Question: Why do we eat coleslaw in the summer, usually? Okay, it’s crisp, sweet and cooling, and I even thought it was called “cold slaw” as a kid. But it’s made primarily of… winter cabbage. And we’ll be seeing lots of heads of those for the rest of the year.
A salad of delicate leafy greens may appeal to most palates over the sturdy winter cabbage, but the latter has its charms, too. For one, you can get it in purple, which contrasts against pretty much everything else in the dead of winter (except beets). It stays crisp in your crisper for weeks, even more if you don’t chop into it. And one head goes a long way. When you take a knife to a single head of cabbage, you’ll produce five salad bowls of feathery, shredded stuff. It’s compact salad, to go.
This would be a recipe I’d include in an imaginary book titled, “The Bountiful Brassica” (I have a running list of cookbook titles I’d like to see published growing all the time. Hit me up if you need a title ghostwriter, please.) Cabbage (and most vegetables in the brassica family) is far too good and too versatile to enjoy only one way when raw. Though I love drenching shredded green cabbage in that sweet mayonnaise sauce for coleslaw, I prefer to dress red cabbage in something thin and tangy. It keeps the color a little more alive. For this salad, I started with apple cider vinegar, then worked my way through the fall pantry, coming across maple syrup recently foraged from Vermont. They went together like pancakes with applesauce.
You can add any number of ingredients to a shredded cabbage salad, and I’ve tossed in my share of favorites, like crumbled feta, green apples and nuts. Green apples are a great addition here when chopped into matchsticks, because they’re so tart and crisp. But what’s even more tart, and holds up really well when julienned in the firmer, sourer cousin to the apple, quince. I tried eating a slice of this fruit raw this morning, and had to spit it out, it was so sour. But, my CSA share from Red Jacket Orchards has been giving us quince steadily for the past three weeks, and we’ve got to eat them somehow. At last week’s pickup, the coordinator instituted a quince cook-off to keep ideas afloat. I brought julienned quince that was quick-pickled in rice vinegar, sugar and salt for the occasion. It was good, but I had a feeling that they didn’t need to be pickled — quick or long — at all. Raw quince is already so tart.
I did pickle a bunch of baby carrots earlier in the fall, in a chili-speckled vinegar brine. This jar was opened for the first time, and one bite proved they were still crunchy yet spicy-pickled through. If you don’t have pickled carrots (Brooklyn Brine makes some great Chipotle Pickled Carrots, though), and want to substitute raw carrots for this salad instead, go ahead.
I don’t think I’ll miss all the arugula and baby lettuces from the summer too badly with cabbage around. A big, colorful bowl of red cabbage salad will make appearances at Thanksgiving and all the other big feasts of the winter, probably. As mentioned, one head goes a long way. Have this salad, and plan ahead for the rest of it now.
Red Cabbage Salad with Quince, Pickled Carrots and Maple-Cider Vinaigrette
(makes about 4 large servings)
half a medium head red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
half a large quince, julienned
2-3 small pickled carrots (or substitute 1 fresh cabbage), julienned
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
couple pinches of salt
optional: toasted nuts or sunflower seeds (pictured above) for garnish
Whisk together the maple syrup, vinegar and salt and drizzle in the olive oil while whisking to emulsify. Toss with the rest of the ingredients. Can be chilled for up to a couple hours or served immediately.
(for 4 large servings)
1/2 head red cabbage (at $1/lb): $0.75
1/2 quince (from CSA): $1.00
2-3 home-pickled carrots: $0.35
olive oil, maple syrup, vinegar and salt: $0.80
optional nuts or seeds: $0.50
Two brownie points: You won’t get the cold-weather blues from red cabbage. The antioxidants will fight hard for your immune system, with six to eight times more Vitamin C than green cabbage (which is already an excellent source). Red cabbage is also dense in phytonutrients which have linked the vegetable to prevention against cancer and other diseases. Plus, it has tons of Vitamin K, whether green or red (take that, spinach and kale!). Eating it raw makes it not only taste less “cabbagey” but preserve a lot of these vitamins and minerals, so don’t be shy and dig into a great big bowl of one a day, and make more space in your medicine cabinet by losing the vitamin jars.
Eight maple leaves: Yep, quince are being grown locally in the Finger Lakes, by Red Jacket Orchards. I served this salad to two friends last night and they were amazed to hear it — although both had never actually seen the fruit before. How cool is that? Of course, cabbage grows in this state like it does in most parts of the world. I may have to ferment some into sauerkraut this season as my pickle collection (like the pickled carrots) are already beginning to run a little thin.