Nothing much leafy and green this week—even the kale took a vacation. The hot, dry days of summer’s end yield little for a green salad if you are intent on eating local, organic produce from the market. So, what to do?
I reach for cabbage. My farmer at Daydream Farm grows THE BEST little red cabbage heads, chock full of vitamins, antioxidants and flavor. And Biver Farms has tender heads of pastel green that are almost buttery. Best of all, I can make a cabbage salad on Sunday night and it’s good all week; just spoon out and enjoy. In fact, as the week goes on, its favor just intensifies. The sturdy little cabbage holds up well, and even small heads make a bigger salad than you might think.
Start with a small head of red or green cabbage, chopping or shredding fairly fine. This is your base, to which you can add just about anything that is equally sturdy—remember it’s going to be waiting for you in the refrigerator for most of the week (Unless, of course, you eat it up!). Here are my go-to ingredients for this dish:
- A large carrot or two, diced or shredded
- A large red onion, chopped
- A diced fennel bulb (We haven’t discussed fennel, but we will. For now you can try it if you are familiar with its luscious licorice flavor or just leave it out if you are unsure.)
- About a cup of finely chopped cauliflower and/or broccoli, if my husband isn’t eating the salad, neither if he is. Men.
- A bell pepper, chopped—any color will do, but I love red in this recipe. And if you are feeling really spicy, a diced jalapeno, too.
My favorite dressing for this salad is a miso-based one from the Vegetarian Planet cookbook by Didi Emmons. Published back in 1997, it is still one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. I got mine as a Christmas present about a year after its debut and have been cooking from it ever since. You can find all Ms. Emmons’ books and her wonderful philosophy online.
For now, I’ll share this miso dressing recipe to whet your appetite for more of her scrumptious dishes:
- One tablespoon minced ginger (Here’s a hint: buy a large piece of ginger and stick it in the freezer. You can slice off what you need for a recipe with a sharp chef knife and the rest keeps indefinitely—no throwing away moldy ginger in the frig. Further, frozen ginger peels easy-peasy and grates beautifully.)
- Two (I use three) cloves of garlic
- A pinch or two of fresh ground black pepper (I use whole tellicherry peppercorns and crush finely with my mortar and pestle.)
- Half cup brown rice vinegar
- One tablespoon honey (I use a raw organic honey that is thicker than processed, so I need to spend a little extra time whisking, but the flavor and nutrients are worth it to me.)
- One tablespoon miso paste—any variety, which can be found at your local health food store and maybe even some of the bigger chains, now. (I shop at Green Earth Grocery in Edwardsville, a family-owned icon in our little town. Just like the farmers at your farmer’s market, getting to know and support your local health food store is worth an extra mile or two of travel and worth spending an extra dollar or two. The connection to knowledgeable staff and caring people is priceless.)
- Half cup oil—and here is where Ms. Emmons and I sort of part ways. She uses canola oil here, but over the past few years, canola oil has become a point of controversy—especially canola oil produced in the U.S. Most of it is from GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) seed, which we can delve into at another time. For this recipe, I use organic flaxseed oil—fairly neutral flavor and full of omega 3s, that are nothing but good for you. Again, you can find it at any health food store in the refrigerated section most likely. Flaxseed oil is perishable and will go rancid unless handled with care and refrigerated. Mind the expiration date on the bottle, if you buy some.
- Three tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional but a very nice touch)
In a bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients.
Place a damp, folded towel underneath the bowl to secure it in place. While whisking, slowly add the oil in a thin stream. Then whisk in the sesame seeds, if you are using them.
One of the best parts of a Didi Emmons cookbook is a list of “variations” that follow a lot of recipes; they allow you to experiment and to substitute with other ingredients you have in the kitchen or have found at the market. I won’t go into them here, but definitely check her out. There are cookbooks that are just interesting and then there are cookbooks that are can’t-be-without tools—she creates tools.
Now to ensure some variety to this week-long salad, I add on items with each meal that might not hold up so well over time. My favorites are:
- Salted and toasted pumpkin seeds
- A diced apple with a splash of lemon juice
- A diced avocado with a splash of lime juice
- A cucumber, seeded and diced
- A chopped tomato
- Some spinach, kale or other lettuce, if it becomes available
What’s in your cabbage salad this week?