A salad using some common components of a sushi roll fits the bill as a light offering, and it’s also quick and easy to make.
Now, one might not immediately associate Vermont with the growing of ginger, and yet, in the past few years these exotic tropical nuggets, along with their cousin turmeric, are making a name as an up-and-coming crop.
They have found their way to Vermont farms not because of global warming, but rather from the determination of local dedicated farmers who like to push the limits of what we can grow in our short season. This time of year, I stock the freezer with this new treasure and use it grated all year long, and I also pickle it for use in dishes such as this deconstructed sushi salad. When I make pickled ginger, I think of sushi, but this time around, I decided to turn it into a simpler salad.
Cook the rice, then an easy assembly of everything else
We love sushi and sashimi. We make it at home. It is fun, but a little messy. It also requires a bit of a learning curve to roll it right. This salad is lovely with poached shrimp on top. If you are using crab for a protein, you have a salad with all the flavor of traditional “California roll,” with most of the fuss removed! This is also great made with sushi-grade line-caught tuna or salmon, sliced paper thin, or small cubes of pressed tofu that you have marinated in a half-and-half mixture of mirin and rice vinegar.
If you live by a coast, look for local seafood first
Local fish markets carry the Maine or New England crabmeat, even if tucked into their freezer when it is not readily available. If you don’t see it, ask for it, or another local product depending where you live. Avoid the canned crab that is processed from Indonesia, Thailand, and other Asian countries, and these are not usually sustainably raised, contain preservatives, and they have an unpleasant after taste.
Easy to find ingredients and substitutions
Local co-ops also have an abundance of wild Atlantic seaweed, so experiment with the different varieties. Since you are not making rolls, the sheets are not necessary. The sushi rice is widely available at co-ops and some supermarkets, but you can easily substitute brown rice for a better nutrition profile. Rice vinegar and mirin are found at most markets, but if you cannot find the mirin, substitute dry sherry.
This is a great salad for a party or to bring to a potluck, and doubles easily for a big event.
Sushi Salad with Shrimp, Pickled Ginger, & Wasabi Dressing
- 3 or 4 sheets dried seaweed, or a couple of cups dried and crumbled
- 1 ½ cups sushi rice
- 2 cups stock, shrimp, fish, or vegetable
- 3 tbsp. rice vinegar
- 3 tbsp. mirin
- 3 tbsp. honey or sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 8 oz. Maine crabmeat, or wild shrimp
- 1 Haas avocado, sliced or cubed
- Pickled ginger (see recipe)
- 2 scallions, sliced thinly, diagonally
- ½ small carrot, fine julienne
- Daikon or traditional radishes of color, matchstick slices
- 1 tbsp. black sesame seeds and parsley to garnish, optional
Toast the seaweed over a gas flame or under the broiler. It only takes a few moments, so keep your eye on it. Crumble, and set aside.
The washing of the rice for sushi of any type is important, almost a ritual, and I enjoy this process. Place your rice in a bowl and cover with water. Swish it around for a little bit, then put it in a wire mesh strainer and drain. Repeat, then rinse under the water in the strainer for a couple of minutes, until the water runs clear, indicating you have removed enough of the surface starch. This is a step you don’t want to skip.
Place the rice and stock in a pan and bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to the lowest temperature and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or just shy of your package directions. Remove from the heat, and keep covered for 15 minutes. Then, fluff it gently with a fork. Turn it out onto a baking sheet to cool.
When the rice has almost finished cooling, whisk together the vinegar, mirin, honey, and salt. Pour this over the rice, and mix it up. I use a fork in each hand, like I’m tossing a salad. This will already start to smell like sushi. Let cool, covered with a damp towel.
While the rice cools, prep the rest of your dish: slice scallions, avocados, drain a little of the brine from your pickled ginger over the avocados so they won’t discolor (or a little squeeze of lemon), and cut your carrot and radishes into thin matchsticks or little rounds. Poach or roast your shrimp, or if using crab, pick through for shells. Toast your sesame seeds, if using.
When ready to assemble, chop up the toasted nori sheets and place them around the edges and on the bottom of your serving platter, reserving a few for garnish. Tumble out your rice evenly over the middle of the plate.
Then, you get to be creative. Add your protein. If using the poached shrimp or crab, mound it in the center. Arrange your avocados, carrots, perhaps some cucumber, pickled ginger, scallions, sesame seeds, and chopped parsley. Use your imagination, and make it pretty.
Serve with wasabi dressing, and the beautiful pickled ginger. If you are a ginger fanatic, feel free to heap lots of extra on the salad. You can also serve with a simple vinaigrette on the side, or sprinkle with a little toasted sesame oil.
Whisk together 1 -2 tbsp. prepared wasabi paste, 1/3 cup canola oil, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 2 tbsp. low-sodium tamari, and 1 tsp. maple syrup (it is Vermont after all).
Growing ginger in Vermont is a challenge, ask the farmer!
“It’s interesting to have new challenges,” Jack Manix said. Manix and his wife Karen own Walker Farm in Dummerston. They started growing ginger and turmeric about eight years ago, and it has been quite a popular venture, he said.
Ginger is indeed a tropical plant and is not hardy to our climate. Manix orders organic rhizomes from Hawaii annually, and plants a new crop each year. Once they are received, they will sprout in peat moss in a cozy warm spot, 80 degrees, for two to three weeks.
And these delicate babies will continue to live the pampered life once planted, spending their growing season in greenhouses throughout the summer because they love the heat.
Harvest begins in late September, and is done in stages. The ginger grown here gets to be a nice size, Manix explained, bigger than his hand, and is thinner skinned than what you find in the supermarket, whiter, with a pretty pinkish/purplish tint.
“It’s really fragrant, too,” he said, adding that he places it near the cash register and folks cannot resist the intoxicating aroma, a Vermont farmer’s “impulse buying” lure. “We don’t put potato chips there,” he joked.
Ginger and turmeric freeze well, so when you spot local grown, don’t be afraid to stock up and tuck them away in the freezer for use all winter. It is much easier to grate ginger once it is frozen, so keep that in mind.
Making your own is fresher, and easier than begging at the Japanese restaurant 25 miles away! We can always find fresh ginger, so that is the way to go, and local is always best if you can find it.
½ lb. peeled fresh ginger, local if possible
1 cup of rice wine vinegar
¼ cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
Peel the ginger whatever way works best for you. This can be a traditional peeler, a teaspoon, or my favorite, a sharp melon baller I scrape along the length. If you are using fresh new garlic, you can leave the peelings on.
Once prepped, slice the ginger as thin as possible. Pack the slices into a hot, well-scrubbed canning jar. If the ginger is really large, and you are really careful, you can use a mandolin with a guard.
In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Bring this to a boil, and remove from heat, stirring to ensure all the sugar is dissolved.
Pour over the ginger, cover, and shake well to remove any air pockets. Let cool, and refrigerate.
This is best made a couple of days before, but you can also use it after a few hours, the ginger will be a little sharper. The local ginger will have a slight pink tint naturally. If you are using market ginger, you can add a little purple onion, not only to add some visual interest but flavor as well.
This can be refrigerated for up to two months, I think, since it never lasts long enough at my house to know or sure!
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