Our first encounter with Brussel sprouts was a disaster. Pickled Brussel sprouts in a jar bought at S&R. The Brussel sprouts were so tough that attempts to cut them in half resulted in Brussel sprouts flying off the dining table. After that, we stayed away from them.
Last weekend, however, Sam saw a bag of frozen Brussel sprouts at the grocery. She was on a food shopping binge after learning that I’d be out of town for much of next weekend and she’d have to rely on herself and her carnivorous and butter-crazy father to cook her vegetarian meals. I eyed the bag of Brussel sprouts suspiciously but since I’m not the one who’s going to eat them, well, why not?
The following day, Sam was perusing Pinterest for recipes with Brussel sprouts and avocados. There were so many on a single page and loading more would just make both of us more indecisive than we already were. Finally, I asked her which among the dozens of dishes on the page she wanted for dinner, she wasn’t sure so I ended up winging it and making the best salad that I could.
Brussel sprouts, avocado and mango salad
- Cut the Brussel sprouts in half. Sprinkle with salt. Place in a heat proof dish and steam over briskly boiling water for about 10 minutes or just until tender. Take out of the steamer and cool.
- While the Brussel sprouts are in the steamer, toast the sesame seeds in a small oil-free frying pan until they glisten with oil. Tap the sesame seeds into a small plate and cool.
- In the same frying pan, toast the salted cashew nuts. Transfer to another plate and cool.
- Heat the cooking oil in the frying pan. Fry the cubed saba banana until golden. Scoop out, transfer to a plate line with kitchen paper and cool.
- Dice the mango and avocado.
- Toss everything together and sprinkle with parsley.
When I make a salad for Sam, I prepare a unique salad dressing to go with it. Most of the time. We rarely buy bottled salad dressing and Sam has always seemed to prefer the ones I made for her. She especially likes the yogurt and honey dressing, the strawberry vinaigrette (made with strawberry jam, olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs), the kalamansi, ginger and honey combination and the mustard-based dressings. After the Brussel sprouts salad was assembled, I wondered what I throw together to make a dressing that would be perfect for it.
Then, I remembered that we still had some of the roasted sesame dressing that Sam herself picked off the grocery shelf a couple of weeks ago. She said she had tried it before and that it was good. That girl rarely misses when it comes to food. If she says something’s good, 99 percent of the time, it is good. What’s with the other one percent? Ah, that’s for the time (before she became vegetarian) that she and her sister said Burger Machine sandwiches were good. Cheap, yes. But good? Hell, no.
Anyway, about the roasted sesame salad dressing… The truth is that no one in my family is terribly enamored of “classics” like ranch or thousand island. At least, not anymore. The girls got bored with them a long, long time ago. Caesar’s salad dressing is great but only if freshly whipped. That’s been the rule of thumb — make a dressing that’s good for the salad that has been prepared. If the salad has sweet fruits, a dressing that is more tangy than sweet is a good idea. If a salad is made mostly with green leaves, an emulsified dressing will give the greens more body than a thin vinaigrette. And so on, and so forth.
A huge part of the attitude probably has to do with being Asian. When it comes to sauces and marinades — including salad dressings — we enjoy mixtures that are all at once tangy, sweet and salty with a hint of spice. It’s an indescribable balance where no singular flavor overwhelms the others. Very few classic Western salad dressings fit that mold.
Luckily for us, a lot of Japanese salad dressings have been making an appearance in the market over the past few years. The Kewpie salad dressings come in several flavors, Sam has tried a few but the roasted sesame dressing seems to stand out over the others.