For a recent Halloween party I wanted to use oranges as mini jack-o-lanterns; I just had to decide what food to put in them. Lettuce salads seemed the logical choice. I’d also wanted to try my hand at making that oh-so-good Asian dressing they serve on salads in Japanese restaurants. The one that is orange colored and has grated ginger. I’m a huge fan!
On the list for my P.S. (Personal Shopper/hubby) I put spring lettuce so the bits and pieces standing out of the little pumpkins would be curly and cute. I washed the lettuce and tumbled it dry in the salad spinner before putting it into a zippered storage bag with paper toweling to keep it fresh for the next day.
Also on my shopping list had been oranges. I started by slicing the top off the orange. I found that inserting a large soup spoon into the orange, between the skin and the flesh, worked well to loosen the orange. It took about 4 insertions and I was able to pop the orange out of the rind.
I scraped out the rest of the membranes left behind and cleaned the inside of the orange well. Not too bad! Then I repeated the process, 9 more times. Really, it was much quicker than I’d expected and I did the scooping over a large bowl that caught all the juice. These were juice oranges and they definitely had a lot of liquid!
When the oranges were all cleaned, I used a paring knife and carved the faces into each orange. I’m no pumpkin carving artist, but eventually I had 10 passable jack o lanterns looking at me from their tray. I refrigerated them overnight, not wanting them to dry before the party the next day.
The dressing was very easy to assemble and since everything went into the food processor, not much chopping was even necessary. I measured it all into the processor bowl, hit the button, and watched it turn creamy and delicious. I scraped down the bowl, whirred it another minute, then emptied it into a pouring bottle with a lid. I refrigerated it until the next day.
The day of the party I plated the pumpkins on a tray, and daughter Emily filled them with the spring lettuce mix, then drizzled the Asian dressing over the top. She set a couple of garlic croutons on the top of each and they were so adorable! And even tastier than I’d hoped! The dressing was a huge hit. Even the little guy had a ball eating his lettuce out of the jack o lanterns. And getting kids to eat lettuce salads isn’t always easy! Even I’d eat lettuce more often with the dressing on hand in my fridge!
I will add that the dressing was not the one I had eaten so many times at the local restaurant. I did a little more research and found a bunch of recipes that had grated carrot in them, and said “Aha!” That would explain the dressing not seeming quite right. I’ll say again it was good but next time I want to try the shredded carrot version.
Japanese-style Ginger Dressing
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup peanut oil
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons minced celery
2 tablespoons ketchup
4 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a blender, combine the minced onion, peanut oil, rice vinegar, water, ginger, celery, ketchup, soy sauce, sugar, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper . Blend on high speed for about 30 seconds or until all of the ingredients are well-pureed.
Makes 1 3/4 cups
Adapted from All Recipes