I never did like cabbage.
Until recently, it was the purple wormy thing stuck into pre-bagged salads to offer a shred of color, or else it was the equally wormy thing I used to pick out of everything it wandered its way into: carrot salads, green salads, the Portuguese stews my grandmother makes. Or, when I was very young, it was a place with a patch that cute dolls came from. As I have already explained, I was quite the picky eater as a child, but cabbage? I had put that in a whole other category of foods that made me shudder alongside steamed grape leaves from the back yard, say. (Yes, I was served that once, one fine evening my mother was feeling especially ambitious, but more resourceful.) The word even sounds a bit like garbage.
Needless to say, cabbage was very unwelcome on my plate for many years. I wasn’t even that excited about it yesterday, when my mom suggested some sort of Asian slaw recipe. I relented partly because it was her birthday and she could eat cabbage if she wanted to, and partly because it was slim pickings in the garden. So I agreed, bravely, and we set to making a side dish of carrots and cabbage.
It was fantastic. It was addictive even, so much so that I couldn’t stop taking a fork to it with the fridge door still ajar while it chilled. That, to me, is a mark of a great recipe. This probably isn’t news to anyone else, but bear with me while I proudly declare my own discovery: cabbage is really quite mild. Mild! Nothing to be afraid of at all, and certainly not wormy. When prepared raw, it seemed to more of a textural ingredient than a flavor one. It offered a satisfying crunch while taking on the flavor of the ingredients it was mixed with – in this case, a sweet-tart dressing of lime, ancho chile, and honey. This was a cool, crisp, summertime pile of vegetables, but better.
I’m even plotting my next slaw adventure, preferably for lunch, or maybe for dinner if I can wait long enough. Call me crazy, but I think I have a new obsession for julienned vegetables. Julienned cabbage, even. If you really can’t stop shuddering at the thought, I’ll forgive you this once, but I’ve found the key to coming around to cabbage is by pure force. So grab a bunch of the stuff and a knife, hand it to a loved one, close your eyes, and give it a try. You’ll like it, I promise.
Jicama Slaw with Lime –Ancho Dressing
(Adapted from Epicurious.com)
Note: I made all kinds of changes to this recipe. Namely, you’ll notice there is no Jicama, so it should perhaps be renamed to something more fitting. Kenzi’s Mom’s Birthday Slaw, maybe. I followed the dressing recipe exactly and it yielded more than we needed, but it would be great on a simple green salad, so we kept the leftovers. For the vegetables, I’ll just provide a list of ingredients and you can throw everything together accordingly, because that’s the best kid of recipe anyway.
For the Dressing:
½ c. fresh lime juice
2 tbs. rice vinegar
2 tbs. ancho chile powder
2 tbs. honey
½ c. mild vegetable oil, such as canola
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk everything together but the oil in a bowl. After everything is combined, slowly whisk in the oil (in a thin stream) to emulsify. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the Slaw:
This is the fun part. Follow this exactly, or have a field day with mild vegetables you have in the fridge. Cucumbers would be great – I think I’ll try that next.
½ head napa cabbage, cored, shredded (the cabbage: carrot ratio should be roughly 1:1)
4ish carrots, coarsely grated
Handful of cilantro, chopped
A few scallions (green and white parts)
Small handful sesame seeds, toasted
Combine, toss, and coat well with the dressing.