Winter Slaw with Farro

An “I-could-make-this-tonight” recipe appeared on my Food52 daily email this week, Deb Perelman’s Winter Slaw with Farro. I made it for dinner the other night, and its flavors and textures are both delicious.  The crisp, sweet cabbage contrasts perfectly with the soft, vinegar marinated dried fruit, the nuts add crunch and richness, the cheese adds a nice bit of saltiness and the nutty farro adds chewiness.    I served it with Turnips Anna, an elegant but earthy dish that, with the slaw, made a perfect winter meal.

cabbage farro slaw in bowl w:servers

turnips-anna-finished

Part of the appeal of the slaw recipe was that I had the main ingredients at hand: January King cabbage in the winter kitchen garden, Bluebird Grain Farm emmer farro in the pantry and Parmesan in the fridge. I didn’t have dried apricots or roasted almonds, but the author’s notes encourage swapping other dried fruits for apricots and other nuts for almonds.  I used a combination of our home-dried apples and pears and toasted hazelnuts because I had both in the pantry.

Another appeal is that the recipe fell into easy steps.  After setting the farro to boil, I diced the dried apples and pears and put them in a small bowl with the white wine vinegar.  After harvesting, halving and coring the cabbage, I sliced it on a mandolin, though the food processor or a sharp knife would have worked too.  After chopping the hazelnuts, shaving the Parmesan, and draining the farro, all the ingredients were ready to combine, just as the directions suggest.

cabbage farro slaw still life

I made a half-batch for the two of us and had plenty left over for a delicious lunch slaw the next day. A few nights later, I made another half-batch for dinner.  This time, in addition to the generous amounts of salt and pepper Perelman recommends, I made a white wine vinegar and mustard vinaigrette to add more acid flavor to the marinated dried fruit.  That was a tasty addition.  Another time I might add pickled red onions.  While there are still January King Cabbages in the kitchen garden, I’ll keep making this slaw.

Deb Perelman’s Winter Slaw with Farro

 Author Notes: Deb Perelman had yearned for a grain salad with an inverted proportion of grains to vegetables for some time before tasting the inspiration for this one at the West Village restaurant Via Carota. Finally, she felt more confident to make her own. Since then, she’s seen scant proportions of grains peek through in other restaurant salads (often fried freekah for toasty, popcorn-like crunch) and made all sorts of variations herself. She loves switching in walnuts and “diced pillowy bits of Taleggio or Robiola instead of Parmesan cheese.” You can also swap any dried fruit for the apricot.
Adapted very slightly from Smitten Kitchen Every Day (Knopf, 2017).

Ingredients

  • 1/2cup (100g) finely diced dried apricots
  • 1/4cup (60ml) white wine vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 1 small-medium (2 pounds or a bit less than 1kg) head green cabbage
  • 1 1/3 cups (145g) cooked farro, cooled (from about 3/4 cup uncooked)
  • 1/3 cup (45g) roughly chopped roasted almonds
  • 2 ounces (55g) Parmesan, thinly shaved on a grater with a vegetable peeler
  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) olive oil, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

 Directions

Place the apricots in a small bowl with the vinegar, and set aside while preparing the other ingredients.

Cut the cabbage in half, and remove the core (and eat the core as a crunchy snack); then cut the halves again so you have quarters. With a mandolin or a knife, slice the cabbage into very thin ribbons. You’ll have about 12 cups total, which will seem ridiculous, but it will wilt down with dressing on it. Pile it into your largest bowl.

 Add to the bowl the apricots and their vinegar, the farro, almonds, and most of the Parmesan, plus the olive oil, salt, and a good helping of freshly ground pepper. Toss to combine, and try to give it 15 minutes to let the ingredients settle a little before making seasoning adjustments; then add more vinegar, Parmesan, oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Perelman emphasizes this: “With so few ingredients and most of them fairly mildly flavored, you cannot skimp on seasoning or texture; I hope everyone toasts their almonds well and uses salt and pepper until all the flavors are lifted/present.” 

Heap the slaw on plates in piles, and top with remaining Parmesan. The slaw’s textures are best for serving to company at this point, but this will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge for great take-to-work lunches. 

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