Last year I received Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything for my birthday, from a dear friend. It is a big and impressive book and because of its heft and lack of fancy photographs, I lumped it into the same go-to-first category that Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking and Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone occupy at my house.
But simply due to lack of familiarity, Bittman's quickly became the lesser used volume. Until my Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone was on hiatus, out on loan to a friend, and I had to make black eyed peas for thirty people on New Year’s Day. After nearly a decade of relying on VCE, turning to Bittman’s book only made me nervous.
But I do love Mark Bittman for his New York Times articles. His blog is great, not something I’m all that good at keeping up with, but his food section writings are the bomb. That is why I force my family to get dressed early and forgo breakfast most wednesday mornings, so we can walk over to the Irish market around the corner, pick up a paper, head to Arizmendi for pastry and a loaf of bread and then ride the MUNI to school. Two papers a day is just too much, so we only receive the Times on Sunday, when the kids can fight over the color funnies (luckily they are easy to separate into two pieces) while I attempt to read the important parts at high speed.
This year, Bittman stole the show with his first Sunday article Chop, Fry, Boil: Eating for One, or 6 Billion. Sensible, informative, insightful and inciting, he included three recipes that can be tweaked to prepare a year of seasonal dinners, trading in and out whichever ingredients are at their peak and choosing the recipes - stir fry, rice and beans or salad - according to your mood. So a few days after his article appeared, and a few days after we’d vowed to try to eat up every bit of produce that darkened our door this year, cabbage was on our mind. I like green cabbage - it is good stuffed with pork and baked, it makes a nice soup with potatoes and chicken stock, it sautes and takes soy sauce well and is excellent with chicken tacos. But we still never seem to eat it all. So a salad of raw cabbage to accompany lentils and rice, with a little bit of roast chicken sounded like just the thing.
And it was - lemon juice is a magic ingredient. Tossing cabbage and other fresh salad items in a tablespoon of it, along with a little garlic and some olive oil can make most anything (especially lentils and rice) into a great meal.
Cabbage Salad: (adapted from Mark Bittman’s Crunchy Cabbage Salad)
1/2 small head green cabbage, cored and shredded or very thinly sliced
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1 handful parsley leaves, stems removed
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or red or white vinegar)
7 Tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
salt and pepper to taste
Put the cabbage, carrot, pepper, radishes and parsley in a big bowl. Then put the garlic and lemon juice into a separate lidded container. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper. Snap down the lid, then pick it up and shake it to mix the dressing. Pour 1/2 the dressing over the salad, then toss it gently with tongs. Taste, and add more dressing if necessary. Serve immediately.