FARMER’S CHOP SUEY
By Nancy Eisman
The cultural connection between the Chinese and Jewish people is represented by the game of Mahjong, a tile-based game invented in China in the Qing dynasty, and played poolside and inside the homes of Jewish women since the 1930’s. A culinary connection also exists, primarily of Jewish people eating Chinese food on an often weekly basis, and annually as a Christmas Day tradition. Interesting synergies bringing two disparate cultures to the table over the decades.
A classic cross-cultural recipe, influenced by Jewish descendants from Eastern Europe, that was a tradition in our home during the summer months, was a mishmash called Farmer’s Chop Suey. On especially hot days and nights my mother would whip up this cool, refreshing dish consisting of chunks of fresh vegetables drenched in a cold sour cream.
The classic recipe included conventional cucumbers, celery, onions, carrots, radishes, green bell pepper, tomatoes, lettuce and dill, but here I’ve jazzed it up with Persian cucumbers, baby heirloom tomatoes, edamame, maroon carrots, yellow bell pepper, a seasonal Hatch chile, watermelon radishes, leeks, and fennel. There’s also pine nuts added for extra crunch and protein, and of course I’ve replaced the dairy sour cream with a plant-based version (recipe below).
Season the Suey with salt and pepper to your own taste, and garnish with some fennel fronds. You can serve your salad immediately or let it merge even more in the fridge for as long as you like. For extra kitsch, serve the Farmer’s Chop Suey in Chinese take-out containers, with chopsticks and fried noodles on the side.
Plant-Based Sour Cream Dressing
1 package firm tofu
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon Melissa’s Organic Blue Weber Agave Syrup
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Salt and white pepper to taste
Place the tofu in a blender and process until smooth. Add the oil, garlic, agave and lemon juice and blend until combined. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Set aside in the refrigerator.
Farmer’s Chop Suey
3 mini (Persian) cucumbers, cubed
baby heirloom tomatoes
2 maroon or 3 baby purple carrots, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 Hatch chile (heat level of your choice), diced
1 watermelon radish, cubed
1 cup fennel bulb, chopped
½ cup edamame
¾ cup leeks, chopped
¾ cup pine nuts
Fennel fronds for garnish
Combine all the veggies in a large bowl and toss to combine. Douse with the sour cream and stir again to cover all the veggies, using as much of the dressing as you like.
Garnish with fennel fronds and serve with Chinese fried noodles on the side.