Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Gift of Tomatoes and Cabbage

I can’t remember where or when I heard this, so I can’t give credit where it is due, but I seem to remember someone once saying that people give you zucchini from their garden because they know you, but they only give you tomatoes from their garden if they love you. If that is true, then our friends Jen and Jake must love Harry and I very much. Not only did Jen give us a heap of beautiful, delicious heirloom tomatoes from her garden, but also a lovely, huge purple cabbage. How did I ever get so lucky?

I suppose there is something in my recipe vault that would use both the cabbage and the tomatoes in one dish, but I’d been wanting to re-test a recipe for an Asian-style red cabbage salad with a spicy peanut dressing that I threw together last year. Well, all right, here was the cabbage. No more waiting.

I like to shred cabbage for slaws with the slicing blade on my food processor rather than the shredding blade (an idea think I got from Ina Garten on Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa). I find that the cabbage just gets mutilated and mushy when I try to shred it with the machine, where the slicing blade makes long, even and substantial pieces. I switch to the shredding blade to prepare the carrots in this salad, or any slaw for that matter. I don’t have good luck using the machine on bell peppers, however, which I also put in this salad, and thinly slice them by hand, trying to mimic (but never mock) the size and shape of the cabbage. You could use a knife to cut the cabbage as well, if you’re good at such things (I’m not) and a box grater to deal with the carrots if you have stronger fingers and tougher knuckles than I do.

The dressing for this salad has a sweetish, rich kick from the peanut butter, and some flashy umami from the soy sauce and fish sauce. (I recommend trying not to think too much about fish sauce being made of fish. Try to think of it as liquid umami unless, of course, you’re strictly vegetarian, in which case, you should know it’s made of fish). The dressing leans more, however, toward the sharp and spicy side with the chili garlic sauce and raw garlic and ginger. The lovely cabbage I received has a nice bite to it, reminiscent of a hint of horseradish. If your cabbage is wimpier and you want some more zest, you could add some shredded daikon radish or even turnip to the slaw.

My written recipe for this salad called for “½ a small red cabbage”…um, whatever that means. Clearly, I did not have a small cabbage, and I gained a little too much in my attempt at translation to mass and/or volume. In other words I shredded too much cabbage, and would have like the ratio of dressing to cabbage to be a little higher. I’ve reflected what I think is a reasonable change in the recipe below.

This recipe was a great use for some of that beautiful cabbage, (I’ve got about two-thirds of it left. Back to the recipe vault!) and I have big plans for whatever tomatoes I can’t just eat in the next few days. I hope to post something I’ve done with them, but tomorrow night, I’m headed out the “Omnivore’s Solution” lecture by Michael Pollan, author of three of my favorite food and eating-related books (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, The Botany of Desire, and In Defense of Food). I’m so excited, and I hope that I learn something new that I can post here soon!

Cabbage Slaw with Spicy Peanut Dressing
You can use any kind of cabbage you have, such as red, green, napa or a mixture. Mirin is a sweet wine that you can find in the Asian sections of some supermarkets. You could replace it with 2 teaspoons of sugar or honey.

The Dressing
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon Asian chile sauce or chile garlic sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
3 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger

The Slaw
1 pound red cabbage, shredded
1 cup grated carrot
½ cup diagonally sliced green onion
1 cup julienned bell pepper (any color)
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
¼ cup chopped peanuts

1. In a medium bowl, vigorously mix the dressing ingredients until very smooth. This may take a minute or so.

2. In a very large bowl, mix together the cabbage, carrot, green onion, bell pepper, cilantro and mint.

3. Pour the dressing over the slaw and mix well to coat. Sprinkle the top with the peanuts.

This makes a really big salad, perhaps 10 servings.

1 comment:

  1. The Michael Pollan lecture was very cool, as is the man himself. I hope to publish a post about it on Thursday.