My brother has become adept over the years at introducing me to vegetables I’ve ignored — or rather, overlooked. I don’t have a particular aversion to these, mind, it’s just that maybe I gravitate toward the stuff I know for sure I like (for example: spinach — it’s a rare meal of mine that doesn’t involve spinach it seems –, cauliflower, shiitake mushrooms, beets). I owe my fairly recent conversion to adoration to him, not to mention my ongoing kale obsession. I trust him implicitly when it comes to produce. When it comes to produce, in fact, I think he is my Main(e) Man.
The six months he spent working on an organic farm in Virginia were some of the most delectable of my life. I’d visit him when he came in to work the various farmers’ markets around Washington (once I remember getting up on a Friday morning to hang out somewhere near capital hill but not minding the early hour really because I knew I’d be given such deliciousness. After, I had lunch plans in Georgetown and I lugged about 3 pounds of tomatoes with me in the heat because, well, those tomatoes!). Sometimes I’d even come home on a Saturday afternoon to find he’d visited my apartment (he had, of course, a key) on the way back from the Mt. Pleasant market — I’d find fat bunches of kale stuffed in my fridge, or drooping, beautiful tulips on my dining room table, or the most perfect summer squash piled on the counter.
He’s a good guy.
All this to say that when I visited him in Maine this winter I ate very well. In addition to being a good guy he’s also a good cook — a really good cook — as is his fiancee. I mean, I wanted to visit to spend time with them, sure, but I also knew I’d be fed very, very well.
(Is that wrong?)
Well: eat well, I did — homemade pizzas with cheddar cheese (yes! try it!) and roasted pepper (bacon on one, for the omnivores), vegetarian beans and rice to commemorate Fat Tuesday, not to mention meals eaten in and around Portland and Bath. And one night he made a pot of brown rice and stir-fried a head of red cabbage and red onion in olive oil and mixed it all together — bowls of which, of course, were sprinkled with parmesan cheese — and it tasted so good I became a cabbage fan on the spot. All through the rest of the rainy San Francisco winter I made and ate that dish (sometimes with a veggie burger crumbled in, sometimes with a bit of extra cheddar cheese, sometimes with some sort of other soy protein) and thanked my lucky stars for Maine, and brothers, and sister-in-laws-to-be, and missed them.
(Sigh. Luckily I will see them in June for a big wedding party.)
So: cabbage. I mention this today because I am off to the East Coast tonight, late-night, to see some Greeks and chase around a and remember why I love upstate New York. Though I’ll have eaten dinner, I’ll be hungry once I get on the plane (no matter how much I’ve eaten beforehand it never fails) and will be bringing a little something on which to nibble away the hours. I just wrote a piece for about what to take along when traveling and so I will take my own advice and pack up my new favorite salad.
This salad? It involves red cabbage, of course, but raw, with loads of other raw vegetables, as many as you like, all lightly doused in a lemony soy-tahini dressing. It’s a perfect thing to take on a plane (or for lunch at the office, or just to eat for dinner) — fresh, sturdy, with a good crunch and enough heft to satisfy any hunger pangs.
My brother didn’t make this for me — the only cabbage I’ve had by way of him has been cooked down into silky smoothness — but he certainly inspired it. This proves my theory once again that we are never truly alone in the kitchen; even if I came up with this on a warm(ish) night many, many miles from New England there’s no way I would have had a cabbage in my fridge if not for him.
Hopefully one day we can eat this together, too.
Red Cabbage Salad
1/2 head red cabbage, grated
1 carrot, peeled and grated
4 radishes, chopped
1 beet, peeled and grated
handful pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tsp. soy sauce
salt and pepper
optional additions: (grated) jicama, apple, cucumber ….
In a large bowl, toss all the prepared vegetables. Stir in the tahini, lemon juice, soy sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well, adjusting flavors if you like. Serve with pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top.