Today we had weather everybody else I know would describe as "lovely", but I, being the grouch that I am, found just a tad too warm. The whole week has been sunny and 82º Fahrenheit (28º Celsius – or, if you're acquainted with EclectEcon and his friends and neighbors, the "C" is for "Canadian"). While normal mortals like this sort of mildness of climate, I've been looking forward to the chill of winter, when I have really good excuses to stay in the kitchen and bake.
Meanwhile, tonight we had our usual Friday supper crowd – The Bat, Pop, and their best friends, Bill and Jackie. Earlier this month, I'd decided The Bat and I had become too complacent in our dinner planning, falling back often on bratwurst, or chili, or an easy roast. And, even though I have nothing against any of those things, I do like to shake things up a little, once in a while.
We had some nice tuna steaks I'd picked up at a Big Box Store Which Shall Remain Nameless, and I decided to do them up relatively lightly, but with some kick, so I worked a variation on this StayFitCentral recipe, based on (a) the fresh ingredients we had in the house, and (b) people's tastes and tolerances, and, when cooked, I served them up on a bed of fresh baby spinach leaves. Alongside that, I cut wedges of the spuds Pop dug from his garden, slathered them in olive oil, Mexican hot chili powder, and kosher salt, then popped them in for an "oven fry" treatment. I steamed a batch of Pop's garden green beans, then sprinkled lemon juice on them before serving...but there was one more thing I needed to make the meal (not counting dessert, which Jackie and Bill usually bring).
I needed a proper salad. Well, I needed a slaw. Especially since we had a gallon ice cream bucket half-filled with freshly-dug carrots from (you guessed it!) Pop's garden.
Bat originally proposed doing a straight grated-carrot-mayonnaise-and-pineapple slaw, but that just seemed too heavy, alongside all the other dishes, so I played a little bit, until I had what we all agreed was the ideal balance.
The advantage to this slaw is, it needs to sit and marinate at least an hour before serving, so you can fix it first and forget about it until all the other work is done and the table is fully set. Plus, you can make the dressing a couple of days in advance, if you wish (it's also not a bad marinade for pork, if you want to give it a try!). I understand there are also shortcut packages at the supermarket, of grated carrots and shredded cabbage, so you can go there, if you have time, money, and inclination. But it's very simple, especially if you have a food processor handy. If not, a good grater is a "must", and no other special equipment is necessary.
It's also very seasonal – the best cider is usually available in this area for a few weeks, starting mid-September, from a small family business. Sure, you can use the store-boughten stuff that's pasteurized until it's little more than a cloudy apple juice, but why not give a local farm or co-op a boost, where possible?
Anyway, here's to Life in the Slaw Lane.
Autumn Carrot Salad
2 Tablespoons your favorite brand honey mustard
3 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups your favorite local apple cider
1/4 head cabbage, chopped for slaw (about 3 cups)
2 medium-small tart apples (I like Jonathans), peeled, cored, and grated coarsely
4 or 5 large carrots, grated coarsely (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
In a half-pint jar, combine the honey mustard, cider vinegar, and apple cider. Put lid on tightly, and shake until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Chill.
In a large bowl or a gallon zipper bag, mix together chopped cabbage, grated apple, grated carrots and dried cranberries. Pour dressing over this, stir or mix completely, and set in refrigerator to marinate at least 1 hour.
Serve chilled, ideally on a bed of fresh spinach or kale.
Note: If you really want this slaw to "pop" in your mouth, make it a full day in advance. The dried cranberries become tender and slightly sweeter, and all the flavors fuse into a truly zesty experience! (Like chili and spaghetti, it's better on the second day.)