When you go through all the effort to grow (or buy) beautiful salad greens, the last thing you want to do is mask the flavor with a heavy salad dressing. The delicate and diverse flavors of the greens should be the star of the show, not a thick coating of Ranch. We all know what Ranch tastes like.... it brings no surprises to the table. But a thoughtfully crafted salad with a variety of greens and herbs will taste complex and cheerful. Practically every grocery store sells salad mixes, so reasons are few to rely on iceberg or romaine lettuce anymore. Unless, of course, you truly are just looking for a Ranch delivery system. Hey, I won't judge. I slather things in Ranch too.
Although occasionally I'll eat fresh greens from the garden without any dressing whatsoever, I do love a light and bright vinaigrette. To determine what kind of dressing is best to use on your salad, think about how you might compliment and contrast your base ingredients. If you're using bitter greens like mustard, dandelion, arugula, or radicchio, try a dressing that has a touch of sweetness or umami. If you're using a more neutral or buttery green like leaf or head lettuce, try a light and simple vinaigrette with a splash of citrus.
We grow all kinds of greens and herbs year round, so our salads tend to have a blend of bitter, spicy, buttery, and fragrant leaves. To lift all of those individual flavors I make a versatile vinaigrette that introduces umami, citrus, and sweetness. It uses one very special ingredient that is like nothing you've ever tasted. At least I hadn't until a few years ago when we ordered it at a Japanese izakaya restuarant. Introducing, Yuzu Kosho!
Yuzu is a type of Chinese citrus with a flavor somewhere between a grapefruit and a mandarin orange. Yuzu Kosho (aka yuzukoshō) is a paste hailing from Japan made with yuzu peel fermented with salt, chilis, and garlic. It has the most unusual and magnificent flavor that is salty, tangy, and spicy. And it has a glorious aroma of citrus tree flowers.
It's hard to find yuzukoshō in stores, but it's only 6.99 for a small bottle on Amazon. A little goes a long way so you'll absolutely get your money's worth. We put a tiny dab on grilled veggies and proteins right before popping the morsel in our mouth. What a rush!
Because my yuzu vinaigrette recipe calls for such a small amount of yuzukoshō, it adds excitement to a salad without being overpowering. While the paste itself is spicy, don't worry, it won't make your salad hot. So without further ado...