I don't often get so attached to one thing that it's all I eat, day in and day out, but it happened with a salad dressing a few months ago. A simple shake-up of miso paste, tahini, and lemon, it's nothing revolutionary, and certainly nothing I hadn't had before at the local healthy lunch joint, but for some reason it's really been hitting the spot.
Maybe it's because there's a five-year-old at my hip who declared it "the dressing that makes me into a lover of salad things" or perhaps it is because that five-year-old's babysitter asked to be paid in jars of dressing rather than real money, but there is something about this dressing that has given me the strange inertia to make it over and over and over again.
It started with a friend who was tired of olive oil and lemon and we started talking about how many ways there are to dress a salad. She used to make something like this and I remembered how magical it was to combine the soft sesame of Tahini's with the fermented salty pop of miso. A little lemon juice rounds it all out.
Now, it's habit. On Sundays, we shake up a double batch in an old honey jar and it adorns our vegetables throughout the week. The old "I don't have energy to make salad dressing" argument for skipping the vegetable course just doesn't hold.
Having a jar of dressing ready in the fridge isn't a new concept: plenty of people buy pre-made dressing. But for cooks like us who actually enjoy making things from scratch, this is a dressing to start having on hand. It satisfies the need to DIY and ensures there's something tasty to slather on your meal anytime. Want to really push it? Make your own tahini.
When school is in session I send one of those miniature red and white gingham-topped Bonne Maman jam jars full of it for my daughter to drizzle on her lettuce, and now that it's summer, she takes it on picnics. For my recent birthday party we massaged it into a giant bowl of shredded kale. Try this. Depending on how fine you shred the kale and how much dressing you use, it can almost be like a slaw.
Don't stop at salad, it goes well with grains too, like as a topping for brown rice and roasted vegetables or over udon noodles. Stirred into leftover shredded chicken and wedged between pumpernickel, it makes a great sandwich. Make a thick version with less water and use it as a spread on toast and crackers.
How else do I eat it? Well, I've been known to dip in a finger when no one is looking.
Miso Tahini Dressing
Makes about 6 ounces (dresses salad for 6-8)
or more warm water
Freshly cracked black pepper
In a small bowl or lidded jar, combine the tahini, miso and lemon juice. Mix with a spoon into a smooth paste. Add the warm water gradually, stirring or shaking (if using a jar) until the dressing reaches desired consistency. It may need more than 1/4 cup. Taste for seasoning. Add pepper if desired.
Store in the refrigerator for about a week. Dressing thickens up as it sits, so you will need to add more water to thin.
Related: DIY Tahini
(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)