Autumn Eating: Wilted Salad Recipe with Cool Weather Mizuna

Change is in the air, and as the hot days of summer give way to winter’s cold, it’s natural to start craving warmer foods.  The trouble of course, lies in autumn’s in-between weather:  one day cool, the next warm.  Wilted salads are the perfect answer:  while refreshing enough for warmer

Pic of Mizuna Salad

This Kitchen's Sweet Red Chili Sauce offers a nice, spicy-sweet flavor

days, they have enough warmth to taste good on chillier evenings, too.

In another nod to the cooler days ahead, this salad uses mizuna, one of the Asian greens that does well in cooler weather.  I just had a mild and sweet bunch, but mizuna can be slightly bitter tasting, so try to use it shortly after buying and/or mix it with a sweeter lettuce like red leaf or romaine.

A wilted salad is made by pouring a hot, cooked dressing over the greens, which “wilts” them slightly.  In this recipe, some of the salad vegetables are also sauteed, like the cucumber.  I’ve found sauteing to be a good treatment for the cucumbers in my garden that escaped my attention and grew to enormous proportions.  If you are working with these kinds of monsters, be sure to peel, then taste both ends and cut off any bitter sections.

Mizuna waiting for a wash in my salad spinner

Mizuna waiting for a wash in my salad spinner

Finally, the salad uses peaches that are just about to fade from the seasonal eating palate, so if you can’t find any, substitute pears which are just coming into season.  This salad takes a little time, but it is pretty much a full meal.  Just add a little brown basmati rice, whole wheat flat bread or ready made spring rolls on the side for a complete meal.

Wilted Red Pepper and Mizuna Salad with Peaches

Serves 4

  • 1 lrg. bunch mizuna
  • 1 lrg. peach, diced to 1/2”
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint

Prepare the Greens (See pictures below) While mizuna is still in a single bunch, hold leafy ends and slice off dried ends of stems and discard.  Then slice remaining stems crosswise, about 1/4” thick.  Wash, drain and reserve.
Slice green tops of mizuna crosswise into 1” strips, then cut opposite direction to get pieces roughly 1 to 2” square (about 6-8 cups.)  Wash and dry in salad spinner, then place in salad bowl and toss with peach and mint.  Reserve.

  • 3/4 to 1 lb. mild white fish (e.g., talapia, pollack, mahi mahi, or halibut), cubed to 3/4 to 1” (can come from your freezer pantry)
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Marinate Fish Place fish in soup bowl, sprinkle with lime and salt and pepper, then toss to coat evenly.  Reserve.

  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger (bottled or fresh)
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic (bottled or fresh)
  • 2-4 Tbsp. sweet red chili sauce (to taste)
  • 3-4 Tbsp. soy sauce (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar

Prepare Dressing Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk with a fork until well combined.  Reserve.

  • 1 Tbsp. canola or coconut oil (plus another Tbsp., if needed)
  • 1 med. yellow onion, sliced about 1/4” thick and 1 1/2” long
  • 1 med. red bell pepper, sliced into strips about1/4” wide and 1 1/2” long
  • 1 large cucumber (overripe is fine), seeded and sliced into quarter rounds about 1/4” thick

Saute the Toppings In a large saute pan, heat oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking.  Add onions and saute 4-5 minutes until lightly browned, turning every couple minutes to prevent burning. Remove to a soup bowl.  Saute pepper in same pan about 3-4 minutes, adding a little more oil as needed, then remove to bowl with onion.  Add a little more oil to pan, heat and saute cucumber and reserved mizuna stems about 4-5 minutes until lightly browned.

Return onion and red pepper to pan with cucumbers and stir to combine thoroughly.  Pour reserved dressing over cooked vegetables, stir and scrape bottom of pan, and cook just 1-2 minutes to heat everything through.  Immediately remove pan from heat (to avoid overcooking) and stir in:

  • 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 4 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

Pour hot dressing-vegetable mixture over reserved mizuna and toss gently to coat thoroughly.  Salad will wilt slightly.

  • 1/2 Tbsp. canola or coconut oil

Cook Fish to Top Salad  Rinse saute pan used for vegetables, then heat over medium heat until dry.  Add oil and heat until quite warm.  Add reserved fish and cook just until done.  Sprinkle fish over salad and serve immediately.

Mizuna Stems

First slice the mizuna stems so they can be sauteed, since they are a little tough to eat uncooked

Mizuna Greens

Next, slice the leafy greens into pieces roughly 1-2" square

© 2010 Culinary Concepts, Inc.

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Healthy Eating Tips: Small Plates, Big Vegetable Bowls

Nutrition experts have discovered another trick to combat overeating:  Smaller plates.  You’ve probably heard about the research from Cornell University showing that smaller plates lead to smaller portion sizes.  Great idea, but I think there needs to be an exception for vegetables–salads in particular.  In fact, there needs to be not just an exception but a reversal of the rule.

In other words, follow the small plate approach for the meat and starch portion of your meals.  But inasmuch as only one in ten of us eats the recommended daily quota of vegetables, stick with a BIG plate (or at least a separate small plate) for vegetables.  If small plates lead to small portions, then it stands to reason that big plates will lead to bigger portion sizes.

In the case of salads, consider using a big bowl instead of a plate.  That way, you can adequately toss salad and dressing.  I discovered this trick when a Mad Greens restaurant opened nearby.  It is like a restaurant-controlled salad bar.  You pick out the ingredients of your choice and the staff assembles it.  But here’s the key:  the salad is assembled in a BIG metal bowl, so it can be easily and thoroughly tossed.  In the end, every piece of the salad is perfectly coated, and it tastes superbly flavorful, even with a only a couple squirts of dressing.

Eating my Mad Greens salad was an “ah ha” moment.   The low-fat 90s had taught me to avoid the globs of dressing restaurants ladle on salads.  Instead, I always ordered my dressing on the side.  At home, I never dressed the entire salad so the leftovers could be stored for the next night or two.

So I grew accustomed to pouring a little dressing on top of my salad and then semi-mixing it in, since it is impossible to properly toss a salad on a tiny salad plate or piled next to meat and potatoes.  Salad would end up all over the table.  So for years I made do with a semi-dressed salad:  Some bites would have mouth-puckering amounts of dressing; some would have none.

Mad Greens introduced me the taste of a well-dressed salad-and happily, it isn’t dependent on GLOBS of dressing, just proper tossing–and for that a big bowl is the key, just like it’s the key to eating a goodly portion of salad.

So in a happy coincidence, I could achieve two good things with one simple change.  I first began serving my salads in a round plastic storage container.  A mixing bowl will also work.  But today, I found a very lovely yellow bowl (probably a small casserole dish?)  at The Peppercorn, our local kitchenware store extraordinaire.

Depth is a key characteristic for a good salad eating bowl.  This one does a perfect job containing a salad of winter vegetables topped with canned tuna steaks, sun-dried tomatoes and raisins.  My current dressing fav is shown, too.  Annies Sesame Shitake Mushroom.  Lots of flavor, no fake stuff.

Depth is a key characteristic for a good salad eating bowl. This one does a perfect job containing a salad of winter vegetables topped with canned tuna steaks, sun-dried tomatoes and raisins. My current dressing favorite is shown, too. Annie's Shitake & Sesame Vinaigrette. Lots of flavor, no fake stuff.

Depth is the most important thing to look for (besides being cute and coordinating with your current dishware, of course.) While there are plenty of salad serving bowls, most are too shallow and/or flared to contain a feisty salad.  In the picture, I included a regular soup bowl for a point of comparison.

If you are looking for a good bowl on-line, I happened upon one at Silvermark’s site:  http://silvermk.com/product_detail.cfm?id=16.  You can also find all sorts of other great salad-making apparatuses there.

Caution:  Hazards Ahead!

As with anything, watch out for imbalances.  In the case of salads, the imbalances can come in a couple forms:  Non-vegetable ingredients and salad dressings.

First, keep in mind that big bowls are a trick for eating more vegetables, not oversized amounts of ham, cheese, smoked turkey,  pasta salad and myriad other non-vegetable toppings in a typical salad bar.  Homemade salads aren’t usually overburdened with high-calorie additions, since who has the time to prepare them?  But faced with a salad bar spread of enticing toppers, all cut and ready to go, it’s easy to overload.

Second, we know that the calories in dressing can often outweigh those in the salad itself!  Big bowls are a way to strategically spread the dressing so it is put to effective use.  This way, it’s possible to dress a larger portion of salad vegetables with the same amount of dressing.  Watch out that you don’t end up doubling the dressing as you increase salad size!  If it helps, measure out the dressing before adding.

If your salad could still use a little kick after it moderately dressed, here’s another trick:  Instead of ladling on more salad dressing, sprinkle on some extra vinegar (e.g., brown rice or balsamic), some freshly squeezed lemon juice, a few grinds of pepper or a shake of cayenne.  Even salt (just a little) can help bring out the flavors without a lot more calories.

Happy vegging!

Here’s a recipe for Tuna Salad with Homemade Balsamic Dressing

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