Cabbage is not the sexiest thing to blog about. The whole group of vegetables that fall under the cabbage genus (is it a genus? I am guessing so) just conjure up images that are rather unappealing and the best of times.
My memories of cabbage really aren’t that good to be honest. The British have quite a history assaulting this group of plants, and quite honestly a lot of it could quite easily fall under the “war crimes” category, for it is that bad. I remember going over for Sunday lunch at my Grandparents a few times a year. Generally my grandmother was a great cook, she could knock a roast dinner like nobodies business. Cabbage however was another thing. The cabbage got boiled. Boiled for a very, very long time. “Fall apart tender” would be one polite description that could be used.
Judging by the smells in retirement villages, I reckon most grandmothers are the same. You walk in to one, and you smell three things: Pee, cookies and overcooked cabbage. So, I approach cabbage with a group of complexes that I am sure a psychologist would have a field day with.
Personally my taste is either for raw cabbage that has texture – like the Savoy featured here. Either that, or cabbage that is cooked over high heat and fast – in a wok, preferably with a somewhat spicy sauce. Either that, or fermented and/or pickled. Think saurkraut or kimchi.
Here we go raw. Totally raw. This recipe is thanks to a couple of sources. The first is a truly excellent book on simple Italian Food. The book is called “Italian Two Easy”, and is by the lasses from the brilliant River Cafe in London. Most recipes have no more than 5 ingredients. Because of this you have to make sure your ingredients are first rate, otherwise the recipes fall flat on their behinds.
That brings me on to my second source. Scott at Sausage Debauchery. You might remember him from a previous post I did on Bottarga Pasta. He is a meat curing buddy of mine that just happens to have started an Italian foods imports company, and sells his stuff online.
Scott has salted capers. Not the brined stuff you find in grocery stores. Capers packed in sea salt. The difference really is quite incredible. The capers have their own unique taste depending on area, and give a far more complex and well-rounded flavor. A dish like a salad of cabbage, capers, olive oil, vinegar and parsley is exactly the right dish to use them in.
This cabbage salad recipe has 5 ingredients. Cabbage, capers, olive oil, wine vinegar, parsley. Best to make sure each of those ingredients is the very best you can find.
You will be surprised by this one. It is incredibly clean, salty with a good acidic pop. Enough texture and flavor complexity to keep it interesting enough to be a small starter salad to a casual dinner get together. Just make sure your guests are out the door before the well known side-effects of cabbage start to raise their ugly heads..
The only real change I have made to this salad is to throw a little radicchio in to the mix, just for a little more visual and textural personality. Oh, I have bumped up the amount of capers a bit too.
Savoy Cabbage salad recipe, with capers and parsley
(adapted from “Italian Two Easy” Rose Gray, Ruth Rogers)
1 head of savoy cabage
1 head of radicchio
6 tablespoons of salt packed capers
1 handful of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon of wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of really darn good olive oil.
Cut the cabbage in half through the core. Remove the core from each side. Slice finely across the cabbage halves. Do the same for the radicchio. In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar and olive oil.
Rinse the capers under cold running water, then soak them in a couple of changes of cold water for 10 minutes, to remove some of the salt.
In a large bowl mix together the cabbage, radicchio, capers and parsley. Pour a little of the dressing over the salad. Toss. Add more dressing as needed, but don’t overdo it.
Have a taste, making sure to get all ingredients on your fork. Add salt only if required – those pesky capers can sure be salty.
In case anyone is interested.. here is the setup for the capers shot.