Authors: A Veggie Venture
Michael Pollan's new book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformationis on my read-soon wishlist. It rethinks our adventures in the kitchen, following four elemental ways of cooking.
FIRE That's captured fire like a gas or electric stove or the open flame of wood fire.
WATER That's boiling and braising.
AIR That's baking. (Have you ever thought of an oven as just a small furnace? Me either.) It's also air-drying thin-thin layers of meat, say, as the Swiss and other Europeans do.
EARTH That's the action of fermentation, whether cooking up some homebrew or making cheese.
Peeling and chopping, slicing and dicing, these are the constants of a vegetable lover's kitchen, the acts that come before Earth, Wind, Water and Fire. This salad takes more than the usual measure, leaving time to consider which element of cooking would be applied here, when salt is applied to "cook" the vegetables just enough to soften and infuse with freshness and flavor. I suppose, yes, it must be "Earth"?
No matter. I was much taken with this salad. It's a sort of slaw, I suppose, except composed with a cornucopia of crisp raw vegetables and substituting the acidity of lemon for vinegar. It kept for a week, an easy side salad, a quick healthy snack. This is one to go back to again and again.
RECIPE for MARK BITTMAN'S "SALTED" CHOPPED SALAD
Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Time to table: 30 minutes
Makes about 8 cups
For vegetables, aim for about a total of 2-1/2 pounds of chopped vegetables, adjusting the individual amounts according to taste and availability. For visual interest, choose vegetables of different colors and chop them in different shapes and sizes.
1/2 green cabbage, trimmed and sliced as thin as possible
2 carrots, peeled and cut in matchsticks
1/2 cup finely diced sweet or regular onion
1 cucumber, trimmed and peeled and seeded if needed, cut in half moons
1 turnip, peeled and cubed
2 ribs celery, trimmed and cut in half moons on the diagonal
1 bulb fennel, chopped
1 - 2 bell peppers, diced
2-1/2 tablespoons olive oil (use 1 tablespoon oil: 1 pound of vegetables)
1 - 2 lemons, zested and juiced
Generous salt and especially pepper
SALTED VEGETABLES In a colander or salad spinner, salt the cabbage with about a tablespoon (yes, tablespoon) salt, layering the cabbage with salt as it's prepped. Put it in the sink to drain. As the salt wilts the cabbage, give it a good squeeze to remove excess liquid. Add the carrots, onion, cucumber and turnip, lightly salting each one as they're added. Let the vegetables rest at room temperature while you prep the Other Vegetables and the Dressing, Bittman says that 15 minutes is the minimum, 60 minutes the maximum.
OTHER VEGETABLES Collect these in a large bowl (one large enough to hold everything) and set aside.
DRESSING Whisk together the oil, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper.
RINSE Squeeze the Salted Vegetables again, really wringing out as much liquid as you can. Rinse the Salted Vegetables under running water, running your fingers through the vegetables to let water get right through. (I know, I know, it's crazy to squeeze out liquid and then add more, but trust me, this works.) Run the vegetables through a salad spinner until quite dry.
COMBINE Stir the rinsed and well-drained Salted Vegetables into the Other Vegetables. Toss with the dressing. Taste and adjust, adding more lemon juice, more pepper, even more salt to taste.
TO SERVE Refrigerate until ready to serve. Salad is ready to eat right away but does develop over a couple of days. It will last for up to a week, just give it a stir every day or so.
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