While most people eat chia seeds for their high nutritional value, I love using them for their culinary benefits. For example, they’re a great way to thicken things like chocolate pudding without cooking it. They’re also a quick way to add texture to foods, like this strawberry parfait.
I’ve mainly stuck to using chia seeds for sweet applications, but it recently occurred to me that they could be useful in savory dishes as well, both to add texture and viscosity. My first experiment was to use it to thicken a salad dressing, and it worked out better than I could have imagined.
In order for a dressing to season a salad properly, it needs a bit of viscosity so that it clings to your ingredients. A loose dressing would all just run to the bottom of the plate leaving your salad flavorless. This is why oil is usually added to dressings. When the oil is whisked together with other ingredients such as vinegar, it creates an emulsion that’s just the right thickness to coat the greens in a salad. But even with oil in the dressing, there are some ingredients like tomatoes where the dressing beads right off the tomato’s satiny skin.
This is why I usually use gelatin thickened gellées to season tomatoes. But heating the dressing ingredients up to incorporate the gelatin can alter their flavor, and the step of having to cook your dressing is a bit of work. Enter the mighty chia seed. Because it thickens at room temperature you can just stir in a spoonful of chia seeds into your dressing ingredients and within 10 minutes, you’ll have a nice thick gel that’s perfect for pouring over tricky ingredients like tomatoes. As an added bonus, you get some added texture and nutrients, and you don’t need to use oil in the dressing.
For this salad I’ve made a simple ponzu dressing with yuzu juice and soy sauce, but you could do this with lemon juice, or a more standard vinaigrette as well.
Tomatoes with Chia Ponzu Dressing
- 1 teaspoon yuzu juice
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon chia seeds
- 3 small vine ripened tomatoes 200 grams
- flat-leaf parsley (for garnish)
- Stir together the yuzu juice and soy sauce to combine. Add the chia seeds and let them soak for about 10 minutes.
- Slice the tomatoes into wedges and dress with the chia ponzu. Garnish with flat-leaf parsley.
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marcs been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.