January 10, 2012
I love the holidays. They’re an excuse to stuff your face, drink lots of wine, and throw huge dinner parties—my three favorite activities, in that order. Still, some of them seem a little odd to me.
Imagine an alien passing through Earth and trying to learn about the celebratory rituals of the human race. There are the big monotheistic ones: Christmas, Ramadan, and Passover. In order not to offend any readers on my very first post, I won’t attempt to isolate what’s weird about these holiday celebrations.
Well, maybe just a few observations. Don’t you think it’s a bit bizarre to cut down a perfectly healthy tree and put it in your living room to die (a pagan-based ritual, so I think I’m safe from offending anyone, unless there are still pagans, in which case, I’m sorry pagans)? And what about the Ramadan ritual of fasting all day for a month? It’s not fun, and I know because I’ve done it. Twice. I don’t think any practicing Muslims would describe it as fun either—maybe educational or enlightening, but certainly not fun, so I’m still safe. And why did the Jews come up with a holiday in which they can’t eat arguably their best culinary contribution to the world—bagels. But again, I’m not passing judgment here. Just Pass-me-Over the bagels. Okay, so that was corny, but harmless. Who doesn’t think bagels are infinitely better than matzah?
Now for Halloween, and I don’t care who I offend here. Halloween, forgetting its origins because no one cares about those anymore, is supposed to be about kids and imagination and innocent mischief, like eating too many Butterfingers and scaring the princess skirt off your little sister. But somewhere along the line, Halloween was commandeered by unoriginal, self-deprecating, idiotic women who want an excuse to drunkenly run around in mass-produced variations of underwear. I doubt my imaginary alien would readily see the point of grown women dressing up as slutty Cinderellas or busting-out-of-her-bra Belles. An optimistic, philosophical alien might see this as a symbolic act of defiance against the media’s indoctrination of young girls with unattainable cinematic representations of fairy-tale love. Alas, that’s not so, my little Martian man.
Now for New Year’s Eve. Once you wrap your head around celebrating an arbitrary marker of time that only serves to reinforce the temporality of human existence, there are some fun and engaging traditions of New Year’s Eve, like wearing Dr. Seussian Nivea hats and glow-in-the-dark glasses made out of the new year’s numerals. What makes less sense to me is how people celebrate New Year’s Eve. Why on Earth does everyone want to go to the same cold, crowded place so they can be herded into barricaded areas like sheep and watch dreadful performances by the year’s most irritating pop stars? (In case you really are an alien and don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s Times Square.) I mean, if I were an alien and I happened to pass over Times Square on New Year’s Eve, I would high-tail my space ship out of there so fast you wouldn’t even have time to say “Beam me up, Scotty.”
Anyway, enough about holidays; this is a food blog—I promise—so now we’re going to talk about food . . . and how to keep your New Year’s resolutions (okay, so we are still talking about holidays, sort of).
Since I’m launching my blog at a time when most people, in an effort to reverse the last few months of gluttony, have foresworn butter and/or carbohydrates, I thought I’d start off with something to help everyone achieve their New Year’s goals. For those of you looking to lose a few holiday pounds, look no further; for those of you who are struggling to eat more vegetables, your struggle is over; and for those of you who just want to save a little cash, want no more . . .
Here is my New Year’s gift to you: Oil-Free Carrot-Ginger Dressing.
Unless—like that housewife judge on a recent Iron Chef America episode whose name I will not demean myself to look up—you have never eaten at a sushi restaurant, you’ve had carrot-ginger dressing before. It’s the bright orange stuff smothering the greens next to your miso soup, and it’s addictive: tangy, sweet, nutty, and bursting with flavor. Spoon it over some lettuce and throw in a few tomato, cucumber, or avocado slices, and you have a healthful snack that can even double as dessert if you’re desperate enough, or if your diet is cruel enough. Add some grilled chicken, shrimp, or tofu and you have a meal.
But here’s the best thing about this dressing: it has no oil. You can eat as much of it as you want and feel no guilt. Yes, there is some fat from the tahini (yes, tahini, and yes, I know that’s not Japanese), but it’s a pretty small amount. If you’re really that concerned about the authenticity or fat content of the dressing, you can replace the tahini with miso, but it’s not as good. Trust me; I’ve done a lot of experimenting.
The second best thing about this dressing is that it’s incredibly easy to make. In fact, the most time-consuming part is washing your food processor.
So how will this recipe help you achieve your New Year’s goals? I have a recipe for that too: Keep a large amount of carrot-ginger dressing (it goes fast) and a large amount of prewashed lettuce in your fridge. Whenever you need a snack, put some lettuce in a bowl and cover it with dressing. This will prevent you from going for the nearest pre-packaged, nutrient-poor item in your kitchen, like that half-eaten box of cookies or, if you’re like me, an overly large slice of cheddar cheese (or week-old pumpkin pie—we’ve all been there so don’t judge).
And the benefits don’t stop there: Economically, carrot-ginger dressing is cheap—either really cheap or incredibly cheap depending on where you buy the lettuce and tahini. Nutritionally, it’s packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. Sustainably, it’s all the refreshing goodness of summer made with root vegetables in the dead of winter. You really cannot go wrong here. And if you don’t care about any of that stuff, it JUST. TASTES. GOOD. Enough said.
Put the carrots, ginger, shallots, and soy sauce in the bowl of a food processor. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the tahini and vinegar together until the mixture thickens into a paste (don’t worry, this takes about 30 seconds). Gradually add water to thin the paste to a pourable consistency.
Pour the tahini-vinegar sauce over the vegetables and run the food processor, adding water as necessary, until the dressing is smooth (or a little chunky if that’s how you like it!). Add salt to taste. The finished product will be thicker and lower in acidity than most other dressings, i.e. you should be able—and very willing—to eat a big spoonful of it.
Spoon it over a simple salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and/or avocados, or just eat it out of the food processor (make sure you unplug the food processor before you do this).