A greater slaw

I was on the phone with a friend the other day, when she mentioned something that occurred “last summer.” I happened to know for a fact that that something could not have occurred “last summer,” by which, I assumed, she meant the summer of 2010, summer of Schoko-Reiswaffeln, and pelmeni, and exceedingly kind Dutch waiters. But of course, by “last summer” she meant last summer, the one that began and ended a few months ago in our very own 2011. This year’s last summer. That this year already has a “last summer” to speak of blew my mind. How did that happen? It’s November, friends! Halfway to December, even. Yet I somehow missed the part where summer slipped so far into our past that we have to glance back over our shoulders to get a good look at it.

There were signs: the darker days, the stuffed pumpkin for dinner, the return of the scarves and, not least, the September baby – so tiny that I thought she might pop at the lightest touch – now nine weeks old. And then, this week, there was cabbage. I’m not talking about the white-ish green Arrowhead cabbages that have been manning the markets now for months. I mean the purple kind, huge, heavy, and sweet. One turned up in our farm share box last week. I was thinking about what to do with it, heading in the direction of braise, when Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cookbook, Plenty, arrived at my door with a game-changing page 102. The recipe is called “Sweet winter slaw” and, after momentarily panicking that the purple cabbage in my fridge meant I’d missed the end of autumn, too, I realized that this past summer was not only a slippery one, but a slaw-less one. I’ll say it again, this time with feeling: How did that happen? Cue the compensatory slaw, a winter slaw made mid-autumn to make up for a slaw-less summer.

Ottolenghi’s slaw, the one in the book, is rather more involved than the one you see here. The “sweet” in the title is not just red cabbage-sweet, but papaya-sweet, mango-sweet and, above all, caramelized macadamias-sweet. Ottolenghi calls for a fresh red chile. And cilantro! And mint! And lemongrass in the dressing! I would like to eat that slaw. If I ever find myself in a kitchen with all said items present, I will. In the meantime, I’ll eat it the way I made it last week (three times!), with what I had on hand: cabbage and more cabbage. I threw in some peanuts and sesame seeds, too. Eli and I first ate it for dinner alongside scrambled eggs last week, and he immediately insisted that it’s more of a salad than a slaw. I thought it was because, for him, slaw means coleslaw, and coleslaw means mayo. (“The only slaw I ever knew,” he said.) But today he tells me it’s because this slaw feels like something more than slaw. It’s a greater slaw, as slaws go, a slaw that requires very little, if anything, else on the plate to make it a meal. So call it salad, or call it slaw. With a couple of rye crackers and a bit of cheese, I call it lunch.

Red Cabbage Slaw
Adapted from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi

Yotam Ottolenghi’s as-written recipes are perfectly tuned. I know because I’ve had the chance to eat several dishes from this book at the table of my friend, Molly. I was fairly certain at first that paring down this recipe to the barest of bones made me a bad person. Then, I tasted my version, and I felt better. It’s delicious this way, too.

For the dressing:

6½ Tbsp. lime juice
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. toasted (or just plain old) sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce
¼ tsp. chile flakes
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:

½ a red cabbage (10 oz.), finely shredded
7 inner leaves of a Savoy cabbage (6 oz.), finely shredded (Any green cabbage will do if you don’t have a Savoy.)
½ tsp. chile flakes
A few pinches of salt
¾ c. peanuts
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 c. loosely packed cilantro, roughly chopped (optional; I know how some of you out there feel about cilantro.)

Make the dressing: In a small saucepan, heat all of the ingredients but the oils. Reduce over high heat for 5-10 minutes, or until thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat, let cool, and whisk in the oils.

Pile the shredded cabbage in a large mixing bowl, season with the salt ad ½ teaspoon chile flakes, and toss with the dressing. Add the peanuts and sesame seeds, a little more salt, if necessary, toss again, and serve.

Serves four hungry people who will eat it as a main dish, and six not-so-hungry people who will eat it on the side.


linda said...

what a nine week old…she is so serene & beautiful…truly!

ottolenghi’s recipe sounds very, very interesting…i have bookmarked this post & a trip to local library in order.

jacqui | happyjackeats said...

Slaw, slaw, slaw. When you say it so many times, it sounds weird! But still delicious. I love slaw. Also, I'd say "last" summer for summer 2010, "this" summer for summer 2011, and "next" summer for summer 2012. It goes by years, right? Makes sense to me. And now the word summer sounds weird.

Tracy said...

Congratulations on the little one. The cabbage is so big this year. Has it always been this big?

Stephanie said...

“The only slaw I ever knew.” Mwahaha.

This is my kind of slaw. And since I ate a similar variety every single day in Korea/Japan, I would call it cabbage salad as well, but that's because I'm with Eli on the mayo thing. But the truth is, I like salad better than slaw.

(Also, ditto the last summer thing. Last summer is totally 2010. This summer is 2011 and next summer is 2012)

Jess said...

Linda - The book is a stunner. Even if you don't end up cooking a thing from it (doubtful; it's so inspiring), you'll enjoy flipping through it.

Jacqui, Jacqui, Jacqui. I like your system for this "last" and "this" and "next" business. My sister put in a vote for "this past" to refer to the summer that most recently occurred... (Oh, and hey, you're great.)

Thanks, Tracy. When you say "cabbage is so big this year," do you mean that you've been finding the heads particularly large, or that everyone's talking cabbage, cabbage, and more cabbage? (And why am I having so much trouble understanding what people are saying these days??)

Stephanie - Every single day? Sounds cabbage-y! (Jacqui, if you're reading this, there's one for you: "Cabbage, cabbage, cabbage." Now that sounds weird...) And wait, "last summer" is 2010? My brain hurts.

And with that, I'd better put myself to bed.

Good night, friends!

Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic said...

Hey Jess! Congrats on the September baby (I've got one too ;) ) and well done for blogging with a 9 week old! I like the look of this and for sure have to get that cookbook (between you and Cheryl at 5 second rule recommending it) ...

but I have to say, 'greater slaw' - i thought for sure it was a pun, hee hee ;)

J said...

This sounds (and looks!) so lovely. Plenty really is a treasure. This Thanksgiving, I plan to make a raw Brussels sprout and Tuscan kale salad I fell in love with from Bon Appetit. I've taken to thinking of it as "winter slaw," so it's delightful to already see potential variations on theme. Beautiful work.

Jess said...

Thanks, Amanda. Yes, Plenty is a gem. I'm so happy to have it in my collection. I've been cooking from it all week, and I've yet to be disappointed.

Hello, J. That salad of yours sounds right up my alley. Perfect to balance out the heavier Thanksgiving fare. Enjoy!

kickpleat said...

Oh my goodness, I just melted a little. She has grown and changed, imagine that! Totally adorable and sweet as can all get out, I'm sure. As for the slaw, I'm a slaw eater (eastern european heritage, I'm sure) and this one looks like a winner. Will be filling out my winter with slaw, that I am sure of.

megan said...

This one it looks like I could do...and I have almost all of the ingredients - but of course I have a million remedial questions! Does the raw cabbage chill out a little when you put the dressing on it? I sometimes find cabbage a little bitter and a little tough...maybe mine hasn't been fresh enough? Or maybe I could steam it for just a second? Can I make a big batch and put it in the fridge, or will it get soggy?

Thanks for all of the help with the veggies -

molly said...

oh, i am so with you on slaw. i cannot bear mayo almost anywhere (apologies, eli!) but adore cabbage, and so, when i discovered mayo-less slaw, was over the moon. i rely on this one all winter (http://www.remedialeating.com/2010/01/i-much-prefer-rush-limbaugh.html). but there is most definitely room in this inn for a second slaw.

Elishag said...

Mmm yes this slaw - so happy to have devoured it at your table last week (can I say last week like last summer even though it is only Tuesday?).

Jess said...

Jeanette, I swear, from the time she falls asleep to the time she wakes up from her nap, she's bigger - and generally more awesome. xo.

Megan - Do not steam, my friend! Yes, a dud of a cabbage can sometimes be a little woody. I'm sure the cabbage's pedigree has something to do with it. The cabbage from our farm share was considerably sweeter and lovelier in texture than the supermarket variety, although it's possible to find suitable specimens there, too. Here's some information on how to pick a winner. About slaw storage: We've only ever had the tiniest amount (a few forkfuls) leftover from any given batch, but we have packaged it up and put it in the fridge. It's still fine the next day, though the red from the cabbage bleeds out a bit and there's a lesser crunch to it.

But hey, here's an idea for how to make this work for one: Slice all of the cabbage for the recipe and store it in a big Tupperware or plastic bag in your fridge. Make up the dressing, and store it in a separate container, also in the fridge. Have your peanuts and sesame seeds standing by on the counter. Then, when you want some slaw, you can mix it up bowl by bowl.

Ooo, Molly, that slaw! I am so on it. Thank you!

So glad you could join us, Elisha. More you at our table soon, please.

megan said...

Genius, thank you! I will see if I can use these tips to find a good one at the farmer's market this weekend -