Posted by Miriam Rubin on March 18, 2013
What’s new about cabbage? Not too much, or is there?
That’s what I thought as I shredded half a head to make coleslaw to accompany our St. Paddy’s Day dinner of boiled corned beef, carrots and potatoes. Usually for slaw I make an oil-and-vinegar dressing or use a recipe adapted from Lolis Eric Elie’s wonderful book, “Smokestack Lightning.” His recipe dresses the slaw with a mixture of mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar.
This particular head of cabbage was very sweet and firm. New crop instead of the older heads that are “hot” when you take a bite. I started to think about how you go about making sauerkraut. First you rub the shredded cabbage with salt and then you bruise it. I decided to use that as a guide, to soften the cabbage a little and get more flavor into the shreds.
I took a couple teaspoons of kosher salt and rubbed the shredded cabbage — like massaging kale for a salad. Seasoning it before adding the dressing should work better and get it to start wilting earlier. I then added chopped sweet white onion, olive oil, red wine vinegar, a milder white wine vinegar and tasted it. A little sharp. I knew that letting the slaw stand would help to mellow the vinegar bite which my husband dislikes. But I didn’t want it to be bland.
Balance, I thought, adding just a couple teaspoons of sugar. But still, it needed something else.
What goes well with cabbage? Caraway! I’d read in Melissa Clark’s column in the Times something about caraway imparting sweetness to vegetables. I put about 1/2 teaspoon into a mortar and bruised it with the pestle (or is it the other way around?) I can never remember. Caraway doesn’t really break up; it’s awfully hard and dense, but I think beating it up brings out something, or it tones my arms.
I added the caraway to the bowl of slaw.
A new favorite was born.
Incidentally, the other half of the cabbage went into the corned beef liquid to simmer with the carrots, potatoes and onions. My husband’s request. We’re having the rest of this wonderful meal tonight.