It’s been awhile, but we went to a little bistro around the corner from us back in January to celebrate my birthday. The place has a well deserved reputation and it’s more expensive than our normal choices. Anyway, we started out with an incredible salad that consisted of a huge bowl full of tiny greens that had been dressed with a flavorful garlic sesame dressing.
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The greens were called marusha and they’re only available for a short season in the Winter. We were already intrigued by the greens but the dressing had us almost racing to finish the entire bowl. It was sweet, nutty and garlicky. For a bonus there were lightly fried garlic slices here and there among the greens. To top it off, there was a sprinkling of large Maldon salt crystals for a crunchy, salty bite. The entire salad was exceptional as was the rest of the meal.
The short growing season makes it difficult to find marusha (I don’t know what it’s called in English, sorry) but since it looks a lot like watercress, we substitute freely. We’ve poured this dressing over arugula and Spring mix. In the photos I’m using another Spanish green called canónigos which is also known as lamb’s lettuce. Any leafy green would work with this dressing including some of the more bitter varieties like escarole.
All that was a prelude to explaining how to make the garlic sesame salad dressing. I will give the recipe that’s closest to our experience at the restaurant, then tell you how Rick makes it and you can pick the recipe that best suits your situation.
- 2 tablespoons sunflower or other neutral tasting oil
- 2 large garlic cloves, sliced thinly
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil, light or dark is fine
- 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
- any salt with large crystals
- About a pound of washed salad greens
- Omit the garlic slices and salt crystals. Substitute ½ teaspoon or more garlic powder and salt (to taste)
- In a small saucepan or skillet heat the garlic slices in the sunflower oil until they begin to take on some color. Don't let them burn.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the garlic slices and drain them on some paper towels to use in the salad.
- Let the oil cool, then whisk in the honey, sesame oil and rice vinegar. Adjust the amounts to suit your tastes but remember it won't be salty because you're putting the salt crystals on the greens.
- To serve, arrange your choice of greens in a salad bowl. Drizzle the salad dressing with a tablespoon or so and a small amount of salt. Toss to distribute.
- Plate the salad, adding more salt and sharing the fried garlic slices among the portions.
- Mix the oils and honey together with the garlic powder and salt. Whisk in the rice vinegar and adjust the amounts to suit.
This has been our go to salad dressing this summer, although Rick makes the alternative version most often. It’s very light and it coats the greens without weighing them down. The garlic and salt “croutons” add a bold bite of flavor to contrast the sweet honey and subtle sesame of the dressing.
We don’t get very elaborate with the salads when we use this dressing. Just the greens and maybe some sliced onion.
Do you have a favorite green? Would it work with this dressing? Let me know in the comments!