Mudjoy CSA Week 11

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This week everyone received collardini (collard raab), bok choi, and garlic. You could choose the remainder of your share from the following:  Japanese collards, Yukina savoy, mustard greens, mache, purple sprouting broccoli, beets, leeks, burdock, braising mix, spinach, nettles, cilantro, potatoes, sunchokes, cauliflower, cardoons, and lettuce.

The garlic is a variety called Music, and I think that you will find that it will sing in your dishes. Having gotten that pun out of the way, I wanted to share a interesting fact about garlic. I read a few months back that allicin, one of the healthy chemicals found in garlic, is only produced after the garlic has been chopped or minced. Once the garlic’s cells have been ruptured, an enzyme is released that converts a precursor into allicin. Besides being interesting, this fact has implications for how you cook with garlic. Mincing garlic and then immediately cooking it, denatures the enzyme and prevents the allicin from being formed (once allicin is made it is heat resistant). So if you are looking to boost the levels of allicin in your food, you should mince your garlic and then let it sit for 10 minutes before you cook with it.  The enzyme will then have plenty of time to generate allicin.

The collardini are the florets of bolting collard plants and are great sauteed, braised, grilled, or roasted. See last week’s posts for recipe ideas.

These bok choi are giant with white tender leaf stalks. I separate the leaf stalk/rib from the spoon-like leaves and chop these into bite-size chunks. They should go into the sautee pan/wok a few minutes before the leaves, so they will have time to soften. Here is a sampler of ten different recipes using this vegetable. Traditionally, bok choi is cooked, but it can be eaten raw. The stems have a lovely crunch followed by sweet juice. I really like making a salad from thinly sliced bok choi and peanut sauce. The bright and creamy flavors of the sauce pair well with the texture of the bok choi. It’s also really quick to prepare! If you are looking for an adventure this week, you could try bok choi with congee, a rice porridge that is really comforting (and easy to make, though it does take some time). This recipe will get you started, but you might want to add an egg (over easy or soft boiled) to the final plate to make the meal more filling.

Finally a few of you took me up on the cardoons this week. As one of you mentioned, they look almost prehistoric with their spreading leaves and large bases. Cooking cardoons is an involved process because they require so much preparation, but you will be rewarded with a sublime eating experience. Here are few ideas for how to cook them. Try this traditional casserole with a creamy, bechamel sauce or maybe create a gratin. A simple way to eat them is to make a creamy soup with the cardoons, which is the method I prefer.  My only recommendations is to change the water once while you are boiling/blanching them. The water will become dark brown as bitter compounds from the cardoons are released. Throwing out that water will help the final dish be balanced in flavor without any overpowering bitterness. You can also fry cardoons, though you still have to blanch them first.

Take care and eat well.

Mudjoy CSA Week 10

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Everyone received kale or collard raab, cauliflower, and winter squash (one of several Brazilian varieties). To complete your share, you were able to choose from the following: Yukina Savoy, garlic, polenta, bok choi, mache, cabbage, beets, leeks, purple sprouting broccoli, Magic Molly purple potatoes, sunchokes, lettuce, braising mix, cilantro, cress, sweet dandelion, and mustard greens.

Raab are the florets of various brassica crops: kale, collards, cabbage, kohlrabi, and even Brussels sprouts send up florets in the spring. Unlike turnip raab, kale and collard raab don’t have the strong bitter notes, so blanching is unnecessary. Here is a simple prep for this vegetable–just sautee on high with garlic in olive oil and finish with salt, chile flakes, and lemon juice. One of our members, Shay, shared a trick his sister uses to finish the raab. After the raab reaches a tender stage, cut the heat off and let them rest in the pan. This removes additional moisture and leaves the raab almost crispy. Once these are done you can eat them as side or chop and combine with pasta and fennel sausage. For a vegetarian version, ditch the sausage and add a cream sauce. If you are eager to start up the grill, raab grill beautifully.

The cauliflower are the same as last week. Several of you shared recipes ideas for how to cook this lovely vegetable, though just roasting was a popular and easy approach. I like this idea from Alyse: it involves roasting the whole head basted in a curried yogurt sauce. Gina brought me the following recipe from Christina Pirello’s book, Christina Cooks, and after trying it, I am fan. I really like the pepita pesto, though I did substitute the basil and parsley for cilantro and a handful of braising mix.

Creamy Cauliflower Bisque with Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Bisque

1 onion, diced

1 head cauliflower, florets removed and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup arborio rice

5 cups water

Mirin [I used white wine]

Sea salt

Pesto

1 cup pumpkin seeds

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp white miso

1/4 tsp chili powder

Juice of 2 lemons

To make the bisque:  Place the onion, cauliflower, and rice in a soup pot. Add the water, a generous splash of mirin and a pinch of salt. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the cauliflower is soft, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer the soup, by ladlefuls, to a food processor and puree until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and keep the soup at a simmer, while making the pesto.

To make the pesto: Place the pumpkin seeds, basil, parsley, and olive oil in a food processor and pulse into a coarse paste. Add the miso, chili powder and lemon juice. Puree until smooth. You may need to add a small amount of water to puree properly, but keep the pesto thick, so that it holds its shape in the soup.

To serve, spoon the soup into individual bowls and scoop a generous dollop of pesto in the center of each bowl.

Finally, the squash–these are varieties originally from Brazil, and they are all in the C. moschata or butternut family. At drop-off yesterday, I brought a ricotta cake I made with the puree of one of the squash. If you enjoyed it, the following is how I prepared the cake (based on this recipe from Bon Appetit). I hewed closely to the recipe only diverging in a few places. Instead of using white flour, I substituted completely with our whole wheat flour. I also added 1 tbsp of ground cardamom to the dry ingredients before incorporating the wet ingredients.   I reduced the sugar by half (pumpkin provides sweetness). Finally, instead of the raspberry, I folded in pureed roasted pumpkin (same volume). After cooking and cooling, I flipped the cake over onto a plate and drizzled with approximately a 1/2 cup of olive oil and let soak in.

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Mudjoy CSA Week 9

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Everyone received cauliflower, potatoes, and shallots this week.  You were able to choose the rest of your share from the following:  whole wheat flour, purple sprouting broccoli, cabbage, kale, spinach, sorrel, sunchokes, burdock, radicchio mix, senposai (Japanese collards), spaghetti squash, chives, Brussels sprouts, baby carrots, and bok choi.

This cauliflower was planted last August and has overwintered admirably during this mild winter. It’s still sweet from the distant cold. One of our members remarked that she was going to make cauliflower soup out of hers. I didn’t catch her recipe, but here is one that might suffice (Let me know Gina!). We are big fans of roasted and caramelized cauliflower. Cut the head in 1/4 inch slabs, dress with olive oil, and roast at 400F until nice and brown. Finish with ample salt. Since you received both cauliflower and potatoes, I always think of aloo gobi, a curry that combines both. Here is a recipe that reminds me of my time in India–if you don’t have the hing  and amchur, don’t sweat it. It will still be good without them.

The shallots from this week are a variety called Zebrune. They are long and lilac-colored. You don’t need many shallots in a recipe–they are more like garlic than onions in that way. But you can substitute them for onions, just one or two in lieu of a single onion. I know  that quite a few of you chose tender greens this week, so here is recipe for a mustard shallot vinaigrette that would work well as a dressing.

Finally, many of you chose burdock this week and had questions about how to cook it. I mentioned kinpira gobo as a traditional way the Japanese eat burdock–try this recipe if you are curious. If you don’t have dashi powder, you could get away with a splash or two of vegetable broth. I use burdock in fica bem soup, which is great for cold days and colds.  Finally, here is a burdock salad with sesame dressing that I plan to try this week. Oh, and you can always make tea from burdock root!

CSA Week 7

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We had amazing weather this last week, and it looks like it will hold for another few days. All of this sun recharges my soul and reminds me that indeed there is sun above those clouds. We aren’t the only creatures to respond this way; the fields feel different when I walk through them compared to the dreary days we had a week or two ago. The colors of the cover crops are deeper, the brussels sprouts ever so rounder and fuller, the rapini closer to starting their floral ascent. We’re all so lucky.

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This week everyone received Orchidea chicory, onions, and kohlrabi.  You were able to choose the rest of your share from the following: Purple Viking potatoes, sunchokes, garlic, sorrel, catsear, cabbage, kale, spinach, burdock, beets, polenta, baby chard, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, and carrots.

The chicory is beautiful leaf-type that works well as a fresh salad (see last week’s post for ideas in this direction). As always, if you are not a fan of the bitterness of chicory, slice it and soak in ice water to reduce the bitterness. This chicory would also work well in risotto; the buttery creaminess of the rice melds nicely with the walnut flavors of the chicory.  The Guardian has a nice piece here with many ideas for cooking chicory–the recipe for penne with sausage and chicory calls out to me. (I am going today to pick-up pork at the butcher that friends of ours raised for us.) When I was teacher, an Italian colleague of mine would eat raw chicory with a sprinkling of sugar–just like her mother loved to do.

The onions are a white storage variety–strong and pungent enough to keep till spring. Nothing special here–they can be used most places.

The kohlrabi is a mix of purple and green-skinned varieties. The differences in flavor are negligible, and since you peel and discard the skin, these two varieties are interchangeable. But the purple ones are prettier, and what’s life without a little beauty?As I wrote a few weeks ago about these, they are good raw or cooked.  If you are eating them raw, consider slicing them into very thin wavers and marinading with a vinaigrette (olive oil, salt, and lemon juice would be a nice minimalist approach).  They work well as a less starchy substitute for potatoes.  In fact I just made a green coconut curry with some of our goose using these, though I added some garlic at the end to this recipe. A stew made with beef, carrots, onions, barley and kohlrabi also sounds nice–check out a recipe here.

One last note: we’ll start accepting applications for our summer CSA soon, so if you are interested in continuing on with us during the summer and fall, let me know and I will reserve a spot for you.

Have a great weekend,

Harry & Jim

Mudjoy Week 6

I wanted to thank everyone for their kind words and concern about Jim. He is recovering well after the surgery and in good spirits with little pain. Knowing that others are thinking about him is the best medicine.

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This week everyone in the CSA received Sunshine winter squash, puntarelle chicory, and  sunchokes. You were able to choose the remainder of your share from the following: salad turnips, celeriac, braising mix, collards, leeks, garlic, Papa Cacho potatoes, beets, whole wheat flour, kimchi, cabbage, kohlrabi, erba stella, purple sprouting broccoli, and burdock.

Sunshine winter squash is a workhorse variety that we grow for its dependable production and appealing sweetness. Unlike some of our other varieties, it is good nearly out of the field, whereas other varieties require several months of curing to reach peak sweetness. I have been enjoying roasted wedges of these with almonds and dried cranberries and a spoonful of melted coconut oil for breakfast. I roast the squash ahead of time and reheat a wedge with nuts and berries in the morning. Another variation on breakfast is to fold the roasted pulp into pancake batter. Try drizzling good olive oil instead of syrup on these.

Now, for the puntarelle chicory. This has a pleasing bitterness (to me at least!), but if you wish to lessen that bitterness one can soak sliced puntarelle in ice water for 10 to 30 minutes to extract the bitterness. I think a bit of bitterness is good for the body, especially the digestive tract and liver. Puntarelle has a wonderful texture and crunch unlike other chicories that resemble lettuces in the mouth. I recommend that you take advantage of that crunch in a fresh salad.  Puntarelle is a Roman variety and they often dress it with a simple Ceasar-style dressing. You can read much more about this approach here.  I would also encourage you to combine sliced chicory (drained after soaking in the ice water) with grapefruit, chevre, olive oil and salt. If you love Japanese cuisine, I think a Ponzu sauce would go really well with this chicory, garnished with white sesame seeds.

Finally, those sunchokes. As I wrote before, roast these at high temperatures (400-425F) for 35 to 45 minutes. I usually slice them thin, so they cook uniformly and crisp and caramelize nicely. Overcooking is better than undercooking here. I know that these sometimes give people gas, so go slowly, treating them as more of a topping rather than plowing into a bowl of them. I made a successful salad with chicory and roasted sunchokes that was a hit at a potluck. Here is the recipe below.

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1 lb. of sunchokes, washed and sliced thinly

olive oil

1 head of chicory

1/2 c of Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced

3/4 c of crumbled feta

the rind and juice of one large lemon

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 425F. Toss the sliced sunchokes with olive oil and lay onto a large baking sheet in one layer. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes until golden and crunchy. Once the sunchokes are finished, salt them generously and set aside to cool.

Slice the head of chicory thinly. Combine 1/4 c of olive and the juice and the rind of the lemon. Pour over the chicory and using tongs coat the greens with the vinaigrette. Add the olives, feta, and sunchokes and toss once more. Finish with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.

Week 5

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Everyone received sweet potatoes, cabbage, and garlic this week.  You were able to choose the remainder of your share from the following:  cipollini onions, puntarelle chicory, stir fry mix, beets, popcorn, kale, butternut squash, sorrel, dried cayenne peppers, Brussels sprouts, sunchokes, and potatoes.

If you are running short on time, you can turn sweet potatoes into oven fries with minimal work. When I say fries, I really wedges, though if you have the patience you can cut these into fries. I would cut this variety on the thick side, toss in oil, and roast at 450F for 20 minutes until soft. If you want them crispy, broil until they are brown and crunchy. Some people find that tossing in a 1/4 c of grated parmesan to your fries before roasting produces a nice “crust” on the fries.

This time of year I like to make a soup I call “Fica bem”. I don’t have a recipe per se since every time I make it is slightly different. However, I always insist on having sweet potatoes in the dish, though I might also add carrots, burdock, daikon, or turnips to the mix. I begin by browning a large onion or a couple of leeks in a large (4 to 6 qt) pan. I then add the diced sweet potatoes and other roots (3 good handfuls) and 6 cups of water (or some combination of water and broth). Then I chiffonade whatever greens I have on hand (kale, chicory, collards).  Once the roots are fairly soft, I add 3 or 4 cups of these greens to the soup and cover. While this is simmering, I dice an inch or two of ginger and 4 or 5 cloves of garlic. If you have any seaweed laying around, take a 1/4 cup full and rip apart or cut finely. I zest and juice one lime and reserve. Once the greens have wilted, I then add a the garlic, ginger, lime zest and juice, and seaweed to the soup and turn off the heat. I add homemade Sriracha or chili powder until I am happy with the heat level and 1 tbsp of miso. I stir well to dissolve the miso, retaste and season with sea salt. My goal is to heat but not cook the ginger and garlic. I want the bright heat of these two foods to give me strength on a cold, rainy day.

Here’s a photo of my latest version of Fica Bem:

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The cabbage this week is a winter variety called January King. It has a lovely purple blush from the cold, and sitting in the field, they look like flowers pointed up towards the clouds. I leave the outer leaves on because they are edible this time of year.  Not bitter but sweet from the cold, though they are a little tough, so I would peel them off and reserve them (you could chiffonade them and make faux-Southern Collards or stew them in a cabbage and potato soup. The interior head of these cabbage are delicate and sweet.

Here’s a recipe from Ottolenghi’s Plenty for a cabbage and kohlrabi salad (you can replace the kohlrabi with more cabbage if you have already eaten all of last week’s kohlrabi).

Ingredients

1 medium or 1/2 large kohlrabi

1/2 cabbage

6 tbsp of chopped, fresh dill

1 c of dried cherries

grated zest of 1 lemon

6 tbsp of lemon juice

1/4 c olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

salt and pepper

2 c alfalfa sprouts (I admit I always omit these)

Directions

Peel the kohlrabi and cut into matchsticks. Cut the cabbage into 1/4 inch wide strips. Put all the ingredients, save the alfalfa sprouts, into a large mixing bowl. Mix and massage the ingredients together. Let the salad sit for 10 minutes to suffuse.

Add most of the sprouts and mix again. Taste and season with salt–you need a fair amount of salt to balance the lemon.

Serve and garnish with the rest of the sprouts.

Take care and eat well.

Week 4

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Everyone received sorrel, potatoes, and kohlrabi this week.   You were able to choose the rest of your share from the following list:  garlic, sunchokes, kimchi, polenta, chicory, collards, erba stella, leeks, yukina savoy, catsear foraged greens, salad mix, beets, and winter squash.

I chose to give everyone sorrel and potatoes because of this recipe.  It’s classic comfort food, but with a bit of a twist. The sorrel adds a lemony tang and green color and compliments the starchiness of the potatoes.  The cream and butter round out the dish and make the belly happy.  Top with freshly ground black pepper or if you prefer toasted bacon bits.  A great winter meal.

You can also eat the sorrel fresh or add to the salad mix if you chose that option this week.   It also makes a delicate green sauce for use with seafood.  Here’s a quick recipe.

I doubt anyone needs help with cooking potatoes, so I will skip recipes for these tubers.  However one of our members, Jen, saw this article on potatoes in Modern Farmer and I thought I would pass it on.  Give it a read. The history of potatoes is fascinating, but I say that about most vegetables!

Kohlrabi is a German relative of cabbage and broccoli.  This alien-like green ball is actually the swollen stem of the plant with leaves emerging at various angles.  Though the skin of these can look ugly this time of year from harsh weather, you will peel off and discard the skin.  As the saying goes, it’s what is inside that counts.

You can slice the kohlrabi thickly into ‘steaks’ and grill or roast.  Dress with a little oil, salt, and soy sauce and you’re set.  It makes a decent substitute for potatoes in most dishes especially stews and soups.  Jim has made several batches of kohlrabi chips (sliced then, tossed in oil, and cooked at 400F until crispy).  It is also nice raw–try it in a slaw or a salad with hazelnuts. One of our members, Jason, just made kohlrabi latkes to good result.  His only advice was to add a little salt to the grated kohlrabi to help it exude more juice before ringing out the excess liquid and frying the latkes.

Finally, for those of you who selected kimchi, I would love to know what you think about it.  I like my kimchi spicy, but I tried to make this batch more approachable.  Let me know if I should crank up the heat on the next batch!  When you are done with your kimchi, just return the mason jars cleaned to us at drop-off.  We’ll re-use them for the next batch.

Take care and eat well!

Week 3

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Everyone received sunchokes, Potimarron squash, and elephant garlic this week.  You were able to choose the remainder of your share from the following:  kale, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, cabbage, braising mix, beets, chicory, whole wheat flour, onions, potatoes, and bok choi.

I will repeat my caveat with sunchokes–cook them and at high temperatures.  Roasting is easy–usually 400F for between 30 and 45 minutes.  I love them caramelized this way, and I find that slicing them thinly aids in this process.  Coat them with a bit of oil to prevent sticking and generously salt afterwards.   If you like, mix in a little bacon or ham and crisp these as you roast the sunchokes. You can also take these roasted sunchokes and make a nice soup from them.  If you have any sweet potatoes remaining from last week, you could try a gratin with them and the sunchokes.  Sunchokes are also nice cold–I just had a green salad at Lincoln that contained slivers of roasted sunchokes.

The Potimarron squash is a French heirloom purported to have a chestnut flavor.  (‘Potimarron’ is a contraction of the French words for chesnut and squash).  I can’t say I detect much nuttiness, but it is a sweet and deeply colored gem.  It’s closely related to Kuri squashes from Japan–they both have a characteristic “kiss” shape and similar cooking qualities. I used one to make a cobbler this past week.  I wasn’t happy with the biscuit topping, so I won’t pass along the recipe, but I did like the idea of a pumpkin cobbler.  I omitted the sugar and have been eating it as breakfast this past week with a drizzle of olive oil.  David Lebovitz who lives in France also has some cooking ideas for enjoying this squash.

Finally, that elephant garlic.  This plant is botanically not a true garlic, but instead a type of leek.  The flavor is not as sharp or hot as many garlics.  I heard a piece on the radio last summer about a silky garlic sauce called Toum.  It’s originally from Lebanon, and it can be used in many applications.  It stores well in the refrigerator, so you can make a batch and not feel like you have to consume it rapidly (and repel friends and vampires with your garlic breath).  I think that it would be interesting to try to make toum using our elephant garlic.  It might produce a more delicate and approachable version of the original.  Here’s a link to the recipe (I gave you enough garlic to do a half recipe).   If you are curious about what toum tastes like in the hands of a master cook, visit Nicholas’s on the eastside of Portland.  Amazing toum. Amazing everything actually!

Vinaigrettes

In thinking about ingredient-driven cooking, it seems to me that having a set of sauces that one can use with a myriad of vegetables is a great resource.  When in doubt, you just whip up one of these sauces and apply it to your already steamed, sauteed, or roasted vegetables.  The upshot is that many sauces can be prepared in a few minutes and a few can even be frozen for later use.

One particular sauce we find useful in many contexts is the humble vinaigrette.  Growing up, my dad had a bottle of oil and vinegar into which he dumped a packet of seasoning.  This slightly orange fluid would anoint many an iceberg salad and even the occasional baked potato.  For some reason, I was never a fan of this vinaigrette.

But over the years I have come to appreciate a well-made vinaigrette.  I think the blend of mellow oil and tart vinegar can really support the flavors of many vegetables.  Actually, it’s hard for me to think of a vegetable that could not be marinated or dressed with a vinaigrette.

The heart of a vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar.  The oil can be from many sources–olive oil is most popular but sesame oil, fresh nut oils like walnut oil, and even canola can work well.  There are many more options with vinegar, though apple cider, balsamic, rice wine, and red wine vinegars are dependable go-tos.

For me it’s the combination of acidity and oil that matters, not necessarily the source of that acidity.  We often use citrus juice in lieu of vinegar and the results are wonderful.  I have seen some interesting sauces that use tamarind paste as well.

Martha Holmberg in her book Modern Sauces favors combining a little Dijon mustard and salt and pepper with the vinegar and oil to form a base vinaigrette.  I have read that the mustard acts as an emulsifier helping the oil and vinegar to remain in solution together.  Mayonnaise and yogurt can fill the same role.

Vinaigrettes also benefit from the addition of aromatic herbs as well as alliums like garlic, chives, and shallots.  Dried leaf herbs work, but may need more time to soften and release their flavors into the dressing.

Here are a few recipes ideas, but feel free to experiment with flavors.  The oil and vinegar will provide sour and mellow–it’s your choice how to supply salt, sweet, piquant, and aromatic flavors.

Holmberg has a nice recipe for a tomato-ginger vinaigrette that can do double duty as a sauce for white fish.

Tomato-Ginger Vinaigrette

2 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tbsp fresh orange juice

1 tsp lightly paced finely grated orange zest

1 tsp minced oil-packed (or other soft) sun-dried tomato

1 tsp peeled and minced ginger

½ tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp tomato paste

½ tsp sugar

Salt and black pepper to taste

Few drops of hot sauce

6 tbsp olive oil

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the olive oil.  Then whisk in the oil, a little at a time.  Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Here is a version of a Thai ginger peanut vinaigrette we like:

Thai Ginger Peanut Dressing

3 tbsp canola oil

The juice and zest of one lime

1 tsp fish sauce

1 tbsp peanut butter

handful of fresh basil (dried basil may be used but let the dressing infuse for several hours before using)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 tsp minced fresh ginger

Sriracha or other preserved chili paste

Salt

Whisk well adding Sriracha and salt to taste. Let marinade while you cook the vegetables or assemble a salad.  Then dress.  For example, we cut a peeled kohlrabi into match sticks and dressed with the above dressing.  It was delicious.

Finally, David Lebovitz has a post on a classic French vinaigrette you should read.