Thursday, May 30, 2013

red cabbage salad

So! I'm working on several different posts. Who knows which one will be finished first, or when. In the meantime, I offer a little something to whet your appetite, plus a summer-reading recommendation.

When it gets hot outside, all I want are crunchy, leafy, generally vegetal things. Corn. Tomatoes. Basil. Chives. Lettuce. Zucchini. Half the time, D calls me a rabbit because of my inordinate love for a vegetable plate. (Other times he calls me a hobo because of my inordinate love for sardines.) The truth is, I suspect I would be right at home, crunching on illicit produce all day long in Mr. McGregor's garden.

Below you'll find my riff on a recipe from Molly Wizenberg's wonderful book, A Homemade Life. That slim volume stays on my cookbook shelf in the kitchen for at least three reasons: this salad, the Winning-Hearts-and-Minds Cake, and the roasted cauliflower. The good news is, this is one of those salads that you don't have to wait until summer to enjoy. It's equally good in winter, and its ingredients are always available.

self-portrait, Rabbit Hobo, summer 2012
More specifically, I like this dish because it's a dark horse. If you judged it only by how its list of ingredients sounds, you'd never, ever guess how delicious it is. And while the original recipe is purt near perfect, I think adding pine nuts and castelvetrano olives takes it to a place that is absolutely sublime.

And because I can't just post a recipe without holding forth on something macabre or squirmingly corporeal, let me also tell you what startling and alarming thing I learned this week. I have to start by admitting that, when I make this salad, I almost always eat too much of it. And I think we all know what happens to our GI tract whenever we overindulge in any cruciferous vegetable, whether it's cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts (i.e. all the things I love). I recently discovered that if I take a couple of Beano tablets right before I eat this salad, it actually keeps the bloated, gassy ickiness from happening afterwards. It is awesome stuff.

Then I was curious about what makes Beano work so well, so I looked it up. As it turns out, Beano contains an enzyme called alpha galactosidase, which comes from the fungus Aspergillus niger. Yes. The same fungus that killed my sister. Unexpectedly seeing that Latinate phrase in print gave me the same shock as hearing someone casually mention the name of an old enemy. In this small way, the universe has reminded me again that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. And vice versa: many things that make our lives easier could also eat us alive.

But let me return to my original objective, which is to exhort you: Make. This. Salad. Especially if you're asked to bring coleslaw to a cookout. Everyone will thank you for introducing them to this bowl of crunchy brightness, instead of that old vehicle for mayonnaise.

And finally, if you haven't already, I really recommend you read A Homemade Life this summer. It is lovely and sad and inspiring and funny and full of excellent, excellent food. (You might also check out Molly Wizenberg's blog, Orangette, which is equally delightful.)

red cabbage salad
adapted from A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg

a couple of tbsp. each of fresh lemon juice and very good, fruity olive oil (
one large garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. salt
half of a small, heavy head of red cabbage
1/3 c. pine nuts
a large handful of castelvetrano olives
black pepper
a large handful of shredded Parmesan

In a small bowl, stir together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt. Press/smash the garlic against the sides and bottom of the bowl. Let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to an hour, stirring/smashing occasionally to get all the garlic flavor.

In the meantime, prepare the other ingredients: toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until golden brown. (Keep a close eye on them, and be sure to stir them around occasionally. They burn very easily.)

Pit the olives by smashing them under the side of a large knife, and roughly chop them.

Wash and dry the head of red cabbage. Remove outer leaves. With a sharp knife or a mandoline slicer, finely shred it into a large bowl.

Using a small strainer, strain the dressing, pressing the garlic clove into the strainer so that you get all of its flavor and juice. Discard garlic clove. (You can leave minced garlic in the dressing, if you want. I just prefer a subtler garlic flavor here.)

Add pine nuts, olives, Parmesan, and plenty of fresh black pepper to the bowl of cabbage. Spoon in half of dressing and toss everything together. Taste and add more dressing a bit at a time, if desired.

You will likely have plenty of dressing left over. Happily, you can use it the next day, when (I predict) you will find yourself irresistibly compelled to make another batch of this salad with the remaining half a head of red cabbage.


calgal03 said...

I'm so glad you love Molly Wizenberg as much as I do. One of the many things I miss about Seattle is her husband's restaurant (and the subject of her upcoming book), Delancey. And I'm bummed we moved just before their new, amazing bar opened up next door. I made her "winning hearts and minds" cake for James' birthday, and we've already made it multiple times since. Maybe we should bring a head of cabbage to AP???

Heather Akers said...

Oh, how I love the idea of a mini-fridge full of goodies, especially with the kind of food we'll be facing next week!