Can I just give a little shoutout to what I like to call “the vegetables of winter”: sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, cabbage, and all their hearty buddies. Sure, there’s nothing like a summer-fresh tomato. Or a perfectly ripe bell pepper. But you bring those summer beauties home, and three days later they are over-ripe, mushy, and most likely surrounded by a storm cloud of fruit flies.
But winter vegetables? They last. Forever. I have had heads of cabbage sitting in my fridge since September, sweet potatoes in my basement that will be there throughout the entire holiday season, and once I peel them or take off an outer layer or two, they’re still amazing.
That’s what this salad is about. The ground is frozen. Nothing fresh is growing within hundreds of miles of here. And so we turn to our refrigerators, most likely to the very back of the bottom shelf. We find the rest of those orchard apples we picked, and a head or two of cabbage, and we make a winter-friendly salad.
This salad is simple and comes together quickly. While you crisp-cook a few bacon strips, you cut your cabbage into thin strips and whisk up a simple dijon-mustard-maple-syrup vinaigrette. Once the bacon is crisp, you cook the cabbage over high heat for just a minute or two to wilt, adding in the bleu cheese and the vinaigrette. Top it with the apples and bacon crumbles, and that’s it.
This salad packs a lot of flavor, and I love the texture from the just-wilted cabbage paired with the crunchy apples. If you’re serving it for dinner, it still tastes good at room temperature if you need to make it just a bit ahead of finishing your main course.
So let’s hear it for these heroes of winter. Let us roast all the root vegetables and cook up cabbage that never molds.
P.S. Do you have a go-to cabbage recipe? If you can believe, I still have cabbage from September.
1 head Napa cabbage (or 3 cups green cabbage)
1 1/2 cups red cabbage (several outer leaves left intact if using as serving bowls)
5 thick slices applewood smoked bacon
4 ounces crumbled bleu cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (less or more to taste)
1 apple*, cored and chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 - 1 teaspoon maple syrup (to taste)**
1/2 teaspoon cold water
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
*For the apple, I recommend a variety with a nice sweet/tart balance like the Opal or Honeycrisp. I tried this with a Granny Smith, and it was way too tart.
**If you're using a sweeter apple variety, lean towards just 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup in the vinaigrette.
Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook bacon strips until crisp. Remove to drain on paper-towel-lined plate. Once cooled, crumble into bits.
Reserve approximately 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan; drain off any extra.
Prepare Cabbage and Vinaigrette:
Meanwhile, prepare the Napa (or green) and red cabbage by stacking leaves, then slicing into 1/4-inch slices, crosscutting to 2-inch pieces.
Prepare vinaigrette by combinging oil, Dijon, white wine vinegar, maple syrup cold water, salt and pepper in a small, lidded container and shaking vigorously.
Heat reserved bacon grease in the same pan you used for the bacon. Add the cabbage, black pepper, and vinaigrette; saute for a minute & a half, until cabbage is just wilted. Stir in the bleu cheese for about 30 seconds.
Remove from heat and stir in chopped apple. If desired, spoon salad into prepared red cabbage leaf bowls.
Best served warm (immediately), but can also be served at room temperature.
This salad does not keep well; it tastes okay the next day but it will be limp and soggy in texture.