Monday, November 28, 2011

Pink Slaw

This is an unretouched photo, seriously. Is that not gorgeous?
Because I was not actually awake, it was difficult for me to understand what was happening. Birdy, who had gone to bed with a stomachache, had woken up screaming and crying, and so I feared the worst. But wait—it was an even worse worst. What was she saying? She’d pooped in the bed? I couldn’t really hear, on account of the crying and the yelling, only now Ben was in on it too, in his room next door, horrified by the fact that Birdy appeared to have wandered in and barfed on his carpet. Wait, wait, what? No. Birdy appeared to have coughed up an enormous hairball on his carpet, which didn’t make sense. And the poop in her bed was an intact string of small turds, despite the fact of her still-clean pajamas. I may never accustom myself to the requirement of parenting that you make sense of the world while your brain is still giving you the “I’m sorry, that number is no longer in service” message.

When we went downstairs, there was more of everything, in a bad way, plus a gigantic, lounging cat, who rolled onto his back and thrust all four paws in the air in his classic love-me posture. Poor, gluttonous Craney Crow. He had stolen and eaten various holiday delicacies during the evening (turkey leg, smoked trout mousse, brie, pecan pie) and then spent the night shuffling from room to room, it seemed, in a kind of fit of evacuation.

Who me?
Ah, as always, a classy recipe lead-in. All I’m trying to say is that I’m offering you something bright and fresh and vegetal because perhaps you also could use a break from the richness of the holidays. This slaw is that break. It is, first of all, ridiculously gorgeous. The mottled purple-and-white of the cabbage is transformed, via pickling, into a brilliant, glowing fuchsia. The prettiest color in the world. Plus, the slaw (and, by the way, it is technically a pickle) gets this incredible kind of squeaky-crisp texture, and a deliciously light sweetness and sourness that makes it a versatile accompaniment to anything from tacos and scrambled eggs to turkey sandwiches and roast pork or a bowlful of beans. If you add the ginger, it will be less versatile but more brightly flavored—you can decide what you think about that.

And will your kids like it? They will like the color enough to taste it, I predict. Mine will not pick it out of a quesadilla, and they ate a couple forkfuls last night when I served it with our Smorgasbord of Leftovers (including the last of the stuffing, the last of the gravy, and the last of the nutmeg-scented sweet potatoes). They neither loved nor hated it, and they did appreciate the tangle of color on their plates. The brightness of vitamins and antioxidants that is wafting off of it nearly visibly, and this alone is reason for thanks.

Pink Slaw
Makes less than you think, but enough, and it keeps well.
Active time: 15 minutes; total time: 4 hours

You can use green cabbage for this, and it will be delicious, but guess what? It won't be pink. You could still call it "Pink Slaw," just to be weird and confusing.

½ medium head of cabbage, red or green
½ cup water
1/3 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons kosher salt
a couple of slices of ginger, smashed, or 1 dried chile (optional)

Shred the cabbage fine. I use this Japanese mandoline.

Now put the shredded cabbage in a deep bowl and bring the remaining ingredients just to a boil in a small pot, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour the hot brine over the cabbage. Put a small plate on top of the cabbage, and then something heavy on top it, such as a tea kettle or a large can. Leave it for 3 or 4 hours, at which point the cabbage will be smaller and the volume of liquid in the bowl much greater. Wring out the cabbage by the handful (discard the leftover brine), and store it in the fridge in a covered container.

The battle-scarred exterior of the storage cabbage belies its beautiful insides.
As far as I'm concerned, that's right up there with the greater wonders of the world.

Did you want to see who was back there? That's Socky. He was visiting for the afternoon.

You could do this with a knife, but it will take much longer and be less fun and less thrillingly treacherous.

I love, love, love this very sharp slicer. It's light and easy to use, and the color is fantastic.

Take heed!
Moldy ginger that I did not even bother to peel. Nice.

Ready to be brined and weighted.

The longer you leave it, the picklier it will be--though I never get into the multi-day fermenting kind of situation with this, though you probably could.

Tell me that's not gorgeous.


Lunch yesterday.

Breakfast this morning. Corn tortilla with melted dill havarti, scrambled farm egg, and pink slaw. My parsley's motto seems to be "keep on truckin.'" I can't believe it's still thriving out there, in the untended wilds of our yard.


  1. That color is VERY CLOSE to the color my daughter chose for her walls. (We went with it, and I'm NOT SORRY, even though it is a small room and the color is...intense.)

  2. The story of Craney has me howling. Thanks for the belly laugh. It has otherwise not been a belly laugh day.

  3. Angela2:49 PM

    Pretty! (The cabbage, of course, not Craney's issues, I fully understand Birdy's reaction) :) Wish my parsley would thrive, I just can't seem to grow it for the life of me...

  4. That is pretty! You made me laugh...that stumbling, processing in the middle of the night kind of parenting moment. Fun times.

  5. I love everything you write. Everything.
    I just read about pink slaw and I don't even cook.

  6. Oh cats...this is why one has to be slightly crazy to have them.

  7. Anonymous9:32 PM

    You always have me laughing out loud with your very funny posts. THANK YOU!!!

  8. You have a mandoline on there and don't wax poetic on the insane dangers of this crazy device? It has a six inch blade! One wrong swipe or a crazy hankering for just one more slice of potato and you lose the end of your finger. Seriously. As in, you have to fish the end of your finger out of the potatoes.

    If you buy the mandoline, please, PLEASE, also buy the cutting glove that goes with it. My kids will seriously learn to drive before they touch our mandoline.

    (This message brought to you by my ring finger, whose end was not in any way actually helping with the slicing, and who has regrown successfully, but only after much blood and emotional trauma. And also my finger doesn't have very good grammar. Sorry about that.)

  9. That cat! Wonder if he learned anything from that experience?

    I make big batches of sauerkraut every year, and this year I used about 10 green cabbages and 2 purple, and the kraut is still gorgeously pink.

    Link to my kraut post:

    Thanks for the vegetal inspiration and all the inspiration I always gain here.

  10. Trying link again:

  11. ladidah1:01 PM

    the color of those eggs is just spectacular, not to mention the cabbage! (looks like an outfit 4 year old would love to wear.) are you sure this hasn't been enhanced? ;)

  12. ladidah1:02 PM

    the color of those eggs is just spectacular, not to mention the cabbage! (looks like an outfit 4 year old would love to wear.) are you sure this hasn't been enhanced? ;)

  13. Right, the Japanese slicer! They are lovely and handy...but I, like SeeFlyTry, have had the unpleasant experience of re-growing the tip of my ring finger and fingernail. I still have nightmares about that slicer. Now I have one that includes a gripper device.

    Gorgeous cabbage!

  14. Allison4:29 PM

    Had to post here as I just made the sparkling cranberries for Thanksgiving . With the pink leftover syrup I squeezed in some tangerine juice, added a hefty slug of vodka and a little fizzy water and decorated with one of the cranberries. It made easy, beautiful and great tasting drinks.I will be making them for Christmas too. It's a great 2fer recipe. Thanks!

  15. Anonymous10:01 PM

    You can make *anything* pink with the addition of beetroot, which would be a noble addition to this slaw anyway. But I am very biased regarding beetroot: in my family we put it in potato salad (and let's not even talk about the chopped dill pickles and herring).

  16. Hi Catherine. I have a question: when you poor the brine on the cabbage, should the liquid be enough to cover the cabbage completely or does it get sort of soaked into the cabbage? I can't tell if I put too much cabbage and my ratio is off? It's not very liquidy.

  17. Tina, you just wait! It seems that way. But then the cabbage gives off TONS of liquid. The cabbage will get small, and the liquid will get big. Let me know if something different happens!

  18. Anonymous9:30 AM

    Funniest thing I've read in a long time. Evidently it takes a lot for me to have to grab a tissue to wipe the tears from my eyes, but you did it. Hysterical. It takes a long time for my brain to process in such situations too, though thankfully we have not had a similar situation. Thanks for the laugh!

  19. Catherine, you were right! The cabbage did get small and nicely pickled though I think I should have sliced it thinner (there's a vote for the mandoline). It's been great on tacos. Plus, we ended up roasting the left over pieces per your Roasted Cabbage recipe, which I loved. Thanks for the great recipes!

  20. great recipe (and yes buy a kevlar glove before using the slicer again! Although lets not get into the great milk jug debate of many years ago...) but I'm now always going to associate pink slaw with cat puke and poop, sorry x

  21. I must try this! I usually do a Mexican version of this with jalapenos and green cabbage, but that purple is so gorgeous!!

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  23. Anonymous9:09 PM

    Question: doors this slaw come out sweet like a conventional slaw our our acid/vinegar flavor? I'm making lamb sliders with a tzaziki sauce and want picked cabbage. Thanks!

  24. It is just barely sweet. . . you could cut the sugar, though, or eliminate it entirely! Sounds like a great meal.

  25. Anonymous9:52 AM

    Just made this way over here in June 2015, and it was excellent on fish tacos! I used the ginger, and only marinated it for about an hour (not so good at planning time!) and it was the perfect crunch on the tacos. Thank you, again, and again, and again!