Last night was hot, again. I had to run some errands in Syracuse yesterday, including a supermarket stop. Casey gave me instructions: “Get something to go with cole slaw.” I wound up getting club sandwich fixings from the deli, since I knew we had an open package of bacon, and I knew it was once again likely that neither of us would want to heat up the house. (Lucky for us, bacon cooks well in the microwave.) I still find it impossible to take pictures while I’m actively cooking, especially when I have my hands covered with cole slaw, so you’ll have to live with just a description. Considering what happened, that might be all for the better in this instance.
My standard cole slaw recipe comes from Rick Bayless. It’s published in Rick and Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures (which also has recipes from non-Mexican cuisines, such as his Oklahoma upbringing) and is also available on line. I’ve made the sour slaw as well, but the sweet slaw is more to my taste.
I used the older head of cabbage, which started out about the size of a Chicago softball, the kind that’s ordinarily used in games where nobody wears gloves and (once upon a time) in the Ft. Collins, CO co-rec softball games, was the ball in play when a guy was at bat. This is definitely on the small side for a cabbage, but the color (more intense than I’d usually expect) makes up for that. I started by peeling off a couple of the outside layers of leaves, to get rid of most of the dirt. One thing that’s been driven home this summer is that yes, vegetables get grown in dirt. Then I gave the head a rinse, cut off the stem end again closer to what was left of the head, and halved the whole thing.
I looked inside one half.
And I found half a slug, nestled between two layers of leaves.
The other half of the slug was, of course, inside the other half of the cabbage.
I used the tip of my knife to flick out both halves of the slug into my garbage bag. Then I cleaned my knife, rinsed both halves of cabbage again, and cut wedges out from around the slug pockets. (Ewwww!)
I continued to butcher the cabbage, cutting each head in half again. It’s easier to cut the core out of a cabbage quarter than a half. When I cut the halves into quarters, I found a few other questionable patches inside, where the leaves looked brown and felt gritty, as if dirt had gotten embedded inside while the head was in the process of being formed. I trimmed those away as well. There were also a few places to trim where something had eaten holes through a few layers of leaves. I guess the slug, the dirt, and the holes are all proof that the produce is organic, or at least isn’t being sprayed much.
When I make cole slaw, I cut the cabbage quarters crosswise into very thin shreds, and I stop when I get to the point near the bottom where the leaves are mostly thick veiny and tough, rather than leaf. Sometimes I can cut some more shreds from the sides of the quarters at this point, sometimes not. This particular cabbage didn’t have great yield, giving me only a total of about 4 cups of shreds. The slug trimmings were all in the veiny area, so I didn’t lose any slaw shreds to the slug. But the holes and grit were both up at the top of the head, in prime shredding territory. I think the bigger issue is that the cabbage started out small, but I lost the same size amount at the bottom to veins that I would on a larger head. I just didn’t have as much good stuff left afterwards. This is the first real disappointment of the harvest this year. I wonder if maybe the cabbages could have grown bigger, but the farmers felt that without the cabbages last week and this week, the haul would have looked skimpy? Or if maybe it’s just a problem to grow big organic cabbages, and the pests that normally get sprayed away make it that much harder to grow big cabbages?
At any rate, I blowtorched, steamed, and scraped a red pepper, and diced it. I’m not quite anal enough to turn anything into a perfect 1/8 inch brunoise; I just cut it into strips, gathered the strips together, and cut across them. I also thinly sliced a couple of ribs of celery. This all got tossed a large bowl with a pinch of salt.
For my dressing, I used Hellmann’s low-fat mayo. I used the nutritional information on the label to convert the called-for 3/4 cup into 180 g, and then used half of that (90 g) because I only had about half the cabbage the recipe called for. I stirred in about half a tablespoon of sugar, and scraped the dressing onto the vegetables. I used my hands to mix that all together, and then scraped it all back into the smaller bowl I’d used to mix the dressing and covered it with plastic wrap so it could wait in the fridge until dinner. We don’t have unlimited refrigerator space!
The cabbage, what there was of it, was tasty. Casey made a traditional three-layer club sandwich with mayo and lettuce but without tomato (we didn’t have any), and ate his cole slaw on the side. I went back to my Pittsburgh roots and made my sandwich on bread that was warmed in the toaster but not toasted, using cheese, meat, and cole slaw directly in the sandwich. (If I’d had french fries, I would have put those in the sandwich also.) But I ate my bacon on the side last night.