I like to think it was fate that brought me to today’s recipe. One those chance encounters that really changes your perspective on life experiences. As it was, I’d always been a fan of creamy coleslaw but never really a fan of cabbage. I know there are legions of devotees to such standards as cabbage soups and sauerkraut. But, hey, I just don’t particularly like the taste of cabbage, okay? The only reason I like the creamy-style coleslaw you get at every truck stop and road-side diner is because it masks the flavor of the cabbage while still providing a good bit of crunch.
With that background info in mind, I wasn’t really looking for a new cabbage recipe. But during my last stint at the Headhouse Market around Thanksgiving, a customer practically came running over to our table when she spied the heads of crinkly-leafed Savoy cabbage we had. (Yes, that’s “savoy”, not “savory” for anyone wondering if I forgot the “r”.) Granted, these are the prettiest members of the Brassicaceae family of crops and worth some attention. But this customer was so very enthusiastic about them that I had to ask what her plans were for the two heads she bought. Turns out the NY Times had just printed a recipe for Savoy Cabbage Slaw With Applesauce Vinaigrette that she was dying to try.
Being the diligent customer service representative that I am, I made a mental note to go home and find the recipe so I could be familiar with it and recommend it to future customers if it proved worthy. After reading off the list of ingredients, my own curiosity was piqued so much that I decided to give the recipe a try with the small head of Savoy I’d brought home with me.
Holy molly, boy was I wrong about cabbage! Or, perhaps to be fair, up until this recipe I hadn’t known how to highlight its strengths. The fruity vinaigrette and the nutty walnuts along with the zing of the radishes all harmonize with – but do not mask – the cabbage’s flavor. I’m also certain using Savoy in this recipe is critical to its success since this variety of cabbage is not as poignantly “cabbagy”, and its texture is crisper than some of the standard heads (which I sometimes find almost rubbery).
In my opinion, this recipe is mislabeled though. It’s not a slaw; it’s a salad. It’s best served immediately while everything is still crisp and the flavors are distinctive, not merged together like in a typical slaw that usually needs to sit around for awhile before being consumed. I did keep my leftovers for three days, although the third day was definitely the last I would have eaten them if I hadn’t finished the last bite then.
My perspective on cabbage has certainly changed forever. This slaw/salad is that good! Now that I’ve enjoyed this beautiful variety of cabbage so much, I’m immensely attracted other recipes for it. Do you have one to recommend? Nothing fermented please. I was thinking about trying this one for Braised Savoy Cabbage next.
Savoy Cabbage Slaw With Applesauce Vinaigrette
Adapted from the NY Times
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon applesauce
1 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cups savoy cabbage, sliced as thinly as possible
1 large bunch red radishes
3 or 4 Granny Smith apples
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste.
* I did not grate or shred the radishes and apples. Instead, I sliced them very thin with a good sharp knife. I think I prefered this preparation as it ate more like a salad than a slaw.
Make vinaigrette: In a bowl, mix together mustard, salt, vinegar, honey and applesauce. Slowly whisk in olive oil a little at a time until dressing emulsifies. Set aside.
Make salad: Put cabbage in a large bowl. Using the shredding blade of a food processor or a box grater, shred radishes until you have 1 cup. Add to bowl.
Core apples and shred in food processor or with box grater until you have 2 cups. Put shredded apple into a bowl filled with lemon juice and 2 cups water, to prevent apple from browning.
When ready to serve, gently squeeze water from apple, add to cabbage and toss slaw with vinaigrette. Add mustard seeds and toss again. Sprinkle walnuts on top of slaw. Season with salt and pepper.
(makes 6 servings)