I’ve learned a lot about the science of food over the past 8 or so years. I studied the chemistry behind the individual molecules that physically make up different foods to the metabolic reactions that happen in our bodies to digest food. Food science was fascinating to me – the idea that I can take raw, whole, natural ingredients, add some heat and maybe a few things like fat, acid, salt, or sugar, and in return I get something far greater than what all those raw ingredients could have ever dreamed of being to begin with.
Take these three foods right here for example: beets, red cabbage, and red onion. On their own, none of these are exactly exciting. Visually stunning yes, but nobody goes to the grocery store with red cabbage on their list and thinks, “Oh happy day, I get to buy delicious red cabbage today! It’s just my most favorite food! Way better than ice cream or brownies any day.” I’m being cheeky, I know, but most people think of these foods as bitter, overpowering, and generally unappetizing.
I don’t totally disagree. But add a few simple ingredients like acid (from white and red wine vinegar), fat (from olive oil and tangy goat cheese), salt, sugar, and a few other flavorful staples (paprika, fresh herbs, coarse grain mustard, sunflower seeds), and now we’re talkin’!
I happened on this recipe for a ruby salad via Pinterest a few years ago (yes, not everything on Pinterest is a fail), and the photo immediately caught my attention. It was stunning – fantastic piles of reddish purple cabbage with little hints of green cilantro and stark white feta cheese. The photo looked so good, I figured the salad was worth a shot, and, after making this for the at least tenth time, I figured you might want to try it as well.
For me, this slaw is the perfect example of taking ordinary ingredients and elevating them with really basic, tried-and-true cooking principles. Yes, this slaw is visually appealing and SUPER good for you. But most importantly, it tastes fresh and bright and so flavorful. And who knows – you might actually be excited to buy red cabbage 🙂
Ruby Red Slaw
Filled with spicy sunflower seeds, quick-pickled red onions, and tangy goat cheese, this Ruby Red Slaw pairs perfectly with anything coming off the grill. Adapted from Cowgirl Cuisine by Paula Disbrowe.
For the quick-pickled onions
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
For the dressing
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon coarse grain mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
For the salad
- 1 lb beets, scrubbed well, ends trimmed off, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 6 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
- 1 tablespoon each minced Italian parsley and cilantro
- 4 oz goat cheese, crumbled (you could also use feta)
For the pickled onions, combine the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small bowl. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then add the onions. Let the onions pickle while you prepare the rest of the slaw.
Next, cook the beets by placing the chopped beets in a small saucepan and cover just barely with water. Add in a healthy pinch of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer the beets until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the beets and sprinkle with the teaspoon of red wine vinegar.
While the beets cook, heat a saucepan with 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the sunflower seeds and cook until light brown and toasted, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in a pinch of salt and the paprika. Set aside.
To make the dressing, combine all the dressing ingredients in a small jar with a lid and shake vigorously. Shake again just before dressing the slaw.
In a large bowl, combine the sliced cabbage, the cooled beets, the drained pickled onions, the toasted sunflower seeds, and the parsley and cilantro. Toss well. Dress the slaw and crumble the goat cheese on top right before serving. Enjoy!