I have been in love with Slanted Door shredded salads since the very first time i lifted my chopsticks from their bowl to my mouth: such exquisite little shreds, so crisply cut, so lightly brightly dressed! I felt the same way at my first bite of banh mi: such vibrant delicacy in those sweet-tangy shreds! Since then, in my own kitchen i have been trying to replicate such beautiful salads, starting with the cutting of the vegetables. I started with ordinary shredding, using a handheld shredder which turned the vegetables far too juicy and mushy, indistinct. Next was the shredding attachment for my food processor, which had a similar effect; finally, my own–ahem– knife skills. I’m not saying that they all didn’t work, i mean, the vegetables got cut into the right shape and size, but…and there is a big but….the salads didn’t sparkle. Could that be the result of the vegetables cutting? I studied pre-shredded vegetables in the supermarket and gave them a try: they were the right sort of shape and size, but they just didn’t dazzle with freshness. they were perfectly adequate, i mean i could dress em up for coleslaw, but they didn’t make me want to dance.
i realized that to cut my vegetables into that combination of silkiness, crunchiness, crisp and tender, i’d need…..ulp…..a mandoline. A mandoline is a scary, dangerous little mini-guillotine for vegetables: you hold your veg firmly–strongly recommended that you use a hand guard–and rub it up and down, so to speak. With each passing of the vegetable over the blade, you get paper-thin delicate slices or julienne, depending upon which blade you are using. The blade and its size are all adjustable. A good mandoline will start at around a hundred bucks. The Japanese also have a similar one, made from plastic, that one should run you about 20 dollars and does an equally gorgeous job.
In pursuit of my elegant shredded vegetables, which will give me endless low calorie, high vitamin and fiber munching, and exquisite salads and relishes, I’d need one. A hundred dollars is too much for this free-lance foodwriter, so I bought a Japanese one. Beautiful green plastic! happy pictures on the box! but when i opened it up i got so terrified at the blades and their lethal looks that i put it away, high on a shelf, wrapped and double wrapped then in a box, if i had had a lead box i probably would have used that too….i had to put it somewhere that no one would stick their hands in and grab it, or that it would fall out and hurt the cat, or my doggies.
and there it has stayed, while my asian vegetable salads are beyond humdrum, and that tantalizing crispness has seemed an impossbility. And then….
THEN i got a press release for an OXO hand-held julienner/shredder. And I replied: send me one, Please!
okay, it too sat on my shelf for a little while, during which time i tried to screw up the courage to actually use it.
Yesterday, bravely, i gathered my vegetables: peeled carrots, celeriac, cored red cabbage, peeled potatoes, trimmed courgettes. I started with the carrots; it took awhile to get the hang of it. I held the carrots at first, pushed them up and down, through the viscious little blades, then when my fingers got precariously close, I put the handguard on and finished up the job. Not too difficult, though admittedly a food processor much quicker! But how beautiful these shreds! how pristine and crisp! I proceeded on to the celeriac, and then the red cabbage; i was surprised at the cabbage, because the shreds are tiny pieces almost like a fine fine chop; but instead of losing their character, they retain such crunchy-ness that each tiny teeny morsel was complete in itself. As for the celeriac, i’m pretty sure that this is the way i’ll be making my celeriac-caper+preserved lemon salad from now on: the shreds are so light that even with mayo added they don’t get all cloggy sticky mushy!
To the combination of carrot+celeriac+red cabbage, I added several thinly sliced green onions and a few sprigs of fresh mint, thinly sliced. Then i dressed the whole thing in rice vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce; it tasted as if the Slanted Door had open up for business in my kitchen.
Then i shred a peeled potato, tossed it with a little salt, and fried it into a roesti-like pancake in extra virgin olive oil until crisp on each side. It was divine.
Today i returned to the kitchen for more salad: more carrots and celeriac, and white instead of red, cabbage. To the mix of green onion and mint i added thinly sliced red and orange peppers. So refreshing!
Then I shredded zucchini to add to today’s potato roesti, am right now shredding a few sour apples in lieu of green papaya for another Asian salad, and am poking around the kitchen looking for more things to shred, julienne! I feel like Edward Sizzorshands but with a hand held julienner instead, turing my world into a more beautiful place, one perfectly shredded carrot at a time, one bowl of salad closer to nirvana.
Crisp Asian-y Vegetable Bliss
Serves 4 as part of a multicourse dinner, 2 as part of a more informal dinner, and one for a couple of lunches and a snack.
2 medium to large carrots, peeled and trimmed
1/4-1/2 celeriac (celery root), peeled (or equal amount of either mooli–daikon–or jicama)
1/4-1/2 tight red cabbage
Rice vinegar to taste–about 2-3 tablespoons
Soy sauce or fish sauce to taste–about 1 tablespoon
Sugar to taste–about 1-2 tablespoons (and I confess: i often use Splenda or Stevia for such salads–they are a wonderful opportunity for low calorie eating, so why add the extra sugar?)
4-5 green onions, thinly sliced
About 2-3 tablespoons worth fresh mint, thinly sliced
1. Using your hand held julienne-er, or other mandoline or similar tiny guillotine slicer, grate first the carrots into the bowl, then the celeriac and cabbage. You’ll need to be careful when you’re doing the cabbage because your hand may well slide around a bit, the layers of cabbage are prone to moving as you slice; you’ll want to put the hand guard on as soon as you are able.Also you will probably have pieces and slices of cabbage interspersed throughout your mixture which at fist upset my feeling of precision, then i realized that i really like the varied result.
2. Combine all of the vegetables in a bowl, dress with the vinegar, soy or fish sauce, and sugar (or other sweetener), then toss in the green onions and mint. Serve!
white cabbage instead of red, cilantro instead of mint, and add 1/2 each red and orange peppers, thinly sliced.