Crunchy cabbage slaw with pepitas, sesame and cumin
Around this time three years ago, I started culinary school. It was a big jump from journalism, but one that I was absolutely sure (at the time) that I wanted to make.
I loved being a journalist. I loved investigating stories, going out on assignment and interviewing business owners, nonprofit workers, entrepreneurs, creatives and all sorts of experts in their fields. I wrote about so many passionate people doing something significant in the world. It was inspiring, uplifting and oftentimes thrilling. It made me want to jump in and join them in whatever they were doing. But instead, I just wrote about it.
After these interviews, I would come back to my desk, sit down in front of my computer and try to tell their stories in my own words. This was always the hardest part for me. There was so much of their story that I wanted to tell and a limited word count in which I could tell it. I was usually under a strict deadline. And, worst of all, I had to repeat the exercise anywhere from two to five times a day with clickable headlines.
So, I got burnt out. I had stiff shoulders and an achy back from sitting in front of my computer for most of the day (as much of the world does), and a longing to be one of those people out there doing something with my hands, creating something new.
Since my favorite beats were restaurants and hospitality, I spent a lot of time around chefs. I got swept up in the food culture that seems to be taking over the nation and I found a culinary school that promised ways to take what I loved about journalism and use it with food. So, I took the plunge. With the support of my wonderful husband (who has been so patient as I follow all of my passionate whims), I did the thing I always dreamed of someday doing and went to culinary school.
I started school in the late spring, early summer, which was so lucky because it meant we got to use all of the (in my humble opinion) best farmer’s market produce.
While I have a bagillion favorite recipes inspired by my time at culinary school (which I will continue to share throughout this blogging journey), this cabbage slaw is probably the simplest and easiest to pull off. I find myself making it every time we have a taco night or any time I need to bring a fresh side to a potluck or BBQ. Everyone raves about it, as it looks familiar, but catches you off guard with all the nutty flavors of the seeds and oils. I hope you can enjoy it and also follow your passionate whims from time to time.
Perfect as a side for a summer barbecue or mounted on top of tacos, this slaw is fresh and crunchy, with a nutty and peppery touch from the cumin seeds and toasted sesame oil. It takes about 10 minutes to put together and can feed a big crowd. Feel free to use lots of lime juice to brighten it up.
Toasting seeds and nuts brings out their natural oils and enhances the overall flavor of this dish. However, they can go from toasty to burnt and bitter really quickly, so it’s critical that you keep an eye on them while on the stove. Also, the walnut oil is lovely here, but if you don’t have it, any neutral oil will work just fine.
SERVES 4 AS A SIDE
¼ cup pepitas (a.k.a. pumpkin seeds)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons walnut oil (or a neutral oil)
1 head (green or red) cabbage, thinly sliced
1. On a small nonstick skillet over low heat, warm the pepitas, sesame seeds and cumin seeds until they start to smell fragrant and toasty, 8 to 10 minutes (depending on your pan). Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of the lime juice with the sesame and walnut oils. Add salt to taste.
3. Toss the cabbage with the toasted seeds and dressing. Taste and add more lime juice or salt, as you see fit.