A New Addiction
The first time I lunched at Buns & Buns in South Miami, I arrived easy to please: I was starving and in a hurry. The demand for a true gastronomic experience took back seat to filling my stomach with something basically healthy as quickly as possible. So, minutes later, when I dug into a beautiful kale salad, I perceived the wonderfully complex and faintly familiar flavor of the dressing as a true bonus. In an attempt to identify the spice that laced the dressing, I ordered extra on the side. After several tastes and a long, deliberate whiff, I perceived a fruity aroma, a warm, cinammon-like flavor and a hot, spicy finish. But that’s as far as I got.
Whatever it was, I was immediately addicted. The waiter, sensing my desperation, suggested that I contact the restaurant’s owner, Alex Zibi, who graciously shared the name of the dressing’s magic ingredient: Shichimi togarashi. With a little research I learned that, like curry powder, Shichimi togarashi, commonly called Shichimi, or Japanese Seven Spice, is created from a combination of ingredients:
- – Orange peel
- – White sesame seeds
- – Black sesame seeds
- – Cayenne
- – Ginger
- – Szechuan pepper
- – Nori (dry seaweed)
The Quest Begins
Armed with this knowledge, I searched the aisles of three Miami grocery stores (I have not found a good Asian grocer in Miami so if you know of one please inform me) but none carried Shichimi. Argh! Several days had passed since my lunch at Buns & Buns. I needed a second fix and I needed it now. There was no immediate gratification in sight, so I went online and ordered it from the Spice House, my favorite source for spices and dry herbs.
It was a long, six day wait. As soon as my Shichimi stash arrived, I went to work experimenting with it. First lesson learned: A little bit goes a long way. Second lesson: Shichimi, like curry powder, is a versatile spice that can be used in marinades, or sprinkled directly on veggies, fish or poultry. And, of course, it is great in salad dressing.
This recipe, based on Buns & Buns approach, includes a big dab of creme fraiche in the dressing, as I find it adds a sublime creaminess and brings out the flavors in the spice (yes, it is the fat in the creme fraiche that brings out the flavor). My approach does not include their amazing, house-made kettle corn (I tried using store bought, but it did not measure up), or the heaven scented bread they serve on the side. But in a matter of minutes, it does answer the question as to how I can feed my new and welcome addiction to shichimi togarashi.
Spinach & Baby Kale – Shichimi Togarashi Dressing
| Serves 4 |
273 calories per serving
- 5 ounces dark salad greens such as spinach, baby kale or a combination
- 1 orange
- 1 Haas avocado (or 1/2 Florida variety)
- 12 – 16 cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1 1/2 ounces manchego cheese, sliced into thin salad-size pieces
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
- Optional: 1 pound roast chicken, skin removed and sliced into roughly 2 – 3 inch pieces
Shichimi Togarashi Dressing
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons creme fraiche
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 – 2 teaspoons shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7 spice)
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Make the dressing: In a measuring cup, small bowl, or shaker jar, whisk together the oil, creme fraiche, vinegar and orange juice. Add one teaspoon of shichimi togarashi, the minced ginger, and the salt and continue whisking until the dressing thickens and is emulsified. Taste-test the dressing on a piece of spinach. Adjust the amount of togarashi spice and salt according to taste.
Prepare the salad ingredients: Transfer the salad greens to a serving bowl. Using a sharp knife, peel the orange, removing the white pith, and slice into roughly 1 inch pieces. Peel and slice the avocado into similar size pieces, and add both the avocado and orange pieces to the salad. Slice the tomatoes in half and set aside along with the manchego cheese and pine nuts.
Assemble the salad: Toss the salad with a light coating of the dressing. Sprinkle with salt and pepper according to taste and toss again. Arrange the tomatoes, pine nuts and cheese on top of the salad along with the roast chicken, if using. Drizzle additional dressing over the salad, if desired. Serve, and enjoy!