#4 Sweet Winter Slaw

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Here’s another one that’s easy to like, and a good thing, too. We’re in the starting phases of building an addition to our house for my in-laws — bedroom, bathroom, and sitting area — and everything in our life seems to be reacting with a certain brittle rigidity to the anticipated changes. In the last week alone, just for example, we’ve replaced one set of tires, purchased a new phone (irredeemably lost to a pile of slush), and ordered a new furnace.

So, when it came to my latest cooking project, something easy to like was more than welcome. And this one, well, this one was definitely easy to like (did I say this already?). Of course, at least some part of its appeal may or may not have been thanks to the super-secret, ultra-eXXtraordinary magic of — spoiler alert — CARAMELIZED MACADAMIA NUTS!!!!!!!!!! … but more about these later.

Better yet: it wasn’t too hard to put together. According to my Ottolenghi Perceived Effort Standard (OPES)–a new metric I am introducing with this post, where a 5 indicates a recipe that felt like it took practically a week at least one full day of nearly constant effort to complete and a 1 indicates a recipe that can be tossed off with less than an hour of undivided attention–this recipe seemed relatively undemanding: a 2 perhaps; maybe a 3. A mandoline makes a big difference here; a food processor might make an even bigger one. If you have neither, then excellent knife skills would be a welcome asset.

You start with crisp ribbons of red and green cabbage. The original recipe calls for savoy cabbage, but after springing for a new furnace, a sudden frugality prompted me to use the homegrown green cabbage already sitting in my refrigerator; I don’t think the dish suffered for the substitution.

Add in thin slivers of sweet mango and papaya, a jazzy touch of roughly chopped cilantro and mint, and the barest accent of hot chile. Bring it all together with a citrusy dressing sweetened with maple syrup and made smoky with toasted sesame oil and a splash of soy sauce.

And then, for the piece de resistance: those magical macadamias. They not only add a delectable spicy sweetness that beautifully complements the sweet juiciness of the tropical fruits and the tangy sweetness of the lime juice based dressing, but their toasty crunch makes an excellent companion to the crisp shreds of cabbages as well.. If that sounds like overkill to you, it’s easy enough to leave these out, and there’ll still be plenty of razzle-dazzle in this salad to enjoy. But, personally, given the grimness of this year’s winter, I’d gratefully accept every measure of extravagance that is on offer. They’re also extremely easy to make, and the fragrance as they caramelize on the skillet will draw in friends and family from unexpected quarters, all offering promises of whatever you desire for the simple privilege of sampling even just one of these delicious morsels. Not that I’d ever abuse that opportunity…

Two things I’d do differently next time: For one, I’d double that recipe of caramelized macadamia nuts, just to have some extras around for eating out of hand. And for another, because the following day I noticed that the nuts had lost some of that delicious crispiness after a full night’s soak in the slaw, I would garnish only the portion of salad that I planned to serve immediately and reserve the rest to mix in later.

Ottolenghi recommends serving this with a roast chicken or chard pancakes. Around here, we matched this with simple cod cakes and roasted potatos and thought it an excellent combination as well.

Next week: Soba Noodles with Wakame (188). And a reminder, if you decide to give any of these recipes a try, let me know, and I’ll be happy to link to your post.

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