Besides honing my technical skills working every week now with Chef Abe and his crew in the kitchen of En Japanese Brasserie, I've been learning a ton about contemporary Japanese cooking. En is one of my favorite Japanese places in the city, I love how they marry traditional Japanese cuisine with modern, sophisticated cooking. Take their house salad, where mizuna leaves, walnuts and yuba are accented with an irresistible dressing composed of soy milk, sesame paste, and a classic caesar salad dressing. The soy milk and sesame add layers of complexity, creaminess and, of course, a Japanese sensibility to the caesar dressing. Fantastic. I asked Abe-san if I could share the recipe for his dressing, and he graciously agreed (Thanks, Abe-san!). For home, you can prepare this salad with just mizuna and walnuts, or substitute the mizuna for another green of your liking. Here's the recipe:
- 2 1/4 cups soy milk (see note)
- 1/2 cup classic caesar salad dressing (I like this recipe from the late, great Gourmet)
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoons of Japanese sesame paste (see note)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Salt to taste
Use a whisk to combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Be careful when you're adding salt, because the caesar salad dressing has a nice saltiness from the anchovies.
Notes: First, use only real soy milk; that is, the thick, creamy stuff you find in Asian markets with just two ingredients, soy milk and water, not the product you find everywhere else which is watery and full of all kinds of flavorings (even so-called "plain").
Second, Japanese sesame paste, which you can find in Japanese markets, has a more delicate flavor than tahina -- but if you can only get your hands on tahina, that's fine, too.