You probably have a cabbage in your house already – think thick cabbage rolls stuffed with beef and rice and cooked slow in tomato sauce, steamed, buttered cabbage with meatloaf or a hearty pot roast – and now is the time to be serving it. Raw. Yes, raw cabbage will save your life and deliver you happy and healthy into spring’s warm embrace.
The deep freeze is upon us and so we bury ourselves in warm wool and braise big hunks of meat, mash loads of potatoes with butter and cream, and eat giant slices of bread while loading our bowls with pasta, more pasta. When it gets this cold we want comfort food, and for most of us comfort does not come in the form of a bowl of celery sticks or a bag of baby spinach. For most of us, comfort comes in carbs, and while carbs are fine and dandy (not really, but now is not the time of year nor the place to be complaining about carbs, save that for spring) they don’t deliver much in the way of fresh green goodness to the diet. This is where cabbage comes in.
I first got this advice about raw cabbage from an elderly woman I met when I was in my twenties – “eat lots of coleslaw and you’ll never catch a cold”. She claimed she hadn’t been sick with a cold in twenty years because she ate raw cabbage every day. I took her advice, and while I didn’t eat cabbage every day- I was in my twenties I needed to save space for cheeseburgers, fries and crantinis- I did try to eat more of it during the coldest months of winter. Namely January, February and evil, despicable March – so detested because March is traditionally considered a time when spring is on it’s way, which is very rarely the case in Canada but we get our hopes up every year anyway.
Coleslaw is the best recipe for introducing raw cabbage into your weekly rotation of recipes, and new variations on the old warhorse are easy to be found.
First we head to what is perhaps one of the most beautifully photographed food websites on the planet, What Katie Ate, for her slaw containing pecans, red cabbage, fennel and blood orange all tossed with a tarragon, lemon and yogurt dressing. Eating cabbage doesn’t seem such a hardship when you read that list of ingredients does it?
Then there is the classic of summer barbecues – shredded carrots, green cabbage, scallions and sliced apple, tossed with lemon juice, mayo and salt and pepper. You can jazz it up with sunflower seeds, a few dashes of hot sauce, some grainy mustard and fresh herbs. Martha Stewart adds tomato and cucumber to hers. A good option for those days when the gray skies and icy winds threaten to break your spirit, this slaw will remind you of happier times, when you wore only one layer of clothing.
This recipe from Bon Appetit uses pre-cut coleslaw mix tossed with a sweetened red wine vinegar dressing and celery seeds. In five minutes you can get it on the table and into your family’s immune systems super fast. At Food and Wine they’ve put together a slideshow of eighteen different slaw recipes, everything from Apple Slaw to Chinese Coleslaw to Overnight Slaw. And if we’re going for the health benefits here, we should include a link to a salad that incorporates the darling of superfoods, kale! Shouldn’t we? Yes, we should, so here you have it – a slaw that calls for raw kale, raw cabbbage and a creamy cashew and hemp dressing.
Feel free to smother yourself in lovely, homey carbs all you want, no one is going to judge you. Especially if you serve all those comfort food dishes – bacon fat-fried perogies, baked ziti, gnocchi in brown butter, penne bolognese, double-stuffed baked potatoes – with a big side of of healthy raw slaw. With all these variations you can keep yourself busy in the kitchen until springtime.