Cabbage has to be one of the most economical vegetables, at least here in the Pacific Northwest, where the green variety often sells for less than fifty cents a pound. It’s loaded with vitamins, too, so it’s a great buy. The problem is finding something to do with these vegetable bowling balls. Sure, you can make coleslaw a few times in the summer, maybe a cabbage soup now and then, but, at least at our house, it gets old pretty fast. In fact, as a child, it seemed like the most undesirable of vegetables, perhaps second only to cooked spinach, which I hated with a passion.
However, as a result of its price and health benefits, I’ve been experimenting with new ways to use cabbage for a long time. In my experience, it seems that the best recipes for this vegetable often come with an Asian twang. The saltiness of soy sauce matches perfectly with cabbage’s crisp texture and unobtrusive flavor. I love it sautéed on high heat, until a few of the thin slices are singed on the edges, with a drizzling of sesame oil over it.
One of my favorite uses of cabbage, though, are cabbage salads. This little concoction still looks to the East, with a dressing inspired by Asian flavors. The raw vegetables and chopped nuts burst in great crunches—no wilted vegetables here. The unpronounced flavors of the underlying vegetables provide a nice palette for this creamy dressing, with salty soy sauce, tart lemon juice, and just a hint of sweetness. The sesame oil is essential here—the tiny bit called for gives the whole dish an infusion of the savory, toasted seeds.
Speed it Up: This is pretty quick already, but you can definitely make the dressing ahead. I wouldn’t chop the vegetables too much in advance, as the cabbage might brown on the edges. I tried to speed this up by putting the cabbage in my food processor, which I am always hearing works from other people. Maybe mine is too small, because the consistency was too mushy. I had been hoping for long, thin slices, and instead got tiny chunks. You might like this, but I would have preferred it shredded.
Veg Meal with Meat Option: I served this with baked tofu for me and roasted chicken breast for Ryan. To make the chicken breast, simply drizzle each breast with olive oil and seasoning salt, then bake at 450 for 30 minutes or until no longer pink inside. Here, it would be nice to add a touch of sesame oil before baking too. I served the tofu and meat alongside this dish, but it would be great chopped and tossed with the salad as well.
Special Diets and Allergies: Vegan, vegetarian, dairy free, wheat free.
Asian Cabbage Salad
Serves 4 as a side dish
The slight sweetness of shredded cabbage and carrots is complimented in this salad by a salty and savory Asian dressing. The vegetables are topped with roasted nuts and sesame seeds, creating a lovely blend of tastes and colors. To make this a main dish, toss in cubes of sautéed or baked tofu or shredded chicken.
1/2 small green cabbage, shredded
1/2 small red cabbage, shredded
1-2 large carrots, peeled and grated
5-8 brown button mushrooms, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
Shredded chicken or chopped, baked tofu (optional)
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 C toasted almonds or cashews, chopped
1 T sesame seeds
6 oz firm tofu
2 1/2 T soy sauce
1 1/2 t agave
1 1/2 t sesame oil
1 1/2 t lemon juice
1 1/2 t olive oil
2 T water
- Combine all of the salad ingredients (except 2 T of the green onions, the almonds or cashews, and the sesame seeds) in a large salad bowl.
- Puree all of the dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender until completely smooth.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Immediately before serving, sprinkle with the remaining green onions, the almonds or cashews, and sesame seeds.