Monday, March 16, 2009

Not at all Irish

I've been working on this recipe for a while and decided to write about it today in honor of St. Patrick's Day. I'm not Irish and I won't be making a corned beef, but here is a cabbage dish that bears no resemblance to the boiled variety. I hesitate to call it cole slaw, as this dish is so crisp and fresh and vegetal, that I don't want to conjure up the mayo mush that ordinarily comes to mind.

If you've been to the new shop in Kensington, MD, sub*urban trading co., then it's likely you've seen the bowl of slaw in the refrigerator case. That slaw was a revelation for me - not only mayo-free, but actually delicious enough to base a meal around. I've eaten it over leftover brown rice with a little touch of crumbled feta on top and I've had it with quinoa. My kids, especially my son, love it. While sitting at one of their pleasant little tables, my friend Karen ate it one day with a side order of sub*urban's white bean salad and a bit of baguette. It makes a great side to just about any dish that doesn't have a prominent sauce. It would be great complement to a roasted meat, chicken or vegetable, alongside a starch. And, it is so compelling that you will be tempted to just eat it out of the bowl when you are supposedly checking the flavor for salt.

This is the kind of non-recipe that you should feel free to play around with. If you like it tangier, a bit more lime juice will do the trick. Love celery? Add a couple of additional stalks. Increase or decrease the amount of onion, salt and pepper to your taste. I used a mix of canola and olive oils as I wanted a lighter flavor than most olive oils provide, but experiment with that too. This dish needs to sit for a spell for the flavors to blend and for the cabbage to soften and "pickle." So you have to plan ahead a little. On the other hand, it takes only about five or ten minutes to set up - depending on whether you're cutting your own cabbage. I found precut cabbage (not cole slaw mix - it's just cabbage!) at Trader Joe's recently, which worked fine.
If you find yourself in Old Town Kensington, check out sub*urban trading co. It's an organic, gourmet market/bakery/carry-out that is, I think, also looking into becoming a bistro. The owners are a mother and son who do great things with both baked goods (the most delicous scones!) and savory dishes. I think she is the baker and he the savory chef. They have a couple of lunch items each day and one carry-out dinner item each afternoon. If you can't get there, here's my version of their slaw. I'm calling mine cabbage vinaigrette. Call it whatever you like, but give it a try!

Cabbage Vinaigrette

(serves 4 -6 as a side dish)

1 small head green cabbage (or half a large head), cored and thinly sliced or 1 (10 ounce) bag pre-shredded cabbage

3 stalks celery or to taste, thinly sliced

1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced in small strips rather than in rings

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice, about 1 good sized lime. In a pinch, you can substitute cider vinegar, but the lime has a great, fresh flavor

2 tablespoons canola or other light vegetable oil (I've also used avocado oil)

1 tablespoon olive oil

kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

Mix the cut cabbage, celery and red onion in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix the lime juice, canola oil and olive oil. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables and top with a pinch or two of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. Although the mix will not look slaw-like yet, the cabbage will give forth some liquid and will eventually look a bit "pickled." Mix well and let sit on the counter for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. After the hour, taste for salt and pepper and serve. If not using yet, refrigerate until ready to serve. If you like this not too chilled, like I do, remember to take the bowl out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving.

This dish is best served within a few hours of preparation as it will continue to pickle over time. I like it the next day, but it is a different taste.

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