Don’t tell me you are a cabbage-hater!
I would not hold it against you, because cabbage has a bad reputation: poor thing, it’s totally unjustified. A plump, red cabbage is a thing of beauty! I admit that members of the Cruciferae family tend to emit a nasty smell as they cook, but this recipe will not offend your senses. I’m talking about raw cabbage, in a sweet and sour concoction that will amaze your taste buds. I promise. Give this recipe a try, cabbage-hater, and don’t be ashamed of changing teams 😉
SWEET CABBAGE SLAW
(adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2008)
3 T sugar
3 T rice vinegar
1 small serrano pepper, thinly sliced
3 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced (see my comments)
2 cups Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 T orange zest
chopped cilantro leaves, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
fresh lemon juice (optional)
Stir sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves, no need to boil it. Remove it from the heat, add ginger and serrano pepper and mix.
Place both types of cabbage in a large bowl, add the orange zest and cilantro, mix to combine, add the reserved dressing and toss to coat the cabbage. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If it seems too sweet, add some fresh lemon juice.
Let it sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature, tossing it a few times to distribute the dressing. You can also put it in the fridge for several hours, but bring to room temperature before serving.
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This recipe, as it appeared in Bon Appetit, was the side dish for an Asian-inspired flank steak. The steak was good, but the slaw stole the show. It goes well not only with steak, but also with grilled chicken, ahi tuna, or pork… It is excellent next day, because the flavors will be a bit sharper and the cabbage a bit softer.
The most important thing: VERY thinly slice the cabbage. If you have great knife skills, congratulations! Put them to use in this recipe. If you are like me, grab your food processor to prep the red cabbage. I followed the advice of a friend (hello, Gretchen!) and started with the slicing blade, then added the slices back to the bowl (in small batches) and pulsed with the steel blade a couple of times. Sounds more involved than it is, and the results are worth it. Cabbage slaw will only be good if you excel in the prep stage. Napa is best sliced by hand, though, since it is not very sturdy.
The flavors are exciting: sweetness comes first, then the brightness of the ginger, the slight acidic tone of the vinegar, and finally the taste of oranges and cilantro in the background. Come to think of it, for a dish that contains no fat whatsoever, it conveys an amazing amount of flavor…
Variations: use both red and green cabbage instead of Napa, for a crunchier version. Omit cilantro if you don’t like it. Add lemon juice at the end if a bit too sweet for your taste. Add finely shredded carrots for great contrast of color and extra crunch.
Sweet cabbage slaw…. nothing to dislike about it! 😉