If I had been raised in a different household, I would probably have a little more interest in that big-deal sporting event taking place in Dallas this weekend. Ryan, good sports fan that he is, will be enjoying the Super Bowl from his parents’ comfortable couch at their annual party. I, on the other hand, will be soaking up the scenery and fresh air in Carmel to celebrate my dad’s birthday and I could not be happier. I bet you would probably like things around here more if I was anything close to a football fan — because lord knows I would not make a fruity slaw for game day. In fact, sitting amongst the hot wings, guacamole, chili (or whatever your favorite football game watching fare might to be) this salad would look a little self-righteous — in a “I’m a healthier eater than you are” kind of way. No one wants Mr. High and Mighty at their party. Plus, there is nothing dip-able about this salad. I suppose you could eat it with your fingers, but you would have a big mess on your hands.
However, this fruity, tangy, sour, crunchy slaw any other time of the year will completely knock your socks off (given the blizzards affecting 30 states right now, you might miss your socks if they went missing). This sweet winter slaw comes from the London restaurant proprietor Yotam Ottolenghi and his vegetarian cookbook, Plenty. Never have fruits and vegetables looked so captivating on the pages of a cookbook. (It would be a safe to say that you will see several more of Ottolenghi’s recipes around here in the near future. Very safe.) Winter fruits papaya and mango are combined with crisp cabbage, fresh mint, cilantro and tossed with a complex citrus dressing to create a salad so fresh and bright you would think it were summertime.
Alas, summertime it is not and when I pack my suitcase for this weekend it will include an umbrella, scarves (plural), and a wool coat. At least I will have the memory of this salad to keep me warm. Maybe I will bring Plenty with me as a reminder — keep it on my bedside table for some light reading. You will probably be nice and warm this weekend (what with the Super Bowl Sunday spectating and all) but come Monday when you are looking for the anti-football meal to atone your game day food sins reach for this slaw. It involves a few extra minutes of knife work to slice all of the ingredients into thin little slivers, but the reward of a flavor-packed fresh side dish will be worth every moment spent over the cutting board.
sweet winter slaw
adapted from Plenty
yields 6 servings
For the dressing:
scant 1/2c lime juice (from about 4 limes), seperated
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped into small pieces
2T sesame oil
1t soy sauce
1/2t chili flakes
4T vegetable oil
In a small saucepan add half of the lime juice, the lemongrass, honey, sesame oil, soy sauce and chili flakes, and reduce over medium heat for 5 -10 minutes until thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat and let cool. Once completely cooled, strain into a bowl, whisk in the remaining lime juice and oil. Set aside.
For the salad:
1-1/4c macadamia nuts
1T unsalted butter
1/2t chili flakes
7 inner leaves savory cabbage, shredded
1/2 red cabbage, shredded
1 mango, peeled, stoned and cut into thin strips
1 papaya, peeled, deseeded and cut into think strips
1 red chili, deseeded and cut into thin slices
handful fresh mint leaves
handful fresh cilantro leaves
In a medium, dry frying pan over medium heat, add the macadamias and dry roast for a few minutes until fragrant and lightly colored on all sides. Add the butter and let it melt. Add the sugar, salt and chili and use a wooden spoon to stir constantly, to keep the nuts coated in sugar as it caramelizes. This will all happen in a minute or two so do not let yourself get distracted — the nuts will burn quickly. Remove the nuts from the pan and let cool on a sheet of parchment paper. Once they are cool give them a rough chop.
In a large bowl add the shredded cabbage and the rest of the ingredients. Add the cooled dressing, toss and taste for seasonings. Serve immediately.