Happy Fall, everyone! =D
Oh, and I can’t forget FALL FOODS!
Usually, everyone thinks of pumpkins around this time of year. Pumpkin spice flavored everything began coming out at the end of August this year, much to my dismay. Although I love pumpkin and spice, I don’t think it should be a flavor for everything. I am excited to make some homemade pumpkin pie for the holidays though, don’t get me wrong… I just think that August is a wee bit early for it!
I was thinking of a good dish to celebrate the fall equinox with. I love squash and stews and soups, but I still feel that it’s a bit early for such heavy fare. The local temperature where I live is pretty warm still. We’ve had some chilly mornings, but over all our days are within the high 60-low 80 range. I still crave salads; I can’t help myself!
In summer, I like to make very light salads that are full of yin energy. I first learned that different foods have either expansive or contractive properties when I attended cooking school. We were taught with some principals of macrobiotics, which I tend to follow now and again. I’m not a die-hard macrobiotic cook, but I definitely identify with many of the macrobiotic principles of food combination and preparation. I find that I gravitate towards macrobiotic foods more during the fall and winter months.
A simple example of a yin food, or a food with expansive (light, outward growth) energy, is baby lettuce. Baby lettuce grows upwards out of the ground, absorbs energy from the sun, and basks in the open air. Eating this lettuce will provide me with light nourishment that will not make me feel weighed down. However, this lettuce benefits me best when it is accompanied by a heartier root vegetable like a carrot. Carrots are more of a yang food since they grow in the ground. They keep our bodies and spirits rooted and steady, as well as satiated.
For me, winter calls for more yang foods. These heartier foods (like root veggies, baked dishes, grains, etc.) keep me full and warm when it’s cold out. I like to balance the heartier foods with robust greens, like kale or collard greens. This salad that I’ve made is the perfect answer to the first calls of autumn: a light salad of substantial root vegetables with an oil-free dressing.
Almost all the vegetables I used for this salad are roots, so they are crunchy and satisfying with slightly sweet flavors. In order to keep the salad light, I shaved the vegetables thinly. The translucent disks are so delicate and reminiscent of fallen leaves! This is definitely a great Japanese side dish for any warm supper. Eating something raw on the side of a cooked main dish is an easy way to balance the yin and yang of your meal.
You can easily substitute some vegetables for others if you don’t like them or cannot find them. Daikon and Japanese cucumber are usually difficult to find in a standard grocery store. If you are lucky enough to live near an Asian market, you will probably be able to pick up at least one of them! If you’ve never tried daikon, I urge you to give it a chance! It’s a big carrot-shaped white radish with a slightly pungent bite. I like using raw daikon with sweeter vegetables to balance our their flavor. Some even say that daikon has fat-burning properties…so, why not? =)
Autumn Root Vegetable Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette
**Organic if possible!**
- 1/2 a large daikon
- 1/2 a medium carrot
- 1/2 medium Japanese cucumber
- 1/4 of a small red beetroot
- small bunch of scallions
- Wash/scrub all produce before using.
- Trim and peel the root veggies (daikon, carrot, beet). I like to cut them into about 3″ long chunks so they are easier to shave. I left the cucumber peel on because I like the way it looks and tastes. If you like to peel yours, go for it! (Japanese cucumbers have very flexible, thin skins.)
- With a vegetable peeler (or a mandolin, if you have one), shave all veggies (except scallion) into rounds over a medium-large serving bowl. I shaved the blunt cut end of each chunk of root veggie to get a disc shape. You can peel them into any shape you want, though!
- Once all your veggies are shaved, toss them together gently. You can add more or less of any one of the vegetables as you choose. I honestly eyeballed the ratio, since I like all of them and didn’t really mind if I have more of one over the others.
- Trim the ends of the scallions and slice thinly.
- Toss the scallion into the salad or set aside to use only as a garnish.
- Plate salads for serving and drizzle with dressing (recipe below). This keeps the salad from becoming soggy.
Ginger Dressing Ingredients
- 3 Tb rice vinegar
- 2 Tb maple syrup
- 2 Tb ume vinegar
- 2 tsp powdered ginger
- dash black pepper
Whisk all ingredients together in a dish. Adjust any ingredient to suit your palate!
Happy Fall Cooking! ^_^