Meet my new favorite summer potluck dish. It might look like just a simple salad. But I’ve yet to bring it to a party where it doesn’t quickly disappear. Oh, and it happens to be vegan (if you use vegan sugar), gluten-free, and low-FODMAP. How’s that for a crowd-pleaser?
Here’s the thing about bringing salad to a cookout. When you’ve got lots of burgers and hot dogs and chips and salsa, you need something fresh and veggie-packed for balance. For me, traditional coleslaw is too mayonnaise-y to be refreshing. Lettuce salads get soggy after sitting for a while. And one can only eat so many baby carrots in one’s life. This, friends, is the answer.
The first time I made this salad, it was totally improvised. I grabbed what looked good at the grocery store–a bunch of parsley, a bunch of scallions, a carrot, and a head of red cabbage. As it turns out, that combination of vegetables, combined with a sweet and lightly spiced vinaigrette, was exactly what my friends were craving. Folks were piling salad on plates and eating it with their fingers.
I’ve blogged before about using parsley as a salad green. It’s packed with flavor and doesn’t wilt when dressed. That said, parsley is an assertive herb, and can be a little bitter on its own. Combining it with sweet cabbage and carrot, plus a dose of sugar in the dressing, works wonders. Add the delicate, pungent crunch of green scallion tops, and you’ve got a weirdly addictive salad that’ll hold up for hours on a buffet table.
Many coleslaw recipes call for draining the cabbage before assembling the salad. I do the same thing here, using the Serious Eats method of tossing the cabbage and carrot with a little sugar and salt and letting it drain in a colander. Not only does this remove excess liquid that would otherwise water down the dressing, but it also allows the sugar and salt to penetrate into the cabbage. The result: perfectly seasoned, perfectly crunchy vegetables.
For a little extra spark, I add a couple of strategic spices to the dressing. Cumin loves carrots, and caraway is a classic partner with cabbage. I use the whole seeds for little bursts of flavor here and there, but you could grind the spices if you prefer something more evenly seasoned. And to really up the flavor quotient, toast the spices before adding them to the dressing.
Parsley, Cabbage, and Carrot Salad (serves 6 as a side dish)
Half a head of red cabbage (or just under 1 lb, if going by weight)
1 large or 2 small carrots
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 large bunch parsley
Green tops from 1 bunch scallions (4 large or 6-8 small)
For the dressing:
1 tbsp red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Cut the cabbage into wedges and remove the core. Thinly slice crosswise into shreds. Grate or julienne the carrot–you can do this with a box grater, a food processor, a knife, or just use a vegetable peeler to make long, thin strands.
Place the cabbage and carrot in a colander or strainer set over a bowl (or in the sink). Add sugar and salt and toss to combine. Let stand for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Meanwhile, cut or tear the parsley leaves from the stems, and thinly slice the scallion tops on a diagonal to create thin shreds.
Optional step: For extra flavor, toast the cumin and caraway seeds in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly and remove the spices from the pan as soon as you start to really smell them–they can go from fragrant to burnt in a flash.
In a small mixing bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together vinegar, sugar, mustard, cumin, caraway, salt, and pepper. (Go easy on the salt, since the cabbage and carrot are already seasoned.) Let the mixture stand and mingle until the vegetables are ready.
When you’re ready to assemble the salad, give the vinegar mixture a whisk to make sure the sugar has dissolved. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, a few drops at a time at first. When about half the oil is in, whisk in the rest in a slow, steady stream.
Pat the cabbage and carrot with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Transfer to a serving bowl, add parsley leaves and scallion tops, and toss to combine. Drizzle over the dressing and toss to coat. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.