Beautiful Ranui salad greens every week. We will miss them this winter–salad greens from the store don’t even come close in flavor and freshness. Back in June, I wrote about my homemade version of a popular bottled dressing, sort of promising the recipe, so, to help savor these last 2 weeks of salad greens before our CSA boxes stop coming, here it follows.
I am a label reader and I make a point to not buy anything with a list of additives. Many commercial salad dressings, organic or not, include something called xanthan gum—usually the last ingredient, which means it is the smallest ingredient by percentage. Xanthan gum seems pretty harmless, a bacteria, like yogurt or blue cheese, grown on (usually corn) sugars. It’s widely used in gluten-free baking and readily available–Bob’s Red Mill is a common brand, sold in a bag with so much xanthan gum you’ll need a gluten-free baking spree to use it up. In salad dressings, xanthan gum gives viscosity, so it sticks to the food, and it acts as emulsifier, to keep the oil and vinegar from separating right away. I bought some xanthan gum, and it’s included in my recipe, though it is not a crucial component, and its thickening and emulsifying powers won’t be apparent right away. I wondered why, but if you think about it–we certainly don’t use commercial salad dressing the same day it’s made in the factory.
I also use canola oil. I’ve experimented with extra virgin olive oil, and so can you, but the result is heavier—I think this dressing should be light, less Italian, more Japanese. Taste your sesame seeds for freshness–they stale quickly—and replace older seeds that have gone rancid.
Sesame Shiitake Vinaigrette
1 dried shiitake mushroom
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
3/4 canola oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
2 tablespoons mushroom soaking water
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum powder
Put the mushroom in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak until the mushroom is soft. Toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet, stirring until they are golden in color. Remove from the heat so they don’t burn.
When the mushroom is soft, saving 2 tablespoons of the soaking water, trim and discard the stem; chop the mushroom.
Put the oil, vinegar, soy sauce, reserved soaking water, sesame oil, the chopped mushroom and xanthan gum in a blender. Whir just until the mushroom is in tiny pieces, about 10 seconds. Add the toasted sesame seeds and blend a few seconds more.
Store in a glass jar, refrigerated. Makes about a cup—recipe can be doubled, no problem.