“Cooking with Julia” || JUNE 2012
If you think cabbage is winter food, consider this: early summer cabbages are more mellow in flavor than those grown for autumn harvesting, particularly those that are showing up in farmers markets everywhere. One variety I’ve seen quite a bit of lately and snap up whenever I can is Arrowhead cabbage, a comparatively small and mild early summer cone-shaped brassica. I shot these carts filled with them (or perhaps they are Winningstadt, a German cone-head cabbage?–so similar it’s hard to tell the difference) at a farmers market in South West Germany. Despite the ubiquitous Italian expression, “Non vale un cavolo,” “It’s not worth a cabbage” (parallel: “not worth a damn”), the Italians love cabbage as much as the northerly countries do and it’s cooked in many different ways.
As with other kinds of cabbage I grill it, braise it, sauté it with onions in butter–or simply with butter and a touch of curry powder, or cook it sweet-and-sour. Because of their sweetness, early cabbages are particularly ideal for salads or slaws such as this one. It’s a quick and easy side dish for pork, smoked meat, any kind of sausage, chicken, or virtually anything grilled.
Cabbage Salad with Caraway
For 6 people
Adapted from The Vegetarian Table: Italy, by Julia della Croce with photographs by Deborah Jones (Chronicle Books)
While I have seen a few recipes for raw cabbage salads–what in America we would call coleslaw–in Italian cookbooks written after the war and in Italian food magazines, they are relatively unknown in Italy. Where they appear, they are probably influenced by international recipes. Nevertheless, my mother has been making this recipe since I can remember (she says she invented it when she moved to America), and it is still very much a part of my summer menus. Even in devising a dish foreign to her native cooking, she, in her inimitable fashion, improved on the original recipe. While many coleslaws are overly sweet, or just too plain, this one is delicious and interesting. In the fall I sometimes add thin slices of apple (half an apple for these proportions). The combination of ingredients is unusual but harmonic. This dish might be served as an antipasto as well as a salad course.
1 medium Arrowhead or green cabbage (1-1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 cup mayonnaise, preferably home-made
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard, or 1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
Using a large, sharp knife, remove the hard core from the cabbage and then cut the cabbage very finely. While it may be tempting to use a food processor, the best results are achieved by hand. You should have about 8 firmly packed cups. Using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, scrape the carrot and then cut it into long, fine strands or paper-thin slices about the length of the cabbage shreds. Place the cabbage, carrot, and onion in a large bowl.
In a small bowl stir together the mayonnaise, water, vinegar, caraway seeds, salt, and mustard. Using your hands, combine the mayonnaise dressing with the cabbage mixture. Cover and refrigerate the salad for up to 3 hours.
Note: This salad is best eaten right after it is made, when the cabbage and carrot are extremely fresh and crisp. It can be prepared up to 3 hours in advance of serving, however.