Saturday, May 1, 2010
The Admirable Cabbage, as Salad
Spring is here and soon we will not be eating so many cabbage salads. From November to April we eat cabbage salad almost every day. In the long Northeastern winter, the local vegetable selection winnows to cabbage, carrots, potatoes and onions. There is no drudgery to the frequency of our cabbage salads, carrot salads, braised carrots or various potato dishes. Their tastes and textures make sense in the cold. At every meal, I admire the cabbage.
Cabbage is such a sturdy, reliable plant, so competent, such a survivor. All qualities that are good to be reminded of when winter feels interminable. Cabbages and carrots (all winter crops, I think) create sugars to prevent them from freezing; getting sweeter helps them survive the cold. I sure don't do that. When I start to feel cold, I get crabby and complain, a lot. But each night when I eat my cabbage and carrots, I think of their survival in this climate and they inspire me.
Now, the growing season is fast arriving. The spring season this year is warm and rainy. With the days warmer, everyone is more relaxed and everything feels easier. No blizzards obscuring the road. No snow to shovel off the drive. No boots to heave, no black ice.
Soon there will be sun gold tomatoes, radicchio, snap peas, strawberries, blueberries, black raspberries, melons, squash blossoms, fresh rabbit and chickens. Soon the sturdy stance of the cabbage will give way to the fleeting, capricious black raspberry. Sweetness will be easy to come by.
When winter comes again, I know I have the lovely, trusty cabbage to look forward to. I will be nourished by her and perhaps too I may become a little sturdier, a little sweeter in the deep, long winter of our home climate.
One cabbage halved, cored and shredded. A handful of parsley roughly chopped, a few stalks and leaves from the heart of a bunch of celery finely diced. Add a diced a shallot. Mix in a bowl. Shower with sea salt. Sansho and/or black pepper to taste. Dress with a squeeze of lemon juice, some chardonnay vinegar and olive oil. Toss and let sit before serving.
Also try: Add grated ginger and nori strips, a wonderful version if you are having rice and fish. Also, sliced scallions instead of shallots for variation.
If your cabbage is a little tough, chewy or pungent, try salting the cabbage heavily after it is shredded. Mix the salt into the cabbage and let sit in a colander for a half hour. Soak in cold water, rinse thoroughly and dry in a clean kitchen towel. Then make salad as above. The texture will be more fresh and crisp with a slightly milder taste.