Crushing on Salad

January 24, 2013

I have always liked boys.  When I was in first grade, I was head of the “kisser girls”, the club whose duty it was to run after boys on the playground, catch them, and kiss them.  With all the boys to choose from, some of whom slowed down noticeably so we could catch them, it was hard to settle on one for a “boyfriend”.  Once I started second grade, I fell for a sweet boy who was taller than me and lived in a blue house with an eagle over the door.  He was my crush in third grade too and again in sixth grade after I spent fourth and fifth pining over a boy who wouldn’t give me the time of day.  I had my first serious boyfriend in seventh grade and from there things got a little more complicated. But throughout my single life, I always had crushes.  Some of them turned into relationships, others didn’t.

These days, I am happily married and crushes on guys are a thing of the past. So now I crush on salads. Sometimes the crushes turn into full blown love affairs as in the case of this salad (my spring stand-by) and this one (my fall stand-by).

Meet my new crush. Or, seeing as I have made it countless times in the past month, my new love. There are so many things to fall for here. Even though the dressing has vaguely Asian flavors, it goes with any meal you want to serve from soba noodles to linguine. I should know because I’ve served it with just about everything. It is the rare salad that can actually be dressed ahead of time and does not get wilty. The core ingredients are things that keep well in your refrigerator so you could theoretically make it at a moment’s notice. The dressing keeps well too. You can scale it up easily to feed a crowd, it is crunchy and light but satisfying with lots of umami (thank you miso paste) and all in all, it would make a great boyfriend if it was, you know, a person.

As written, this is a terrific recipe. I’ve changed a few things in the way I make it to reflect personal taste. (I’ll give you the recipe the way Deb wrote it.) I prefer to make it with raw snap peas rather than blanched. It saves a step and I like the crunch and intense sweetness of those pods when they are raw. Blanching gives them a bit of a funky flavor in my opinion. Also, I cut back on the amount of scallions because I don’t enjoy the taste of raw onion, especially in salad. For the dressing, I do use the sesame oil but not the vegetable oil. Instead, I use water for the liquid, 2 – 4 tablespoons depending on how it is coming together. I’ve made the dressing in both my mini food processor and my blender and it came out great both ways. I would recommend doubling it.

One Year Ago:  Celery Root Soup, Apple Cheddar Quick Bread
Two Years Ago:  Roasted Tomato Salad with Croutons, Meyer Lemon Risotto Cakes
Three Years Ago:  Peanut Butter Cookies with Milk Chocolate Chunks, Chickpea , Chard, and Couscous Soup, Soba Noodles with Crispy Tofu
Four Years Ago:  Sliced Eggplant Spread with Crostini, Lemon Bars

Snap Pea Salad with Miso Dressing
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Serves 4-6

I made this dressing with peanut butter when I was out of tahini and it tasted great.  Please don’t skip the step of toasting the sesame seeds.  Like most nuts and seeds, their flavor really comes out when they are given some heat.  Just keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn.

Table salt for the pot
½ pound sugar snap peas, untrimmed
½ pound Napa cabbage, in thin ribbons (about 3 cups)
4 ounces radishes (4 medium-large) julienned, or quartered and thinly sliced
3 large scallions (about ½ bundle), white and green parts only, thinly sliced on bias
3 tbsp. sesame seeds, well toasted (300-degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes)

Sesame-Miso Dressing
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp. mild yellow or white miso, plus up to 1 tbsp. more
2 tbsp. sesame seed paste or tahini
1 tbsp. honey
¼ cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil

Blanch sugar snap peas:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and prepare a small ice-water bath.  Boil the sugar snaps for about 2 minutes, or until just barely cooked but still crisp.  Scoop them out with a large slotted spoon, and drop them in the ice-water bath.  Once they’re cool, drain and pat dry.  Tim ends and cut sugar snaps on bias into thin slices.  Toss in large bowl with cabbage radishes, scallions, and 1 tablespoon sesame seeds.

Make the dressing:
Whirl all ingredients, using the smaller amount of miso, in a blender until smooth.  Taste and adjust the ingredients – use the extra tablespoon of miso if desired.  Don’t fret if it is a tad salty, and try to resist the urge to compensate with extra honey.  The sugar snaps have a mellow sweetness to them that balances well with a saltier-than-normal dressign.

Assemble the salad:
Toss salad with half of dressing, and taste.  Use more if you desire.  Sprinkle with remaining sesame seeds.


  1. Thank you for sharing this! It looks amazing. I’ve been craving the cabbage salad at the local Vietnamese place lately, and this looks like it has some of the same flavors. Can’t wait to try!

    Comment by Mara — January 24, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

  2. It sounds so fresh and tasty. I can’t wait to try it.

    Comment by bellini — January 24, 2013 @ 8:37 pm

  3. this salad sounds amazing!!! can’t wait to make it! thank you for sharing!

    Comment by angie — January 24, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

  4. I’m still working on figuring out how exactly I am a vegetarian who doesn’t really love salad…but I am. I’m working on it though because I think the thing is that I don’t like salads that aren’t GOOD and there are far too many of those out there. Which probably explains why I skipped over this when Deb posted it…but obviously I need to take a second look!

    Comment by Joanne — January 25, 2013 @ 2:13 am

  5. This looks so good, I’m glad you shared it. Do you have any tips on buying miso paste? I love miso soup, but never seem to enjoy it when I make it from a tub of paste (maybe I’m buying the wrong stuff – not that this is soup, but…)

    Comment by Michelle — January 25, 2013 @ 3:07 am

  6. How do you think this would taste using regular green cabbage instead of Napa and daikon instead of red radishes? That’s all I have on hand right now and I really want to try this.

    Comment by Holly — January 25, 2013 @ 3:56 am

  7. Hi Holly. If you are diligent about slicing the green cabbage really thin, it will probably be fine. If you use that, I would definitely dress the salad ahead of time since green cabbage is a little heartier than Napa. The dressing ahead will allow it to soften. The daikon would be great, just cut in in small slices.

    Comment by dana — January 25, 2013 @ 4:45 am

  8. This miso dressing sounds great! I actually have every ingredient which makes me want to whip up this salad right away. Love the mix of radishes and sugar snap peas.

    Comment by lisaiscooking — January 26, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

  9. I get crushes on salads regularly. This one sounds good – I’m always making tahini dressings in the wintertime and have added water instead of oil too. I don’t eat a lot of snap peas except in stir fries so I’ll give this a go. It looks delicious! Keep on crushing!

    Comment by kickpleat — January 26, 2013 @ 7:59 pm

  10. Just wanted you to know that after three helpings, Nikhil declared this the best salad *ever*! Glad I made double the dressing, as he wants it in his lunch tomorrow. Thanks again!

    Comment by Mara — January 30, 2013 @ 3:02 am

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