I’ve been writing about enjoying and preserving green tomatoes this month, but they aren’t the only vegetables pulled from the garden as the season winds down. From the hoop house, I’m harvesting the last of the peppers. From the main garden, I’m snagging sweet carrots, a late seeding of cilantro, and the last cabbage.
After years of losing brassica crops to moths, I recently started growing cabbage again. The key is a small hoop frame straddling the bed, with ultrafine mesh netting clipped in place over the hoops and enclosed ends. Light and water can get in, but the plants stay cool and free of cabbage worms. It also means I’ve returned to making cabbage salad. The recipe I remember needed upgrades, primarily because it relied on instant noodles for crunch. I can’t recall what my mom served with the salad, but these days I’m hooked on a shrimp pairing.
Asian Cabbage Salad
1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
crushed smoked chili flakes (optional)
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1 small head of cabbage (about 1-1/2 pounds)
3 scallions or green tops from onions
1 red bell pepper
1 fresh red chili
1/2 cup cilantro
In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the sesame seeds and toast for about 2 minutes, until lightly brown. When the seeds begin to pop, add the crushed pepper. Stir in the almonds; cook for another minute, until just toasted, and then pour the mixture onto a plate to cool.
Prepare the salad vegetables, adding them to a large bowl as you work. With a large knife, shred the cabbage and cut the scallions and bell pepper into thin slices. Using a peeler, peel the outer layer from the carrots, discarding it if desired, and then continue peeling the carrots into thin strips down to their core. Deseed and mince the chili, and chop the cilantro.
Toss the salad vegetables until combined. Add the seed mixture and gently toss again to mix. Pour on half of the Asian Salad Dressing just before serving; toss to mix, taste, and then add more dressing as needed. Serves 4.
Asian Salad Dressing
1-inch gingerroot, grated
2 tablespoons tamari, soy, or fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey or ultrafine sugar
6 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
Peel the garlic and ginger. Mince the garlic cloves as finely as possible, and grate or finely mince the ginger. Add to a small jar or measuring cup. Pour in the tamari, lime juice, and vinegar, and then add the sweetener; shake or whisk until the sweetener dissolves. Add the oils and shake or whisk again until the ingredients combine. Set aside for at least 1 hour so that the flavors blend. Shake again just before serving. Refrigerate any leftover salad dressing; it tastes best within the first few days but will keep several weeks. Makes about 1-1/4 cups.
Tips & Tricks
- With the bad rap instant ramen has been getting in recent years, I was happy to stick with seeds and nuts for a bit of bonus crunch in the salad. My mother’s recipe threw a package of uncooked ramen into the pan with the almonds; if you want to retain it, consider a brand without petroleum by-products, such as Koyo or Koka, and throw out the salt-heavy seasoning packet.
- Cabbage is easiest to shred with a knife. Remove any loose outer leaves from the cabbage, and then set the stem end on a cutting board. Slice down the cabbage to the stem, and then slice each half in the same way. Cut the solid core from the center of each wedge, and then lay the flat part of each wedge on the cutting board and thinly slice the cabbage into strips; continue to cut the strips as needed into your desired shredded texture and length.
- The natural flavors in the salad are quite mild but are brought out by the heavily flavored dressing. Despite the long list of ingredients, the dressing follows my preferred salad dressing base ratios. For a simpler dressing, combine 2 parts oil and 1 part rice vinegar and/or lime juice, and then add any of the other listed ingredients you have on hand.
- To turn this salad into a one-dish meal, you can simply add cooked shrimp, tofu, or another protein to the bowl; the extra salad dressing can even be used as a marinade or glaze. For a fuller plate, serve the salad alongside grilled shrimp (see below) over rice.
Twice as Tasty
As part of my travels this month, we spent more than a week sailing in the San Juan Islands. We fondly refer to our Venture 25 as a floating VW bus—it even has a pop top. So think of our sailing adventures as more akin to car camping than luxury yachting.
That doesn’t keep us from eating well. Our route was intentionally loose, so I planned enough meals to keep us self-sufficient for the bulk of the trip. We carried treats such as homemade quick bread and granola for breakfasts, ate filling salads as we sailed through lunch, and grilled up fish tacos, pizza, and shrimp for dinners in quiet, off-season anchorages. If I can make a dish in the open cockpit of a small sailboat, you know it’s easy.
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons wasabi powder
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon crushed smoked chili flakes (optional)
Defrost the shrimp by placing them in a bowl of cold water for about 20 minutes. Once they are pliable, peel and devein the shrimp; put the meat in a clean zip-close bag or container and the shells in your stock bag. In a small jar or measuring cup, combine all remaining ingredients and shake or whisk until the sweetener dissolves. Pour the marinade over the shrimp, toss until they are evenly coated, and refrigerate, covered, for up to 1 hour. Soak 8 bamboo skewers in cold water for about 20 minutes.
Heat the grill until it’s very hot. Thread the shrimp onto the soaked skewers, nesting them as closely together as possible. Brush the remaining wasabi marinade on both sides of the shrimp, if desired. Lightly oil the grill grate, and then lay the skewers on the grill and cook for 2 minutes per side, until the shrimp become opaque and lightly charred. Serves 4 with Asian Cabbage Salad and rice.
Tips & Tricks
- Unless you have a direct live shrimp source or are dropping your own pots, always buy raw shrimp with the head off but peel on that has been, and is still, individually frozen and bagged. This shrimp was deep frozen at sea, transported frozen to the store, and can be kept frozen until your meal. Any other shrimp will have been defrosted, perhaps repeatedly, at some point in the delivery chain.
- Let me emphasize this: buy raw. Grilling precooked shrimp, whether frozen or fresh, is the equivalent of grilling a ribeye, freezing it, and grilling it again: tough, rubbery, bland. Unpeeled shrimp have many perks: they generally cost less, are in better shape, and yield the basic ingredient for simple and versatile Shrimp Stock. For sustainable sources, check Seafood Watch.
- Shrimp cook quickly on the grill, so watch them closely to keep them tender and juicy. I like large shrimp, meaning 30 or fewer shrimp weigh a pound, because they’re easy to thread onto skewers. You can use smaller shrimp, but they’ll be harder to thread and more prone to overcooking.
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