Coleslaw in Full Color

Oh, we have been having some hot days here in the Northeast! Triple-digit heat index. Summer with a capital S.

Staying cool. Eating cool.cabbage 1 7.20.13

Cooking becomes more about slicing and assembly. No heating required.

I opened the fruit drawer in the fridge, and the deep orange of the nectarines caught my eye, and then, on the shelf right above, the purple of a head of cabbage, the remaining head of the two given to me by a gardening friend.

Like summer and its gardens bursting with vibrant colors, these two seemed perfect together, and I decided to combine them in a colorful coleslaw.

I like coleslaws. With a mayonnaise dressing or with vinaigrette. But not too much. I don’t like soupy coleslaws. And I like the pale color of the usual green cabbage with bits of purple, orange, and green from purple cabbage, carrots, and green peppers. It’s classic.

This one pulled those supporting colors and made them the stars.

Into a bowl I mixed: one-quarter of the purple cabbage, in bite-sized shreds, equaling about three cups; two nectarines, thinly sliced; thinly sliced white onion, about a half-cup; several basil leaves (maybe seven or eight), rolled up and then sliced into thin shreds; salt and pepper; one tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil; one and a half tablespoons rice vinegar.

So beautiful with the purples, oranges, the addition of the pale yellows from the now-sliced nectarine, greens and whites…a summer garden.

cabbage 3 7.20.13And the salad: crisp, light, fresh. Three different crunches, from the cabbage, the nectarines and the onion. The nectarines brought a tartness and fruitiness. The basil added a mintiness.

I made this salad earlier in the day, but didn’t eat it then. Had several things still to do, including working at our local farmers market, where I volunteer.

I came home with a generous section of whole wheat bread from one of the vendors, hard crust, soft on the inside, still warm. It was a section from the last loaf of bread left over at the end of the day, and they divided it and shared it with a couple of us there. A gift.

This was my dinner when I got home: a slice of that bread topped with my purple cabbage-nectarine coleslaw, and a few leftover black beans from the fridge on the side.

Sliced, assembled. Hot summer night dinner.

Summer Cabbage

cabbage 3 7.14.13With berries and cherries and peaches and beans and chard and, well, all the wonderful seasonal things showing up at farmers markets and grocery stores, I didn’t expect to be writing about cabbage. Something, that despite its use in salads, like crisp coleslaw, I associate more with winter. And which, let’s face it, doesn’t really seem as lush and sexy as berries and cherries and peaches and…!

But I came back from a few days away over the 4th, and there in my fridge were a beautiful head of green cabbage and a beautiful head of purple cabbage just waiting to be used, and that had been picked fresh from a friend’s garden just before I went away.

As seasonal as the others…my summer cabbage.

Maybe because I like reubens and specials, my thoughts turned to how to use it in a sandwich. But probably also because I just plain like sandwiches, whether between two slices of bread, on a roll, wrapped….

So I pulled out whole-wheat tortillas, the green cabbage, garlic, extra-firm tofu, a lime, soy sauce, sesame oil, an avocado, basil, and a yellow cayenne pepper I picked from our garden.

First I sliced eight ounces of tofu and laid the slices in a baking dish. I squeezed juice from the lime into a small bowl, to which I added two teaspoons of soy sauce, one teaspoon of sesame oil, one minced garlic clove, and a couple grinds of pepper. The soy sauce and sesame oil balanced the lime juice. Poured that mix over the tofu to marinate.

cabbage 2 7.14.13While the tofu marinated, I heated enough canola oil to coat a pan over medium to medium-high heat, and cut the green cabbage in half…and then that half in half to get a nice wedge, leaving the core in. Keeping the core allowed me to slice the wedge into slices, which I sautéed in the pan with a clove of minced garlic tossed in, and salt and pepper to season. Five minutes or so per side, til nicely browned.

Cabbage slices sautéing, tofu marinating. I charred the cayenne pepper over the open flame of a burner, then thinly sliced it at a bit of an angle to get rings. When I got to the top of it, where most of the seeds were, I poked them out with the tip of my knife.

I removed the cabbage to a dish, added a little more oil to the pan, and then sautéed the tofu slices along with the marinade. As the marinade cooked off, the slices browned.

Used half the avocado and cut in slices. Rolled several basil leaves up and cut them into thin shreds.

Assembly. On a whole-wheat tortilla, softened/charred a little over a burner: a cabbage slice, a few tofu slices, a few avocado slices, a couple of pepper rings, some shredded basil. Rolled up.

cabbage 1 7.14.13

Had a grilled quality sans grilling. Avocado brought a nice creaminess, peppers had a kick!, all with the back notes of lime and basil. Some parts of the cabbage were crisp, and some soft, all with that nice mellower taste cabbage gets when it’s cooked.

A terrific summer cabbage wrap.