Thursday, March 18, 2010

On raw cabbage and empty bottles

Many of the go-to Jewish recipes for the modern Shabbat maker is the angel hair pasta salad. My family has multiple versions of the recipe that we like. Some have soy-based dressing, most have green onions, and all are quick, easy, and meant to be eaten cold. One version of the recipe adds color through julienne peppers and one through purple cabbage.

Last Shabbat, I went on a fruitless search for angel hair cabbage salad recipes that called for the cabbage to be cooked. I love cabbage, but I don't prefer it raw. I discovered through extensively Googling that thinly shredded cabbage is also sometimes referred to as "angel hair cabbage". I eventually gave Google up and set out to create the following recipe. In its reinvented form, it's warm and the cabbage is cooked. The star of the dressing is a balsamic-mustard combination, which does not have the cloying sweetness of a lot of similar dressings. I thought it was delicious, and everyone else either agreed or was excessively polite.

Doubly Angelic Cabbage Salad

A pound of angel hair pasta
A bag of shredded purple cabbage (if you do it yourself, you too will be purple.)
A medium onion, diced or a medium red onion, diced
Vegetable oil
Salt, pepper, minced garlic
1 recipe "mustard bottle salad dressing" (see below).

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Saute onion in oil over low heat until soft. Add salt, pepper and minced garlic.
When onions are soft, add cabbbage. Saute until soft, stirring constantly.
Mix pasta, cabbage and dressing in a large Pyrex and serve warm.

Mustard bottle salad dressing:
The origin of mustard bottle salad dressing is my deep and penetrating hatred of almost-empty bottles in my fridge, which nicely balances my inability to throw away anything useful.

The idea of mustard bottle dressing did not come to me at Passover time, but it's helpful to bring it out then, when we empty our fridges to make room for more (expensive) food. The trick involves making a salad dressing in a mostly-empty bottle, repurposing the contents for the dressing and the bottle as a low-class cruet. This trick can be performed on any mostly-empty bottle, but is especially helpful with thick condiments like ketchup, mustard and mayo, where it's hard to get the last bits out.

The trick is to combine wisely ingredients from the categories below, so that your dressing is balanced. I recommend equal parts fat and acid. The ones I used in this salad are bolded.

Olive oil, vegetable oil, mayo

Lemon juice, vinegar, wine vinegar, rice vinegar, salsa, cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar

Orange juice, sugar (2 tsp), honey, ketchup

Mustard, dijon mustard, soy sauce, peanut butter

Salt, pepper, garlic, basil, oregano, etc. etc.

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