Saturday, June 05, 2010

Japanese Kale Salad with Oyster Mushrooms

Mushrooms are the tofu of raw cuisine, taking on flavor and adding substance without too much say of their own. Oyster mushrooms, also called king trumpet mushrooms, are among the most interesting, and if you haven't used them in recipes yet, pick some up at an Asian market this week. Marinated in toasted sesame oil and paired with kale salad, they add a desirable meaty texture, and balance the salad's fattiness perfectly.

Massaged kale salads are a wonderful thing, transforming the vigor and solidity of kale into a silky, flavorful mess--the best sort of raw comfort food. These salads commonly combine kale, lemon juice, sea salt, and olive oil, which is all massaged together with clean hands and left to marinate until softened. When it comes to fat, I like it as unprocessed as possible, so this version omits oil and uses the heaviness of avocado instead. And avocado is the perfect partner to the kale's other ingredients, a burst of Japanese-inspired flavors like rice vinegar, tamari, and various seaweeds. It's reminiscent of sushi rolls, but feels homey and substantial without the rice. It's also incredibly healthy, rich in iodine, calcium, and other minerals.

This dish is lovely as a starter, but also suitable for a main course. Even if you forgo the oyster mushrooms, don't miss the salad, if only for the massaging. Smashing everything together is shockingly enjoyable. Visceral. Cathartic, even. You'll enjoy it, I promise.

My plate at our neighborhood yard sale this afternoon, where I must have looked terribly bourgeoise trying to sell old vases and camping gear

Japanese Kale Salad with Oyster Mushrooms
4 servings
Tamari is non-raw, wheat-free soy sauce, and Nama Shoyu is unpasteurized, living (although not technically raw) soy sauce with the enzymes left intact. Both can be found at health food stores and Asian groceries.

For the Kale Salad:
1 bunch kale, tough center stems removed, roughly chopped into 1/2" strands
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari or nama shoyu
1/4 cup mixed dried seaweeds (I used nori, wakame, and dulse, but arame and hijiki would be nice, too)
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1 small avocado, peeled and quartered

For the Oyster Mushrooms:
1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, brushed clean and left whole
2 teaspoons tamari or nama shoyu
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds (white sesame seeds are a fine substitution)

Kale, seaweeds, and avocado before smashing

Make the kale salad: Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Using clean hands, reach in and squeeze everything until very well combined. The avocado should coat everything in a creamy veil, and the sesame seeds should appear evenly distributed.

Mushrooms, in marinade

Marinate the mushrooms: In a shallow bowl, toss together tamari, ginger, toasted sesame oil, and black sesame seeds. Add mushrooms, turning gently to coat. It won't seem like enough liquid, but once the mushrooms begin to weep a bit, it will be.

Allow both mixtures to rest for an hour. The kale, refrigerated. The mushrooms, at room temperature.

To assemble, divide kale evenly among four plates, mounding it up (I used a ring mold for this, but you don't need to be fussy about it). Gently squeeze the mushrooms to remove some of the marinade, reserving it for another use, and arrange them over the kale. Dust with a bit of powdered wasabi, if you like, and serve with pickled ginger alongside.

And a note: I consider this a raw dish, although all the ingredients aren't strictly raw (rice vinegar or toasted sesame oil, for example). I often pair primarily raw ingredients with a small amount of non-raw or questionably raw condiments. The way I see it, if a dish is composed mostly of raw fruits and vegetables, tossing in a bit of Dijon mustard or non-raw agave isn't going to be disastrous to your health, but if you're strictly raw, you may choose to avoid non-raw ingredients altogether.


Mihl said...

usual, this looks so wonderful! I was always afraid of oyster mushrooms. I think I just overcame that!

radioactivegan said...

thanks for the tip on kale salad. i've been trying to recreate one i had at a local store and couldn't figure out how to get it to soften up. i see another experiment!

Morgan-- said...

Wow, this looks fantastic! I love mushrooms too!

Morgan-- said...

and I'm your newest follower. :)

Joy said...

Mihl, they're so easy to work with, and also great in stir fries, quiches, and terrines.

radioactivegan, I also recommend doing the "basic" version: 1 bunch kale, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and the juice of a lemon, then massage well. If it doesn't soften easily, let it sit at room temperature for an hour or so.

Morgan, thanks for commenting, and so happy to have you as a reader!