The second installment in the “how to use my CSA box vegetables” series is one of my favorite salads. I like to say that it’s a ‘cheat’: it’s a fresh vegetable slaw made with a tart dressing and pickling spices, and the result is that it tricks your brain (or at least my brain) into thinking “pickle.” It is crisp and light and bracingly flavorful. It’s a wonderful summer slaw, and a good alternative to traditional creamy cole slaws.
Since I published my last post on this topic, I’ve had a few people ask me what a CSA is. CSA stands for “community supported agriculture.” The idea is that community members support local agriculture by paying a lump sum – a subscription fee, essentially – at the start of the growing season. It helps farmers and growers by providing needed funds at a lean time of the year and a guaranteed market. Subscribers reap the bounty by getting fresh produce directly from the farmer throughout the growing season (meat too, even, if you join a CSA through a livestock farmer). I actually joined a CSA last week, and so am confronted with real, not hypothetical, spring vegetables I need to use up every week before the next box is upon me. In early summer, this basically means LOTS and LOTS of spring greens. Yes, salads and slaws are an obvious solution to the problem, but this one really is delicious. My friend Suzie, who ate this slaw at my house last week (I made that one with fennel and beetroot) has prepared it twice since. A resounding endorsement, folks.
The dressing – a simple lemon-olive oil dressing seasoned with a generous amount of toasted whole spices – is extremely versatile. I’ve used it on finely chopped red cabbage, on shaved fennel, celeriac, and curly endive, and today, for the first time, on kohlrabi, golden beets, and spicy new spring radishes. Similarly, you can make a passable version of the dressing by swapping out some of the spices. Sometimes I add whole cumin seeds, for example (they’re particularly nice with cabbage), and sometimes I omit the fennel. Both of these are strong flavors to be used judiciously. My constants are mustard seeds, nigella seeds, and caraway seeds. For this salad, a mandoline is key, albeit not 100% essential. Sharp knives and very good knife skills will work too.
1-2 golden beetroots
4-8 radishes (depending on their size and spiciness). A variety of colors would be nice.
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1.5 teaspoons salt
.5 teaspoons pepper
¼ teaspoon nigella seeds
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon celery seeds
¼ teaspoon caraway seeds
¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
In a small bowl combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and set aside.
Toast the spices in a dry pan over high heat, shaking frequently, until the spices have begun to color and release an odor and the mustard seeds have begun to pop. Combine with the other dressing ingredients.
Trim and peel the beetroot and kohlrabi, setting the leaves aside for another use (both are edible). Grate into a large bowl using a box grater or the grater attachment on a food processor. (The kohlrabi is also lovely julienned – sliced into thin matchsticks.) Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, thinly slice the radishes into the same bowl.
Toss with dressing and (optional) coarsely chopped fresh herbs. Serve immediately. Makes 4-6 servings.