By Jessie Lehail
I HAVE A CONFESSION TO MAKE: I’M AFRAID OF THE VEGETABLE GRATER. I have Gratophobia.
I know, it’s silly. It’s true. I avoid grating anything. I leave it as the last task in the kitchen. I have been known to bribe others, namely my niece and nephew to grate things on my behalf. Or I use the grating attachment on my food processor.
The funniest part to my gratophobia is that I blame it all on a book. Specifically, a young adult/children’s book titled, Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Clearly. The author writes about a hectic, okay disastrous dinner prep scene. While I won’t bore you with the sisterly antics of the characters, I will note the sisters, like all sisters have a weird love/hate relationship.
In a particular passage that is rife with parental marriage tensions, Beezus (Ramona – the protagonist’s older sister) is grating carrots and Ramona is keenly intent on watching to make sure there is no blood or bloody fingers in the grated carrots. Gross! Every time I have used the grater, I think back to this scene in Ramona and Her Mother. It’s a permanent fixture in my brain. It endorses, rather reinforces my hatred for grating anything. I loathe the process.
It doesn’t help that I’ve had a bloody incident or two using the grater. I never learned the art of grating carrots without getting bloodied up in the process. Apparently, there is a glove – the Rothco Kevlar – that empowers grating with abandon. I’m not convinced. I don’t think it would help ease my fear of grating. Plus, I am not big on wearing a techy glove to do a simple task.
Grating carrots would not be such an issue if they were rarely eaten at my house. However, carrot salad has been a mainstay at the Lehail abode since my childhood, perhaps even longer. Carrot salad is especially prevalent during hockey season. (My dad is fanatical about hockey, he’s a diehard Steve Yzerman/Detroit Red Wings fan!)
Not to digress. I have vivid memories of Saturday dinners. Growing up, it was always the same: burgers with all the fixings, including those mystery Kraft cheese slices, corn niblets, and carrot salad.
The carrot salad was always a mountain of shredded carrots, chopped iceberg lettuce, and diced onion. Not bad right? But what made it sickly repulsive — was the dressing – Miracle Whip (a weird sweet dressing that was not mayonnaise) and salt and pepper. It’s because of this gloppy creation that I avoided eating any salad dressing for years. It was disgusting.
Bottled salad dressings, including Miracle Whip, typically contain an abundance of oil, salt, and/or sugar, as well as MSG, corn syrup, and other shelf stabilizers. These are ingredients I don’t feel are necessary to put into my body.
My personal hatred for dressing ended when I immersed myself in the world of Japanese cuisine. My repeat visits to various sushi places was not really about the sushi, but the gingery dressing on the salad. After years of guessing and tinkering with the recipe, I figured it out. Or at least I think I have.
The name of this recipe is misleading. I use the word dressing only because if I wrote drizzle this on everything magic sauce, you’d think I was nuts. It’s that good. The grated carrots is the pièce de résistance of this dressing. They lend a sweetness that perfectly balances the miso, mirin, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and spices. Yes, I am willing to do the grating of carrots because the end product is so damn good. It is worth my cringing.
The ginger, chili, onion, and garlic offer a significant bite, but not enough that you want to eliminate them from the recipe. They are needed. The best part is that the food processor blends this dressing up quickly. Almost zero effort.
This dressing tastes light and refreshing and a little bit tangy. It can be made with or without oil so it can be completely fat free if you want it to be. No oil leads it to basically being vegetables on top of vegetables, which I highly encourage.
With this dressing, whether it is with lettuce, grated carrots, spinach, sliced avocado, udon noodles, tofu, steak, or even baked salmon — each bite will reawaken your taste buds and make you realize that salad with dressing has the potential to be Ah-Mazing.
Don’t let the list of ingredients below intimidate you, it comes together rather quickly. Really though, you will find yourself drizzling this on just about everything. This go around, I paired it with baby spinach, grated carrots, and chopped pistachios. In my mind, this is the perfect combination of crunch and sweetness. Use your imagination, this carrot ginger concoction is extremely versatile. Now get eating.
Ginger Carrot Magic Sauce (Dressing)
1/2 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
½ small onion
4 garlic cloves
1 red chili (small)
2 tablespoons white miso
1 teaspoon rai (mustard seeds)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup canola oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a blender with 1/2 cup water and process until smooth.
Jessie Lehail is the author of Indian Influence, a food blog that takes global eats and reinterprets them with a South Asian influence. Visit her blog at www.indianinfluence.ca.