Crunchy Cabbage Salad

Two rather unexpected things occur here: ramen noodles and excitement over cabbage. In fact, I swore off both of those things years ago. But thanks to Leigh, today’s guest chef, I have come to see both foods with a new light of appreciation. Perhaps that is an understatement. Squeals of delight can be heard all around whenever we make this salad in our home. Once it hits the dinner table we simply cannot stop eating it. Here lies another example of how being a member of a CSA necessarily inspires culinary creativity and exploration of foods you might not ever consider otherwise. Because once someone hands you a napa cabbage larger than most infants, you can’t just stand there.

Cabbage is one member of a very important family of vegetables: Brassicaceae. You may have heard them collectively referred to as cole crops, cruciferous vegetables, or just brassicas. There are two major species in the Brassica genus, roughly divided by continent of origin. Brassica rapa contains most Asian greens such as bok choi, pac choi, Chinese mustards, and napa cabbage. Brassica oleracea contains most European greens including kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, turnips, and Brussels sprouts. In fact, all of those well-known vegetables are the same species; each has been bred to emphasize a different characteristic. Brassicas are quite easy to garden and bring us loads of nutrients (especially vitamins C and K) during the chillier months when few other veggies will grow.

For the salad:
1 medium-large head of napa cabbage (or regular cabbage!)
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 package of ramen noodles (save the flavor packet for something else)
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped almonds

For the dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
2 to 3 Tbsp.  red wine vinegar, to taste
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp.  dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
1/2 to 1 tsp. garlic power

salt & pepper to taste

1. Coarsely chop the cabbage after cutting out the hard core in the center. Combine with the carrots and chickpeas in a large salad bowl.

2. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over low flame. Crunch up the ramen noodles in the package into small pieces. Brown the noodles and chopped almonds in oil. Keep a constant eye on the pan, as they can brown quickly. Set the browned noodle mixture aside.

3. Combine the dressing ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly.

4. Combine the dressing and the cabbage mixture. Mix thoroughly. Top with the noodle/almond mixture right before serving (or they will get soggy). Salt and pepper (heavy on the pepper) to taste!

This is truly a “clean out the fridge” kind of dish, so add whatever else you think might be good! Here are some additions that Leigh likes:

golden raisins
purple cabbage
sliced radishes or turnips
scallions
finely chopped yellow or red bell pepper
grilled chicken