A few weeks ago, while clearing out my pantry, I found a package of udon noodles, likely purchased on a whim months ago and swallowed by my cupboard shortly thereafter. Without a recipe in mind, I turned to Google and came across an udon noodle salad on Epicurious, (originally from Self magazine). It called for stir-frying a number of vegetables and making a dressing with miso, which sounded light, refreshing, and different from the peanut noodle dishes I’m always drawn to.
When I set to work, I found myself in unfamiliar territory. First, because the dressing included carrots, and making it would require a blender or food processor (which I rarely find myself relying on for the sake of dressing). Second, the teensy amount of oil threw me off—this dressing would not adhere even remotely to the 1-to-3 acid-to-oil ratio of classic dressings. And finally, a considerable amount of water would be added to the mix.
However, it worked. In just about a minute of whirring, a brilliant orange emulsion had formed, thin and slightly grainy in texture, not unlike a carrot-ginger dressing. And it tasted, much to my surprise, balanced: sweet, fresh, and sharp, thanks to the miso, carrots, and vinegar, respectively.
I’ve made this dressing several times now, and while I like it with noodles, I prefer it with vegetables, particularly in shredded cabbage slaws. What’s especially nice about this dressing, in addition to it being tasty, is that there’s no mayonnaise or dairy products, which makes it well suited for basking on a buffet table this weekend or any other this season. No nuts, moreover, makes it safe for those with allergies. And its virtues extend to health, too: Self touts the miso for providing “flavor minus the saturated fat.” All of this makes miso happy—sorry, couldn’t resist—I hope it will you, too.
Now, the Slaw
Salt the cabbage before you dress it. I read about this technique in The Slanted Door cookbook earlier this year, and I’ve found employing it makes all the difference in the cabbage slaws and salads I’ve been making. Salting the cabbage draws out some of its moisture, which allows it to better soak up the dressing. It also softens the shreds, which makes it easier to eat.
If you have a food processor, pull it (and all of its attachments) out: When making the dressing, if you use the shredder attachment before using the default blade, the carrots will purée more easily. After you make the dressing, too, you can wipe it out, switch to the slicer attachment, and run the broccoli or cauliflower florets down the shoot.
Crunch: In addition to flavor, nuts and seeds add such nice texture to vegetable slaws. I’ve used toasted pumpkin seeds and almonds here, but any number of nuts (cashews, walnuts, peanuts) and seeds (sunflower, sesame) could work. For additional crunch, you could add un-boiled ramen noodles. To do so, open a package or two, discard the seasoning pack, break the noodles into small pieces, and spread them on a sheet pan. Toast at 425ºF for 5 to 7 minutes until golden. Add to salad, and toss to combine. (Note: Ramen noodles lose their crunch after several hours and turn completely soft after a night in the fridge.)
- 1 small head napa (or other) cabbage
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 2 medium unpeeled carrots, ends trimmed (about 8 oz. once trimmed)
- 1/4 cup white miso paste
- 2 cloves garlic, optional, see notes above
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (or vinegar, see notes above)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1/2 cup grapeseed, olive, or neutral oil
- 1 small head broccoli or cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
- 6 scallions, thinly sliced