Salad for President is a collection of recipes from the blog of the same name, by food writer and artist Julia Sherman. If you’ve been looking for a book to shake up your vegetable game, look no further. This crunchy Japanese-inspired cucumber umeboshi salad has a nutty surprise in store.
In Japan they say that umeboshi plums possess magical healing powers, the ability to cure everything from ancient Samurai battle fatigue to the modern-day hangover. Umeboshi are shockingly expensive, but a little of their concentrated, salty tartness goes a long way.
When I buy cashews for cooking, I always opt for the broken cashew pieces as opposed to whole nuts; they are more affordable and taste just as good. Black garlic is fermented, and has twice as many antioxidants as raw garlic; its flavor is much sweeter and milder, like garlic candy, in a good way. You can find this at your Asian grocer, but it is widely available in mid-range supermarkets as well (they even sell it at Trader Joe’s). If you can’t find it, just substitute roasted garlic cloves with an added pinch of sugar.
- 2 cloves black garlic, peeled
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon minced habanero pepper (or more if you love spice)
- 1/2 cup raw cashew pieces
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 8 x 7 1/2-inch sheet unseasoned nori
- 1 tablespoon untoasted sesame oil or vegetable oil
- 2 pounds small cucumbers (about 6 lemon or Kirby and 10 Persian), chilled
- 2 umeboshi plums
- 1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
For the salad
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Using a mortar and pestle, make a paste out of the black garlic, fish sauce and habanero.
Roughly chop the cashews and toss them in a bowl with the sesame seeds. Cut the nori into thin shreds and add them to the cashew mixture. Add the black garlic paste and stir to combine it with the other ingredients as evenly as possible. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat it evenly with the sesame oil. Spread the nut mixture out on the foil and toast it on the middle rack of the oven for about 10 minutes, until the nuts start to brown lightly. Remove them from the oven and let them cool to room temperature. The nuts should go from sticky and soft to crunchy clusters as they cool.
Working with the cold cucumbers, remove every other strip of the skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Scoop out discard (if using Persian cucumbers, you won't need to do this). Cut the cucumbers into 1-inch chunks, as shown, or into ribbons and put them in a salad bowl.
Remove the pits from the plums and discard. Mince the plums into a chunky paste and toss them with the cucumbers. Add the vinegar and toss to coat evenly (you might want to use your hands to break up the plums here). Top with the crunchy cashew topping and gently toss to combine.