I’m a new member of the Good Food Easy CSA through Sweetwater Farm. Each week, we pick up a bag of organic fruits and vegetables (and sometimes eggs and other goodies) from a nearby drop-off location. What I like about Good Food Easy is that they provide winter shares, we can pay on a monthly basis, and there are three sizes available depending on your needs. The winter shares include food not only from their farm and greenhouse, but also other local farms and a few regional items (like citrus). The 100% locavores wouldn’t like the latter, but since we don’t live in Northern California, local vegetables in the winter tend to get a bit too rustic and weedy for my tastes. Most of all, I like it that Good Food Easy gives us Asian vegetables, “weird” stuff like burdock and daikon. They have a thing for fermentation, too, so they sometimes provide sauerkraut and kim chi. YUM!
We’ve started out with a small bag each week for $20, and the fruits and vegetables are plenty for the two of us. This week, for example, we received a quarter of a napa cabbage, a young daikon radish, a red onion, a bag of sunchokes, two apples, two oranges, a bunch of young carrots and a beautiful bunch of spinach.
I hadn’t cooked Japanese for a while, and since I’m trying to lose a bit of weight, I decided to have soba noodles for lunch, and accompany them with a dipping sauce made of broth, soy sauce, vinegar, green onion, and grated daikon radish. The spinach begged to be eaten as a side dish, so I took advantage of the young crowns, the part that usually gets thrown away when you eat only the leaves.
In the spring, spinach crowns are tender and a beautiful rosy pink color at the tips. One has to wash them very carefully, several times over in deep bowls of cold water, swishing them around and carefully draining the muddy water and rinsing the bowl each time. In addition, it’s a good idea to inspect each crown, stripping off damaged stems and rinsing stubborn dirt from the crevices. After this, the recipe is simple. Either steam them for two minutes or do as I did, dunk them in the boiling water I had ready for the noodles, let them parboil for a minute or two (just to soften them a bit — DO NOT overcook), then let them drain well and cool down while you prepare accompanying dishes.
The dressing is a classic Japanese one, using grated daikon radish to mimic sleet or a bit of snow on the young vegetables. It’s a perfect early spring dish, not to mention fat-free. Use any young, green vegetable. I used spinach crowns, but you could also use similarly parboiled spinach leaves, baby bok choy, young chard, green beans, etc.
Another brilliant pairing for the dressing is fish. The Japanese use grated daikon and soy sauce with really strong fish, like mackerel, to tame the fishiness. I think vinegared grated daikon is lovely with tuna and salmon, too.
Sleet Dressing (Mizore-ae)
Enough grated daikon radish to yield about 1/4 cup (just buy a small one at an Asian market or a well-stocked grocery store — you’ll use about 4 inches or so depending on how thick it is).
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Grate the daikon on the finest holes of a box grater, or preferably on a ceramic grater like the one pictured (available at Asian grocery stores, or, if you’re lucky, at the Goodwill, which is where I found a large one last week!) Grate more than you’ll think you need, about 1/4 cup.
Squeeze out most of the liquid in the grated radish. Measure out a heaped tablespoon full of radish and place in a small bowl. Add the vinegar, salt, and a dash of sugar. Taste for saltiness. Add more salt or vinegar as necessary. Then add some white pepper for kick and stir.
Prepare your vegetables. I made enough spinach crowns for two people. After parboiling for only a minute or two, I drained the spinach crowns, squeezed out all excess water, then mounded them so they looked nice in a serving bowl.
Immediately prior to serving, carefully pour the dressing over a mound of vegetables, so you can see little clumps of “snow” clinging to the wet greenery. That’s it! Pretty and easy and healthy.
Now what in the heck am I going to do with those sunchokes?