It is so hot here in Brooklyn—it’s the heavy, wet-blanket kind of heat that robs you of your zest for life, inspires temper tantrums when you enter a un-air conditioned subway car, and results in sleepless nights where you find yourself at 3 AM lying diagonally across your bed with streams of sweat dripping into your ears (though maybe those are tears because you’ve been crying, crying because it is just so hot you no longer have any power of reason)—that I am actually tired of hearing myself complain about the heat. Yet, I can’t help it.
So turning the toaster—or even a 23-watt light bulb—on is flat out of the question. ‘Tis the season of watermelon hacked in half and eaten directly out of its natural “bowl.” Of pesto slathered on bread and called “bruscetta.” Or, when feeling more ambitious, of raw, grated beets tossed with orange sections, some nuts, yogurt, and a handful of something green. Of half a head of romaine lettuce topped with pickled red onions and an apple and a little bit of olive oil and black pepper. Stephanie sent me a recipe for a raw veggie burger, which seems like a great idea to try right about now, but given how what I’ve described is a painfully accurate snapshot of my dining adventures, that recipe feels psychologically beyond my scope.
My friend Ilsa spent last year farming a beautiful plot of land in Western Massachusetts, and in my visits up to see her, I had the unique (for me, at least) pleasure of being able to plan meals by walking through the crop rows and picking through what didn’t sell at the farmers markets. One afternoon we returned from selling her goods and were starving. From the veggies that didn’t sell, I made a refreshing, semi-hearty slaw that was one of the most satisfying stand-alone lunches I’d ever assembled. Well, it satisfied my hunger; Ilsa admitted that it was a bit too humble to function as a complete meal, but she’s a farmer and farmers have earned their appetites.
This recipe is very easy, but it garners praise when I serve it to my friends. It can also be taken in any number of different directions. The first time I made it, at the farm, I threw in thin slices of radishes and fennel, fennel fronds and basil, and even a grated carrot. You can stop at the vinegar and omit the yogurt if you please, or try an Asian-style variation by dressing it in a bit of toasted sesame oil (a little bit goes a long way) and a sprinkling of sesame seeds and scallions. This is the kind of slaw that doubles as a side dish and a condiment—it’s particularly good on top of a Thai Carrot Burger. But the absolute best thing about it is that it requires no heat.
Red Cabbage Slaw
Makes 6 servings
½ head red cabbage
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons plain Greek-style yogurt
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
1. To julienne the cabbage: Quarter the cabbage along the core and with one flat side down, slice off the core in a diagonal swipe. With the broadest, flattest side down, slice the cabbage as thinly as possible—about ¹⁄8 -inchthick
slices. Alternatively, julienne the cabbage using a mandoline.
2. Toss the cabbage with the vinegar and ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl and let stand until it begins to wilt, 15 minutes or so. Pour off any excess liquid that has collected at the bottom of the bowl. Add the yogurt, dill, and pepper.
Adjust seasonings. Serve.