Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lemon, Olives and Feta

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.  I rarely hesitate to put feta cheese and kalamata olives in salads with greens or beans, pasta dishes, and tarts and on pizzas, but for some reason it never occurred to me to put them in a cabbage slaw.  That is, until I read the interpretation of “Lahanosalata” in Recipes from the Root Cellar by Andrea Chesman.

I’ve put various vinaigrettes and creamy dressings on cabbage slaws and flavored them up with caraway, coriander, apple jelly, and horseradish. I’ve applied sesame vinaigrettes and spicy peanut dressings. I’ve added carrots, apples, cauliflower, radishes, turnips and packaged ramen noodles. But never feta cheese and kalamata olives. Huh. Well. I’m glad I was able to remedy that flaw in my repertoire.

This salad is a less summer-weather-dependent version of the Greek salad with which we’re all probably somewhat familiar. It leaves out the tomatoes and cucumber, which are unreliable at best in the supermarkets this time of year. In lieu of the more familiar lettuce or spinach that demand to be eaten as soon as the lemony dressing is poured upon them is sturdier shredded cabbage. It’s quite simple, really, and if, like me, you have a lonely cabbage threatening to dry up in your neglected refrigerator and you can’t quite face another traditional slaw, it’s a revelation. It’s exciting. It’s delicious.

I added even more lemon juice and a little lemon zest to the dressing. I liked its pucker-y zing, but if you don’t care for foods so tart or acidic, you might want to leave out a tablespoon of juice just to be safe. You can always add more if you want it. The same goes with salt. I kept the amount small, since the feta and olives contribute a lot of their own saltiness, and the acidity of the lemon juice fills in some of the flavor necessity for me that salt might in a blander dish. I recommend tasting for salt after the salad has been sitting for the recommended time in the recipe below and deciding then if it needs more.

I also added a bit of fresh parsley and a smidgeon of fresh rosemary. The rosemary just gives that little, little piney note that I like in a lemony, feta-y, olive-y dish, but I wouldn’t want it to dominate the flavors like it so easily can. Just a tiny bit is enough, and if you don’t have rosemary on hand, it probably wouldn’t be worth buying a bunch just for the pinch I added to this slaw.

Whatever you do, at least try to remember this treatment of cabbage slaw. In fact, go make it right now. Okay, at least write the idea down. It’s really great.

Cabbage Slaw with Feta and Olives
Adapted from Recipes from the Root Cellar by Andrea Chesman

6 cups thinly sliced or shredded cabbage (about ¾-1 whole small head)
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
½ cup kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary (optional)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste if needed
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine cabbage, red onion, olives, feta, parsley and rosemary in a very large bowl. Toss gently to combine.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest and juice, olive oil, salt and pepper until very well blended. Pour over cabbage mixture and toss gently to coat evenly. Let stand 30 minutes refrigerated or at room temperature. Taste for salt and adjusting seasoning before serving. Refrigerate leftovers for a few days

Makes 6-8 servings.

Other recipes like this one: Radish and Carrot Slaw with Zesty Citrus Dressing, Deconstructed Spanakopita Salad, Chickpea and Olive Salad with Greek Flavors

One year ago: Chicken and Vegetable Tetrazzini

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