top of page

My Need to Talk About My Friend Who Steams Her Salads

Introducing My Need to Talk About, a series of (non-sponsored) musings from CSJ founder Alexa Tietjen.

Cartoon illustration featuring artwork that reads Steam Green
Illustration by Tim Le

About seven months ago, I underwent a diet overhaul. I had struggled with indigestion, heartburn, stomach pain and ovarian pain for years, and while I knew changing my diet would help resolve some, if not all, of my pain, I wasn’t sure where to start.

Things hit a crucial point for me in the lead-up to the Fourth of July holiday. Some unwise food decisions led me to experience a heartburn so powerful, I couldn’t lay on my left side (my sleeping side) and found it hard to lay down at all. All night, I laid awake, angry at myself for overindulging and wondering how best to make it through work at the office the following day. 

That weekend, my partner and I went upstate with our friends, Paul Kang and Steph Yan, who founded Carmen & Co., a studio specializing in event, product and floral design. Like me, Steph was in the midst of a dietary evolution, though having struggled with autoimmunity her whole life, she was further along her journey than I. The weekend became a transformational one for us both, as Steph introduced me to a way of cooking that would become fundamental to my daily routine and diet: The Steamed Salad.

“I've had to be creative over the years with my dietary restrictions,” Steph tells me. “Going gluten-free and dairy-free forces you to think about how I can still enjoy my life. I’m a Taurus and a pleasure-seeker, and I live through my senses. I can’t just deprive myself, it’s toxic to your body.”

Steamed salads aren’t necessarily new; a quick Google search turns up dozens of recipes. I’ve always preferred sautéed or roasted vegetables because I like crunchier textures, though things have changed drastically since July. I now make Steph’s Steamed Salad as many as three times a day.

Kakomi IH Donabe by Kinto
If you don’t own a steamer, or if you do and it’s uninspiring, Kinto’s Kakomi IH Donabe is a great one.

If you were expecting a recipe, inclusive of measurements and cutting instructions, I’m sorry to disappoint. Steph does not follow recipes, and after a weekend of steaming with her, neither do I. 

“Everything I cook is by feeling,” Steph says. She holds a degree in chemical engineering, which partly informs her approach to cooking, though the rest is left to intuition.

There are, however, a few basic elements to the Steamed Salad. First, the vessel is important. If you don’t own a steamer, or if you do and it’s uninspiring, Kinto’s Kakomi IH Donabe is a great one. The white version will eventually look worn if you use it regularly, but if you don’t mind (I don’t), it makes for a clean palette upon which to pile lots of colorful vegetables. 

That brings me to the second element: Vary your vegetables. The more color, the better! Eat the rainbow, as they say. It’s best to place vegetables that take longer to cook (rutabaga, beet, turnip, radish, carrots) at the bottom of the steam, with quick-to-cook vegetables (bok choy, spinach, kale, zucchini) towards the top. Cut the vegetables evenly so they cook at similar rates.

Once you’ve piled your vegetables high, top it all off with a protein. I often opt for salmon in the mornings and chicken for lunch, though it’s really up to you. You can add leeks, garlic, shallots and fresh herbs for more flavor. After you’ve put the finishing touches on your steam, set the stove to medium-high and enjoy being hands-free for the next 25 or so minutes.

Lastly, when your Steamed Salad is ready, you’ll need a dressing. Steph introduced me to the combination of flaxseed oil and hemp seed oil, with a few sprinkles of coarse Celtic sea salt for added flavor and texture. This combo is choice. I go crazy for it. I’m so committed to Celtic sea salt as a topping, I once flew with a fresh bag of it in my carry-on and got held up at TSA, who tested it for drugs. (It turns out you can bring salt on an airplane so long as it’s under a certain limit.)

Steph’s latest food creation is puréed soups.

“Eating vegetables is a lot of work,” she tells me. “It’s a lot of work to put down a volume of vegetables. How do I do it where my mouth doesn't get tired of chewing?”

I feel I am on the verge of catching on to puréed soups. It’s the season for it, I have TMJ and I like the idea of making a ton of soup and freezing it for later meals. I’ll need to commit to buying a BPA-free blending setup, but the investment seems worth the payoff!

In the meantime, what I know for sure is this: Queen behavior is admitting that vegetables are hard to chew.

88 views0 comments


bottom of page