Thursday, June 30, 2016

Napa Cabbage Slaw

It’s slaw season! We’ve moved through the delicate cool-weather greens with light dressings and now we’re on to crunchy vegetables, shredded or chopped, and coated in zesty dressings. This one and many variations on it, has been one of my favorites for years.

There are lots of ways to do what is often called an “Oriental” cabbage salad. The one my mom perfected has chicken, crushed ramen noodles, and a simple dressing. I never could make it as well as she did, so I stopped trying it and looked for others to make my own.

I used to make the original version of this salad, which was in Cooking Light magazine, every summer. I eventually learned what other good things I could do with the dressing, which was the inspiration for the dressing in this post. I also eventually learned that I could add and subtract from the slaw mixture, using what I could get at the farmer’s market. In the version I present to you here, I left out the crushed crunchy noodles and added sugar snap peas.

This recipe was originally written for napa cabbage, and that’s what I used this time. I was lucky enough to score a huge (huge!) leafy head of it at the local farmer’s market. Since it is so leafy, the salad will get a bit wilty as it becomes leftovers. If you’re worried about that (I’m really not), you could use crunchier European-style green cabbage instead.

You could also add in whatever vegetables you like or want to get out of the refrigerator before shopping for something new. Bok choi, radishes, green beans, broccoli, anything that you don’t mind spending some time chopping or shredding into slaw shape would be great. You could also substitute things like sesame seeds or finely chopped peanuts or cashews for the almonds and/or sunflower seeds.

Of course, if you really want those delicious, crunchy ramen noodles in the salad, soaking up that delicious sweet dressing, there’s plenty of room for them, too.

Napa Cabbage Slaw with Asian Flavors
Based on a recipe in Cooking Light, August 2000

This recipe makes a lot of slaw. You could halve it if you want less.

1/3 cup rice vinegar
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Thai sweet chile sauce
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup slivered almonds
8 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage
2 large carrots, shredded
2 cups diagonally sliced sugar snap peas
1 cup thinly slice scallions

1. To make the dressing: combine the vinegar, sugar, Thai sweet chile sauce, tamari, canola oil, and sesame oil in a small saucepan. Whisk together. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and boil gently for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

2. Combine the sunflower seeds and almonds in a small skillet. Heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the nuts and seeds are lightly browned, being careful not to burn them. Remove from the heat and set aside.

3. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the cooled dressing over the mixture. Toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle the toasted sunflower seeds and almonds over the top. If the salad stands a long time before serving, stir to redistribute the dressing that has pooled on the bottom of the bowl.

Makes 10-12 servings.

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