Saturday, November 12, 2011

with a fiercely confident conviction

I can always tell when spring has sprung in earnest because I really start to get my salad on. I'll start lusting after juicy tomatoes, watermelon and lemon, greenery of all kinds (cue rocket, cos lettuce, spinach, peas) and crispy things like celery, sugarsnap peas, cabbage and carrot. Meals tend to become more affairs of assemblage rather than of baking and simplicity is the order of the day. This weekend I managed to cover a few of my spring favourites: frittata, coleslaw and more than a few bowls of rockmelon.

Coleslaw is one of those classics, along with potato salad, that tends to stir up fervent feelings when it comes to ingredients included and excluded, technique and most importantly whose mum's recipe is the best. I remember at several picnics and family gatherings over the years listening to my mum and other women debating herb choice and dressing style with a fiercely confident conviction that theirs alone was the correct method. Generally these debates ended with the age old assertion, 'Well, that's how my mother made it.' And that there is what I think keeps us coming back to these classic dishes - the familiar, comforting homeliness coupled with the desire to make it our own.

I say all this as a pre-cursor because below is by no means a definitive recipe it's just my current riff on a classic, done in the way my mother likes to do things - which is fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style, recipe-free and made with what is at hand (also, with gusto).

Adapted from memory

1 large carrot, grated or chopped finely
1/2 savoy cabbage, shredded
1/4 red cabbage, shredded
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 capsicum, thinly sliced
1/2 cup whole egg mayonnaise
1/2 Tbs Dijon mustard
1/2 Tbs wholegrain mustard
zest and juice of one lemon
splash of white wine vinegar

Prepare all the vegetables and combine in a large bowl. If you have time (or the inclination) you can marinate them overnight in cold water and and a small amount of vinegar, to give them a slightly pickled, tangy edge. I'm a big fan though of adding the tang in dressing form. For the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, mustards, lemon zest, juice and vinegar, mix thoroughly and pour over the salad. Toss to combine.

Interesting side note: In the process of making this salad I thought I probably should check Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion just to see if she had any definitive tips on making the classic coleslaw.  I had to smile when I read the entry for Coleslaw, master recipe...
Make a mixed coleslaw of red, green and crinkly-leafed cabbage and dress with a mustardy vinaigrette. 
And there you have it.

So, in an attempt to avoid over-explaining another classic, I shall just say that on the weekend I also made a spinach frittata with tomato, pesto and goat's cheese.


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