These hot few weeks, nothing cools like a crunchy salad. I like shards of crisp, brittle cabbage, which deserve the name “iceberg” much more than most types of lettuce. If you’ve ever bought a whole head of one, you’ll know how many mounds of shreds they’ll yield, and how they last long in the crisper, too. The fresh, sweet flavor of cabbage compares to that of pole beans, just in season now here on the Northeast; combining the two, I mixed up a garlicky, aioli-like dressing with mint to give this salad some pungency and herbal freshness.
The dressing came about as a sort of mistake: setting out to make a Caesar dressing from scratch, I picked up some anchovies to mince along with capers and garlic and whisk into an egg yolk with lots of olive oil and fresh lemon juice. But when I came home from the grocery store, the tiny tin of anchovies was nowhere to be found. (Does this ever happen to you?) Regardless, I plowed forth and left out the anchovies, but did slip in plucked leaves of mint from my windowsill plant for another deviation from Caesar. And, left out the Parimiggiano-Reggiano, although could have grated this as a topping for the salad. It’s too hot for that, I figured.
minced garlic, capers and a yolk about to be whisked
While you can use a head of green cabbage, savoy, red cabbage, or non-cabbages like Romaine, I went with a half-spent head of napa cabbage, because I had some around. (The smaller, oblong leaves toward the center might even resemble Romaine.) I also had a handful of beautiful, butter-yellow Romano beans (which are flatter and wavier in shape than cylindrical green beans, but taste much the same). These dipped into boiling water followed by an ice bath rendered them deeper in color, and tasty while retaining an elastic snap.
the crunchy cabbage soaks in dressing
For the first ninety-degree day of the official summer (I think this might have been the day after the summer solstice, so only its second day yet!), this platter of fresh veggies really hit the spot. I probably burned off all the calories in it while sweating for just a few minutes.
Creamy Cabbage Salad with Romano Beans & Mint
(makes 2-3 servings)
6-8 leaves napa cabbage, ends trimmed and sliced in long, large diagonal sections (or substitute with 3-4 cups shredded green or savoy cabbage)
1/4 lb romano beans (or substitute with green beans), stems trimmed
handful fresh mint leaves
for the dressing:
1 egg yolk (white completely separated and reserved for another use)
1 clove garlic, minced and smashed
1 teaspoon capers, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a small pot of water to a boil and prepare a bowl of cold water with ice cubes on the side. Blanche the beans in the boiling water for about 1 minute; drain and transfer immediately to the ice bath. Once cool, after about 10 seconds, drain and pat dry.
Using a fresh clove of garlic (old or rubbery ones won’t work well here), mince it finely and then smash the pieces using the side of a chef’s knife while scraping along the cutting board. Go back and forth a few times, really pressing down on the garlic, until it’s a translucent pile of pulverized bits. Mince back and forth a few more times. Transfer to a small bowl with the egg yolk. Add the lemon juice and whisk. While whisking rapidly, drizzle in a tiny amount of the olive oil. Continue whisking and slowly drizzle in the remaining olive oil until emulsified and thick. Whisk in the minced capers. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
In a large bowl, toss the chopped cabbage and beans with the dressing. Sprinkle in the mint leaves and serve.
Four maple leaves: A somewhat heavy dressing weighs down this otherwise nutritious salad. Whatever cabbage you’re using, it’s loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and provides calcium and fiber. The green beans lend Vitamin K and a bit of protein. All told, these ingredients are very low in calories in themselves; it starts to change, however, when you pile in the olive oil and whisk it up with an egg yolk. Use organic eggs to ensure you’re getting the most beneficial nutrients from the yolks, like beta-carotene if they’re deeper orange in color. Don’t be shy with the fresh garlic, either; it’s popularly thought to help lower cholesterol levels, if not necessarily benefit your breath.
Seven maple leaves: I’m pleased that more and more local farmers are growing Asian veggies and that napa cabbage is no longer restricted to the Asian grocery store. These and other cabbages are just in season and healthy-looking, thanks to so much rain this spring. (Don’t be afraid to swap them in for non-Asian uses, and vice-versa.) Romano beans are an heirloom variety that I can only, however, seem to find at the Greenmarket, and are lovely and versatile. Olive oil, lemons and capers are foreign to these farmlands, but necessary to my pantry staples, and probably many of yours.