Santa Barbara is a city of contrasts: the old-money retirees, the young college crowd. The white nouveau riche families who’ve moved here to escape the smog of Los Angeles and the poor Latino families eking out a living. The chill surfer crowd sporting trendy fashions, and pockets of internationals, drawn to Santa Barbara for the serious research opportunities at the University.
And then there is a family of people that embodies what I think of as the “locals.” Their skin is wind-weathered and sun-kissed. They are artists living in the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains wearing dream-catcher earrings. They are fleece-wearing hikers and rock climbers. They eat organic and shop at the Farmers’ Market. A lot of them are vegan. They remember when there was parking on lower State Street, not to mention traffic light intersections along the freeway. They’re the hippies of today, joining in the evening drum-circle dances along the beach. For them, life is unrushed. And when I think about it, they all have a connection to the earth of this place, somehow.
These people—my family and neighbors for 26 years—are what I think of when I eat a salad like this. Healthy and grounded. It has tons of fresh vegetables and herbs. And it’s got sprouts! And a handful of nutty, toasted and salted pepitas. And it’s dressed with a tangy miso-like dressing made from doenjang (the Korean version of miso paste). A mix of local veggies plus Mexican pepitas, with a nod to the international influences here in California.
Here’s my Santa Barbara salad, folks. Bring your fork, get comfortable, and enjoy some of this California food.
Makes 1-2 servings
2 cups lettuce (red & green leaf, torn into bite-sized pieces)
½ cup finely sliced cabbage
¼ cup each sliced cucumbers and celery
½ cup alfalfa sprouts
1/8 cup each sliced radish and shredded carrot
¼ cup each broccoli and cauliflower florets, steamed until fork tender and cooled
¼ cup basil leaves, roughly torn
Salt and pepper
Roasted salted pepitas
Arrange all ingredients in a large dish or shallow bowl. Before serving, drizzle with doenjang dressing.
Doenjang Salad Dressing
¼ cup Doenjang (Korean fermented bean paste), or substitute miso paste
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup chopped yellow onion
½ tsp. sugar
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2-4 Tbs. water, to taste
Combine all ingredients, except for the water, in a blender (or narrow bowl with tall sides, if using an immersion stick blender). Blend until smooth and creamy. Then, with blender running, add as much or little water as you like to get the desired consistency. The doenjang is very salty, so no extra salt should be necessary.