Friday, May 29, 2009

Container Garden Update: Mint Coup d'etat Imminent

My fire escape container garden is doing fabulous. The basil plants are hanging in, but the spearmint is growing like gangbusters. The herb must really like the weather we've been having -- a series of sunny and dry days followed by a series of gloomy and damp days. To avoid a mint coup, which I know is literally part of its plant profile, I've tried to be more diligent in "pruning" the bigger leaves and cutting some of the straggly bits. The good thing is that the leaves, when wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in the crisper, last a long time -- up to two weeks. I recently used a "crop" harvested about two weeks ago in another salad variation -- this time a slaw inspired by one published on Simply Recipes. I've never been a fan of raw green or red cabbage, but really like the mild taste of napa cabbage. And I'm not really a fan of mayo-based coleslaw, but do like this slaw, which is lightly dressed with a combination of sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, fresh lime juice and soy. In fact, the dressing also makes a great marinade if you have any chicken or steak or even shrimp to grill and serve alongside. Cool, refreshing and a good way to use some of those summer herbs and leftover vegetables lingering in your fridge.
Asian-Style Slaw
I had some wasabi oil from Trader Joes in the cupboard, so I substituted half of the wasabi oil for half of the sesame oil. If you don't have wasabi oil and still want an extra kick, add chili garlic sauce or red pepper flakes or Sriracha (basically, whatever you have around) to taste.
For the dressing:
1/2 c. sesame oil
2 limes, juiced
2 T. rice wine vinegar
1-2 T. low sodium soy sauce
1 t. brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T. fresh ginger, grated
Red pepper flakes, hot sauce, etc. to taste
For the salad:
3 lb. napa cabbage, "knife shredded"
3 scallions, chopped
1 1/2 c. snow peas, strings removed and julienned
1/4 c. shredded carrot (or 1-2 carrots, shredded)
2 T. slivered almonds, toasted
2 T. basil, chiffonade
2 T. cilantro, chiffonade
2 T. spearmint, chiffonade
Extras: diced red pepper, radish, cucumber etc.
In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients. The goal is to strike the right balance of sweet, sour, spicy and salty that suits your taste, so adjust amounts accordingly.
Toss dressing with vegetables and almonds and serve.
To prepare ahead, keep dressing, vegetables and nuts separate and toss right up to an hour before serving. This salad keeps for a few hours but does get a bit soggy as time passes (particularly if you use cucumber or another watery veg!).

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