Broccoli, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Radish Salad

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I’m eating healthier than usual these days (hello, thirties): lots of fresh produce, lots of salad, not so much salt and oil. But let’s be honest: lettuce will only get you so far.

This crunchy, flavor-packed salad is my response to lettuce fatigue. The broccoli, radish, and cucumbers bring the crunch and the sun-dried tomatoes, chiles, and a generous dusting of Parmesan shavings add a huge kick of flavor. At the risk of sounding like a women-eating-salads stock photo, this crave-worthy salad feels almost decadent. Appearances can be deceiving.

Broccoli, sun-dried tomato, and radish salad

Ingredients:

1 egg yolk
3 oil-packed anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 small head of broccoli, florets cut into bite-size pieces and stem peeled and trimmed, very thinly sliced lengthwise
1/4 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 Persian cucumber, thinly sliced
1 Fresno chile, thinly sliced
1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup mint leaves
6 radishes, thinly sliced
2 ounces Parmesan, shaved
Salt
Pepper

1. Make dressing: Blend egg yolk, anchovies, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, mustard, and garlic clove in a blender to combine. Add mixture to a bowl and whisk in olive oil and blend until dressing is emulsified and creamy, then add oregano. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

2. Add broccoli, onion, cucumber, chile, sun-dried tomatoes, radishes, and mint to a large salad bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat; add more dressing if desired. Serve salad topped with Parmesan.

Goya Champuru (Okinawan Bitter Gourd Stir-Fry)

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For the uninitiated, goya champuru is a bitter gourd, pork, and egg stir-fry originating on the Japanese island of Okinawa. It’s like the comfort food I never grew up with, a dish balancing soft with crunchy, bitter with savory.

But is my version even goya champuru? I omit the traditional pork belly, which I understand is a pretty consistent ingredient despite there being countless versions of goya champuru throughout Okinawa. But you know what? This is still one of my favorite dishes to cook and eat. If you’ve never had bitter gourd you’re in for a treat. The soft tofu and ethereal eggs are a perfect foil for the astringent bitter melon.

Goya champuru

Ingredients:

3 small bitter melons (about 1 pound)
2 teaspoons salt
1 block (12 ounces) extra-firm tofu
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup dashi broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/3 cup bonito flakes

1. Cut each bitter melon in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, remove and discard the seeds. Slice the bitter melons crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons and transfer to a bowl. Add the salt, toss until evenly combined, and let stand for 20 minutes. Using your hands, squeeze the bitter melon to release as much liquid as possible, then transfer to a colander and rinse under cold running water. Squeeze again to drain any liquid, transfer to paper towels, and pat dry.

2. Place the tofu on a flat plate lined with a kitchen towel. Cover the tofu with another towel and plate and then weight the plate with two 14-ounce cans to press the tofu and release excess water. Let the tofu stand for 20 minutes. Remove the weights and uncover the tofu. Using your hands, crumble the tofu into 1-inch pieces into a bowl.

3. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over high. Add the bitter melon and cook, undisturbed, for 5 minutes. Stir and cook 2 minutes more. Add the tofu along with the dashi and soy sauce and cook until the liquid has almost completely evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and cook, stirring to break up the curds, until the eggs are just cooked, 2 minutes more. Remove the skillet from the heat and pour the stir-fry onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with bonito flakes and serve warm.

Kelp and Mushroom Relish

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My first taste of kombu tsukudani was as a university student in San Francisco. My roommates were Japanese (hi Sanae!) and we’d often head to Nijiya Market in Japantown to do our grocery shopping. The first time I tasted this kelp relish, I fell in love with the salty, slightly-sweet, oceany flavor.

This tastes perfect on top of rice or as a filling in onigiri, but I also like it eat it by itself. If you make homemade dashi and find yourself with lots of leftover pieces of kombu seaweed, this is a perfect use. I like to add enoki mushrooms to the the mix for a textural contrast, but it tastes just as good without.

Kombu tsukudani

Ingredients:

About 50 square inches kombu, leftover from making dashi stock (or equivalent amount soaked in cold water for 20 minutes)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon sake
3 teaspoons mirin
5 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup enoki mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths

1. Slice the kombu into narrow strips 1 1/2 inches long. In a saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add the vinegar. The vinegar helps tenderize the kombu and eliminate bacteria.

2. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook the kombu for about 8 minutes. Test for doneness by pinching a strip of kombu: it should yield easily. If it does not, continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Drain under cold water and rinse.

3. Rinse and dry the saucepan and add the sugar, sake, mirin, and soy sauce. Bring to a simmer over low heat and add the kombu. Simmer for 4 minutes and add the mushrooms. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring often to not let the liquid scorch.

4. When the kombu looks glazed and the liquid has mostly reduced, remove the pan from the heat, let cool to room temperature, and serve.

Caesar salad with Parmesan toasts

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Kale Caesar salad, spinach Caesar salad, Brussels sprouts Caesar salad. You get the picture: Caesar salad is overdone. But despite its infinite variations, I always return to the first Caesar salad I learned to make, well over a decade ago. It’s heavy on the garlic, the anchovies, and the Meyer lemons.

The best part? Little Parmesan cheese toasts to sop up all of the leftover dressing. And if you want to be fancypants, don’t chop up your lettuce. Instead, serve the leaves whole and delicately piled on top of each other. Who’s eating fancy salad? YOU’RE eating fancy salad!

Caesar salad with Parmesan toasts

Ingredients:

1 sourdough baguette
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese plus 1/3 cup thinly shaved Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup lemon juice
9 canned anchovy fillets, drained
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound romaine lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried

1. To make Parmesan toasts, cut baguette into diagonal slices 1/4 inch thick. Lightly brush one side of each slice with olive oil, using 2 tablespoons total. Arrange in a single layer in a baking sheet.

2. Bake bread in an oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Sprinkle slices evenly with 2/3 cup shredded Parmesan and paprika. Bake until cheese is melted and bread is golden, 10 minutes longer.

3. In a food processor, whirl 7 tablespoons olive oil, 1/3 cup shredded parmesan, lemon juice, anchovies, garlic, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until smooth.

4. Place lettuce in a large bowl and Parmesan toasts in another. Drizzle 2/3 of the dressing over lettuce and remaining 1/3 over toasts. Mix toasts to coat with dressing; gently lift and mix lettuce to coat.

5. Arrange Parmesan toasts alongside lettuce and add Parmesan shavings, layering if desired.

Korean Soy-Braised Black Beans

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These savory banchan are almost too pretty to eat. These are a popular side dish in Korean meals, ubiquitous among any banchan spread. I learned to make this dish because it was always one of the first banchans I’d polish off at Korean restaurants. I was surprised to learn how easy it is to make. The result is a little sweet, a little savory, a little chewy, and easily addictive to snack on.

Korean soy-braised black beans

Ingredients:

8 ounces (1 1/2 cups dried Korean black beans)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 cups water
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup Korean brown rice syrup
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1. Cover the beans with cold water in a large bowl or pot and soak overnight.

2. Drain the beans, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Put the beans in a large pot, add the 4 cups water, cover, and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes. If the water becomes foamy and rises, adjust the lid so the pot is only partially covered. Stir occasionally.

3. Add the soy sauce, garlic, rice syrup, and brown sugar to the beans. Turn the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until cooked through.

4. Uncover and stir the beans. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans appear shiny, sticky, and slightly wrinkly, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to let them scorch and add more water if necessary, a little at a time. Remove from the heat and transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve at room temperature.