Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Asian Cabbage Slaw To Start A New Season

I’ve been out of school for more than a decade but every September still feels like a slap in the face, for vacation has ended and it's time to get down to business. My Augusts tend to be rather indulgent anyway since it’s Birthday Month, and while I’m all for celebrating for extended periods of time, even I can admit that this most recent birthday month was a tad excessive. If nearly every meal in August included some form of cake, pastry, or ice cream, is it any wonder that my clothes are now too tight?? Just call me Murder She Wrote, but it’s not too difficult to figure that one out.

After the rude awakening of unsuccessfully trying to squeeze into my clothes this September, I knew I had to buckle down and make some changes. I wasn’t going to do anything drastic like permanently eliminate sugar or never eat a smidge of dairy ever again, for I don’t respond favorably under the threat of “YOU CAN NEVER DO THAT AGAIN FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!” especially when my relationship with chocolate or cheese might be put at risk. But I knew I needed to cut down on those things and make a daily commitment to eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Two weeks into this vegetable-friendly eating plan, I must say that it’s been relatively easy to stick to, especially with this Asian Cabbage Slaw in my repertoire.

I’ve never been a fan of traditional coleslaw, and I get really skeeved out by a bunch of shredded green cabbage sitting around in a puddle of watery mayonnaise. However, in my version the typical mayonnaise is swapped out for a sesame-ginger-soy dressing, and substituting purple cabbage for the traditional green already makes it much more appealing to me. In fact, I can actually get excited about eating purple cabbage, a variety I’ve always found more interesting than its pale green sibling. Its vibrant color alone makes me happy.

Sometimes I’ll throw finely diced cucumber or yellow peppers into the mix, but my recipe always includes a healthy dose of thinly shredded carrots and is flecked with emerald green in the form of slivered scallions and chopped cilantro. I often make this slaw with a spicy peanut dressing, but since I’m trying to get back into my smaller-sized jeans, I think I’d better stick to this lighter PB-free version of it. Tamari and neutral grapeseed oil form the base of the dressing, punched up by a little fresh ginger and zingy lime juice, while a bit of sesame oil lends a toasty note.

This Cabbage Slaw is so satisfying that I’ve been eating it practically every day, and I’m happy to report that my clothes are fitting better again. And while it’s certainly not a piece of decadent cake, it’s fair to say that I would have enjoyed eating this during birthday month too. I’ll have to remember that for next August.

One Year Ago: Table For One

This is my own ad hoc recipe, falling under the category of “Stuff I Like To Eat”. I always look for the smallest heads purple cabbage when making this recipe. Not only are the smaller cabbages easier to chop finely, their taste is also sweeter. Lately I’ve been chopping extra scallions and cilantro and making extra dressing to mix into shredded cold poached chicken which, when paired with this slaw, makes an excellent healthy meal.

For the sesame-ginger dressing:
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or other neutral vegetable oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon hot chili oil (you can also substitute the same amount of chili paste or a generous pinch of crushed hot pepper)
1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and grated (about 2 teaspoons grated)

For the slaw:
3 cups finely shredded purple cabbage
1 cup finely shredded carrots
1 English hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded and cut into small dice
2 scallions, thinly sliced
½ cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

Combine all the ingredients for the sesame-ginger dressing in a small bowl and whisk together. Taste for seasoning and balance, and adjust according to your taste. (If you like it a bit zingier, add more lime juice or grated ginger. If you want a stronger nutty flavor, add another splash of the toasted sesame oil. Add a drop more hot chili oil if you’re bold and like extra heat.)

Combine the vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Add half the dressing and toss lightly to coat. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary, and add just enough dressing so that the slaw is lightly coated with the sesame-ginger mixture. Serves 4.

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