I have this thing about cole slaw. Most of it is really not very good, particularly the deli styles that seem to have been processed through a lawn mower. You disagree? Take a deeper smell.
And, Suzen and I can never agree if we try to make it for ourselves. I like mine dripping with sauce while Suzen prefers it on the dry side. How could we ever find a compromise? Well, James Peterson has supplied it.
This salad is positively wonderful. Yes, it’s cabbage and it’s sort of like cole slaw but oh so much better. Great oil and great vinegar combine in a brilliantly bright dressing that makes cabbage sound like something absolutely “gourmet.”
As the picture shows, we served this with sliced duck breast on top, transforming this from a great salad to a perfect entree dish. You can see the previous post here for James Peterson’s insights on cooking duck breast to perfection.
If there were ever incentive for you to take a peek at Peterson’s Glorious French Food. Published in 2002, the book is proving, for endless reasons, to be a classic.
Red Cabbage Salad with Almonds
Yield: serves 6 as a side-dish or first course
Background from James Peterson:
I always feel a trifle guilty when I throw out those little cups of coleslaw that come with the take-out pastrami sandwiches that have become an all-too-important part of my everyday lunch diet. But I’ve never been fond of coleslaw, the closest American equivalent to red cabbage salad, partly because I’m not a fan of bottled mayonnaise and partly because the cabbage is either too tough and chewy, or limp and mushy.
This salad solves both problems. The mayonnaise is replaced with vinegar and oil, and the shredded cabbage is rubbed with salt, which softens it while still leaving some texture. Almonds or pistachios or pecans provide a delightful contrasting crunch. Since the flavor of nuts goes well with cabbage, I usually use walnut, hazelnut, or pistachio oil from my favorite producer, Le Blanc who roasts the nuts, enhancing their flavor and shelf life, before pressing out the oil. Extra-virgin olive oil will do in a pinch, but if you’re making an assortment of crudités, don’t use it on everything or the salads will taste too much alike.
Sherry vinegar is my favorite vinegar for this salad because its own nutty flavor underlines the character of the oil. While I usually serve this salad as part of an erudite plate, it also makes an excellent side dish for grilled foods, sandwiches, or anything that might normally be served with coleslaw.
- 1 small red cabbage (½ pounds loose or wilted outer leaves pulled off and discarded)
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- ⅓ cup champagne vinegar or other flavorful wine vinegar, such as balsamic
- ½ cup almond oil made from roasted nuts, or extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup almonds, husked pistachios, whole pecans, or walnut halves, toasted for 10 to 15 minutes in a 350°F oven until fragrant, then allowed to cool; walnut halves chopped coarse
- Freshly ground pepper
Cut the cabbage in four pieces through the bottom core. Slice the wedge of white core out of each quarter. Shred each quarter as finely as you can. This is easiest if you have a plastic vegetable slicer or a mandolin but if you don’t have one, place each quarter on a cutting board and slice it as fine as you can with a very sharp chef’s knife.
Put the cabbage in a mixing bowl with the salt, and rub it between your fingers for about 2 minutes until the salt dissolves and you can’t feel any more salt. Transfer the cabbage to a colander, set the colander over the mixing bowl, and let drain for about 30 minutes. Squeeze the cabbage in your hands, in little balls, to extract as much liquid and salt as you can—you’ll be amazed how much liquid comes out—and put the squeezed cabbage in a clean mixing or salad bowl (if you’re serving or passing it at the table). Use a fork to toss the cabbage with the vinegar and oil. Stir in the nuts just before serving so they don’t get soggy. season to taste with pepper.
Source: Glorious French Food by James Peterson
We need to clarify something. The phrase “slow cooker” does not refer to some dim-witted person in the kitchen. No, a slow cooker is one of those kitchen devices you may have ignored for some time. You may have one already, orphaned on a back shelf. Or you may walk by them in your local kitchenware store. Yes, you’ll stop, look at the device, and just ignore it.
Well, it is time to dust off that creature you already have or go buy a brand new shiny one because the world of slow cooking is capturing attention everywhere. And the best advocate for slow cooking is Michele Scicolone.
Michele’s The Italian Slow Cooker was a tour de force in her home court: Italian cooking. Now, she has a brilliant new success in The French Slow Cooker. Advocates of French cuisine have nothing to be worried about. Michele’s multiculturalism shines on every page with French food given all the loving respect it deserves.
Michele describes her own awakening here, learning how a slow cooker is the ideal way to create a wide away of French home dishes and do it more easily and more successfully. Soufflés and quiches require careful timing when using an oven. In a slow cooker, with its low and even warmness, these “sensitive” dishes are far easier to prepare. Vegetable dishes, gratins, seafood, and even gooey desserts like crème caramel can all be easily created with your slow cooker.
Suzen’s starting point for testing this new book was this Moroccan Chicken with Apricots and Almonds [I wanted the crème caramel, but …]. We have a pantry always ready with dried fruits and nuts. And each fall we stock up on the best organic chickens in the Hudson Valley, from Free Bird Farm who offer them Saturday’s at the Kingston farmers market. Our freezer has a shelf full of birds ready to go — after just a little defrosting.
Yes, this recipe calls for chicken breasts but Suzi simply sliced that whole chicken in half. It looked a bit like a closeup scene from a television hospital show. In fact, Suzen has told me that my next surgery will be home-based. I think it’s all a gimmick to get me to shovel the snow.
Michele Scicolone describes this dish as lightly spiced. It’s exactly that. As the chicken cooks, your kitchen is not overpowered by scent. There’s just this magical suggestion that a great meal is forthcoming.
Michele suggests serving this over couscous. We did rice instead. Either way, all the chicken, all fruit, and all the sauce are soon gone.
Moroccan Chicken with Apricots and Almonds
Yield: serves 4-8
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 cups chicken broth, ideally home made
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 cup dried apricot halves, quartered
- 8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons sliced toasted almonds
- Chopped fresh cilantro.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden, about 10 minutes. Mix in the flour and spices and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the broth, lemon juice, and honey. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the apricots.
Pour half of the sauce into a large slow cooker. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Place the chicken in the cooker, overlapping the pieces slightly. Drizzle with the remaining sauce. Cover and cook on low for 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until the chicken is cooked through.
Serve the chicken sprinkled with the almonds and cilantro.
Source: The French Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone [Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]