Miso-Mustard Dressing […]

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