Sometimes I am overwhelmed by a recipe’s mediocrity. I never set out to cook mediocre food, so I’m genuinely perplexed when I end up with a vat of something that wasn’t bad enough to throw away but isn’t good enough to make me excited about the leftovers. Trying new recipes is a lot like dating: most of the dishes (men) are not truly awful, but there’s an awful lot of them that don’t make it onto your repeat list. This is the sad, sad truth about cooking and dating.
Fortunately, a recipe won’t put your phone number into its speed-dial and harass you until you agree to go out with it again. You can just…throw it away! It’s so easy! That’s exactly what I did with the remaining cup or so of that horribly mediocre red cabbage dish I made a few weeks ago. It felt good to get rid of that stuff! I threw it out because I needed the container in which it was stored, but I feel so free without that icky sour-sweet and caraway-heavy cabbage hogging my fridge space and my dinner plate. Be gone forever, mediocre recipe!
In the wake of a cooking disappointment, it can be tempting to retreat behind a wall of trusted recipes. I gave into temptation, making a batch of my Seasoned Black Beans and baking a few sheets of my Toasty Oatmeal Cookies. I love the recipe archives of this blog because they serve as a sort of “off-shore memory,” as my wine-blogging friend Asmodeus once said. Perhaps it sounds hopelessly narcissistic, but I love reading my old posts. It’s like reading my diary, except the contents are more polished and entertaining. My feeling is that if I can enjoy what I have written, then that’s good enough for me and I’ll keep writing.
The comments on old posts can also be great reading. For example, on this post, my friend Nicole pointed me in the direction of an EatingWell recipe for Mexican Coleslaw, a simple slaw to be stuffed into tacos or accompany enchiladas. It called for a few cups of cabbage, finely sliced, some coarsely grated carrots, a handful of cilantro leaves, a modest pour of olive oil and rice vinegar, and a pinch or two of salt. Mix everything together in a big bowl and add this garden party to your fiesta. The recipe sounded delicious, so simple and fresh, and I just had that feeling that it was going to be great.
And it was. I bought the smallest green cabbage I could find at Albertson’s and made Nicole’s Mexican Coleslaw the very same day. After the incident with that red cabbage recipe, I was skeptical about making an enormous batch of anything with cabbage, so I made a two-serving batch of coleslaw, playing it a little loose with the proportions and leaving out the cilantro. Like many salads, this one is pretty forgiving about that sort of thing. Its most endearing quality, however, is its wonderful balance of flavors: the cabbage dances crisply, bittersweetly across the tongue, while the carrot is its usual bright, fresh, sunshine-sweet self. The dressing is rich without overwhelming: the rice vinegar is tangy-sweet and mild, the extra-virgin olive oil grassy and full. When all the components are tossed together, the combination is sprightly, fresh, surprising. Don’t miss it.
Nicole’s Mexican Coleslaw
Adapted from this recipe by EatingWell
Mexican food (or anything remotely related to Mexican food) is one of my favorite cuisines. It never fails to put me in a festive mood, and it’s great cooking party food because there are all those little bits to prep—the seasoned meat or beans, the shredded cheeses, the chopped tomatoes, the little bowls of sour cream and salsa. The list goes on. This recipe should be added to your list of side dishes for your next fiesta. And if you’re shopping for a new taco filling, I tried and loved this chickpea taco filling from the famous Happy Herbivore. I made my chickpeas a little differently, using water instead of tamari, and next time I’ll use a little less of the taco seasoning, but the oven-roasting method she suggests is genius. The chickpeas become soft and utterly infused with all that spicy flavor and, unlike my roasted chickpeas, they make for good leftovers too. Three cheers for chickpea tacos!
There’s one more thing I want to tell you about the coleslaw. The dressing here is a little heavier than I usually make—I usually use what seems like just a whisper of dressing on my vegetables. Here, because the slaw is intended to go into a larger dish, like a taco, I use more dressing because I want to be able to taste the sweet, grassy flavors over the spiciness of the taco filling. Feel free to use more or less slaw dressing here as you like.
1 heaping cup of finely sliced green cabbage
1 coarsely grated carrot (about 1/2 to 1 cup)
1/2 tbsp. best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
A shake or two of salt
1) Place the cabbage and carrots in a mixing bowl. Add the oil and rice vinegar and use your hands or a spoon to toss them all together.
2) Season to taste with salt and serve.