Napa cabbage slaw

I’m pausing now, before I begin writing this post, to take a breath and pay attention to what breathing feels like, to note that it’s still going on. There’s still an in-out rhythm; it feels good. And despite all that’s happened this week – capped off by a wipeout on the wood floor of a room the kids outfitted as the “castle,” wherein I slipped on the royal rug and landed squarely on my hip in the morning’s frenzy – I’m sitting in the quiet as I write this; typing on a clear morning.

We’ve had a double scoop of emotional kids this week: flash tantrums, disappointments, too little sleep, too many mini candy bars.

The Halloween Fairy made an appearance yesterday. That helps. So does the beanbag chair in the corner where my son can now go to “have a calm body” if he needs to head off another tantrum. His own neutral space.

I’m seeking neutral space, too. Bowing out of a few responsibilities, not turning the router back on if it goes down, carpooling more, adding a date night to the schedule – all of these have helped pull me up from deep diving, back to the swaying of the surface waters.

Float and breathe.

This makes it a good week for hakusai, the “white vegetable.” Napa cabbage is simple and elegant and tasty all on its own. You can lay the leaves whole on a plate, add a dollop of hummus and a cherry tomato or two and you have lunch. It has a sweet, watery essence that blends in with just about anything but still holds its texture in a sauté. It can give body to a salad as one ingredient among many or it can disappear, silently infusing your morning smoothie with vitamins A and C and a bit of calcium.

It can also be the centerpiece of a dish, as you may need it to be if you’re still getting a weekly box and looking for something to do with all that cabbage.

For several years I read Catherine Newman’s Dalai Mama blog. Last summer or the one before I came across this recipe for Gingery Napa Slaw and fell in love with its simplicity and crunch.

Though she’s moved her cooking and parenting insights to her personal blog, I still find myself looking back in the archives of the old one for a few favorites. This is one of them. And something extra special about it? You don’t have to remember to make it the day before a potluck so the flavors can marry. Instead, throw it together in a last-minute panic like usual and it will be just perfect. In fact if it sits overnight, or even a few hours, the flavors become more diffuse and the dish more watery than you or your fellow potluckers might like.

Gingery Napa Slaw
slightly adapted from Catherine Newman

2/3 c oil, I used a combination of grapeseed and vegetable
½ c chopped shallots or green onions
½ c chopped almonds
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
¾ tsp Celtic sea salt
2 tsp honey
1 tsp sesame oil
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1 large head of Napa cabbage, slivered

Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a small pan over medium-low heat and sauté the shallots until slightly softened and just starting to brown.

In a food processor or with an immersion blender, whir together the shallots with the remaining ingredients until the dressing is thick and emulsified. Taste for salt, sugar, acid, and overall balance, and re-season as necessary.

In the unwashed shallot pan over medium heat, fry the almonds until golden, around 2-3 minutes.
Remove to a small bowl so they don’t burn.
In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with the dressing (I used all of it). Top with almonds and enjoy.