Maybe your usual salad song-and-dance is starting to bore you. Maybe you're like me and can't seem to move past squeezing a lemon directly over vegetables and calling it dressing.
For all of us in need of inspiration (help), thanks to April Bloomfield's A Girl and Her Greens, we have not just a brilliant new recipe, but a bunch of new tricks to march out whenever we please.
Everything about Bloomfield's recipe suggests that it would be a bit pushy—it has the pickled fire of kimchi, plus spicy whole radishes with their greens lolling over the edge of the bowl.
But the effect is surprisingly contained and calm, each bite subtly different from the last. As Bloomfield says in the recipe’s headnote, “Because I’m an Englishwoman with an Englishwoman’s palate, the salad I came up with is a quiet one, not full of the fermented fireworks you might expect.”
This recipe as written is deliriously good, but I will admit that it’s not a casual undertaking. There are a lot of moving parts (steaming daikon, toasting and pounding sesame seeds, chopping kimchi)—though all quite simple in isolation—and you might not find the jackpot single store that carries kimchi and perky radishes and lettuce at the same time.
So save the full recipe for a night you have a cooking buddy, or want to take your mind off of something and center it on washing radishes and pummeling sesame seeds. But maybe more importantly, be sure raid the shiny treasure box full of ideas contained within it that you can use any time to make your other salads new, different, more.
I’ve detailed the points that inspired me, plus some shortcuts and swaps, below.
Put kimchi in dressing, in many ways.
Kimchi is acid, salt, heat, and funky fermented twang all in one, so it already has most everything you want in salad dressing built in. How on earth did we not think to put this in our dressings sooner? (Okay, some of us did.) In this recipe, it’s used in three ways to give you a good hodgepodge of textures—roughly and very finely chopped, plus the pungent drained brine—but in other salads, you can take your pick.
Cook a little, leave a little raw.
Cooked and raw radishes have completely different characters, and play off each other well when they get the chance: one is all soft mellow funk, the other spicy-crisp. (If you can’t find daikon, just steam some extra radishes of any type, peeled or unpeeled.) Try this two-fer trick with others, too: tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, turnips. You’ll look like a real April Bloomfield out there.
If the greens look good, eat them, too!
Even if you don’t think you like the texture of radish greens (I didn’t), here they’re good catchers for the dressing, wrapping it around the slick, crunchy bits.
Raw radishes get snappier and steamed daikon more resilient after 15 minutes in the fridge, so the salad is extra crunchy and refreshing, and the dressings won’t wash them out. Try this for other summer players: Snap peas, lettuces, and raw corn are all more quenching when cold. But leave the tomatoes alone.
2 dressings are more exciting than 1.
The one thing you should be sure not to skip is the second dressing, which is just toasted sesame seeds, pounded into a slurry with salt and oil (similar in flavor to tahini, but a with a nice, nubbly texture). Keeping the dressings separate till the end means that every bite is a little different, just as a salad should be.
I find myself seeking out the puddles of sesame to drag my radishes through—it’s a rich, nutty cradle for the wilder elements. But if the whole thing were coated in it, each hidden pocket wouldn’t be nearly as exciting.
- 3/4 pound daikon radishes (each no thicker than 11/2 inches), peeled, topped, tailed, and cut into 1-inch irregularly shaped pieces
- 1 pound mixed small radishes (some with pert greens left on), halved or quartered lengthwise if larger than 1 inch in diameter
- 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
- Maldon or another flaky sea salt
- 4 tablespoons neutral oil, such as safflower or grapeseed
- 3/4 cup roughly chopped drained kimchi, plus 2 tablespoons of the kimchi liquid
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 head Little Gem lettuce (or other crunchy lettuce like Romaine), root end and floppy outer leaves discarded, leaves separated
Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps a genius dessert? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thank you to our Books Editor & Stylist Ali Slagle for this one.