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FRESH In: Wasabi up?

Wasabi – it’s not just for sushi any more.

OK, a lot of you probably still think of wasabi as that little green, pasty lump that you add to soy sauce for dipping sashimi, or the secret spicy ingredient in some sushi rolls.

But the wasabi flavor has been making its way into other dishes for years now, and not just in Japanese cuisine. First came the wasabi mashed potatoes at global-fusion restaurants, then wasabi-flavored mayonnaise and dips; then wasabi-soy-flavored nuts and other snack foods made into the mainstream.

If you like heat, it’s fun to experiment with wasabi in your own kitchen, usually either prepared wasabi paste, that comes in a tube, or powdered wasabi that you reconstitute with water. The heat from wasabi isn’t the fire-engine-hot, my-mouth-is-burning heat you get from chiles. Rather, it’s a quick, intense reaction that opens up, and sometimes singes, your nasal passages. (It also tends to dissipate quicker than a chile burn.)

Wasabi can add heat, and an underlying, hard-to-describe herbal quality, to soups, noodle dishes, curries, or mayonnaise (particularly good on a roast beef sandwich.) My favorite way to use wasabi, however is this Japanese-inspired salad dressing. I wouldn’t call it hot, but it has a nice complexity and a light texture that works well on hot summer days. It’s especially good over a green salad that includes avocado slices.

Wasabi Orange Vinaigrette

2 cups orange juice
3 Tbs sugar
1/2 cup oil
3 Tbss rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tbs wasabi paste
2 Tbs black sesame seed

Place first six ingredients in a blender and puree well. Garnish with sesame seed. Serve with favorite green salad mix.