Suzi's Blog

Red Cabbage Salad with Almonds: The Upscale Alternative to Cole Slaw from James Peterson

 

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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.

 

Ingredients:

  • 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

 

Preparation:

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

 

A Meal for Mothers’ Day: Rice and Cabbage Minestra

Mothers’ Day approaches. Fathers and children are perplexed. You would love to cook a wonder for Mom, but, let’s face it, the kitchen is her domain. Her cooking skills are better than yours, much better. Now what?

Time for a history lesson.

Before there was a Rome, Central and Northern Italy had a wonderful civilization call the Etruscans. The Etruscans were eventually absorbed by Rome, and details of that society remained in the shadows for thousands of years. In the past decades, though, more and more knowledge about the Etruscans has emerged. For example, their food.

The Etruscans made a dish called a pul, which was a thick combination of grains, beans, and vegetables cooked together. That pul is the ancestor of Parma’s minestre, which in Parma is physically denser than the regular Italian minestrones you may have enjoyed. In Parma today, a minestre  is more of a stew-soup. While meat can be a component, beans or rice are often used.

This recipe, from The Cooking of Parma by Richard Camillo Sidoli, presents a rice and cabbage stew-soup that any husband can do. Really. There’s some chopping involved, so older children can help Dad in creating this one-pot meal. Add a glass of wine, perhaps a simple salad, and a rose on the side. Mom will be thrilled. Dad may find himself recruited for kitchen duty.

The wine and cheese ingredients here could be added at the end of the cooking, but tradition is to serve the soup and cheese on the side and let each diner add their own portions. In our picture above, some green herbs have been added for color and a spark of flavor. As with any soup, you can use your imagination to make this dish personal and loving.

The Cooking of Parma was published in 1996, but we still pull it off the shelf to enjoy the secrets and flavors of Parma’s regional food.

Minestra Di Riso E Cavolo

Yield: serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ quarts meat broth or good-quality store-bought
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 green celery rib
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 4 cups 1-inch cubes cabbage
  • 1 cup Italian or long-grain rice
  • ½ cup peas [ideally fresh, but frozen works, too]
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ cup red wine
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preparation:

Put the broth in a soup pot over medium heat. Dice the carrots, celery, and onion and add to the broth. When the broth reaches a slow boil, add the herbs. When the vegetables are half-cooked, in about 20 minutes, add the cabbage and rice. When the rice is al dente, add the peas and scallion, season to taste with the salt and pepper, and continue to cook until the peas are cooked through but not mushy. Add the parsley and remove the pot from the heat. Pass the wine and the cheese at the table.

Source: The Cooking of Parma by Richard Camillo Sidoli