For a long time I didn’t know how to explain my sensibility with food. I always loved to cook, but I never considered myself a “food person” until my health issues began. From then on, I was on a rather dismal quest to find things that didn’t make me ill. I tried a million diets which kept me constantly trying new vegetables, weird ingredients - looking for the few things in the market that were “free” of all the things I needed. My love for food didn’t start from a rich family or cultural history, but as a result of chronic pain. Limitation has always been my menu.
Although I’ve had periods of “indulgence” - wanting to cook / eat / bake everything I never had (or could eat) - I always come back to a sensibility that can only be described as Californian (where I’m from). I relate to avocado, to any kind of sprout, and basically anything that can be described as “1970’s Topanga Canyon vegetarian”. I would self describe it as hippie food with a bit of culinary curiosity.
And it’s what I always come back to that helped me understand who I was. I’ve been having some stomach issues lately that have left me craving comfort. What I seem to grab in these occasions, when I’m looking for something healing rather than “good”, is always something simple in a bowl. It could be some vegetables, a grain, maybe some avocado. Usually arugula (my favorite green, especially when my digestion is off). It’s my own version of comfort food; simple meals that feel like “home”.
California Red Cabbage & Fennel Slaw (gluten-free, vegan) serves 4
4 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup sliced fennel, thin on mandolin
3-4 radishes, sliced thin on mandolin
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup sliced chives
1 lemon, juiced
1/3 cup pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped
Fennel fronds, to serve
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lemon, juice
About 1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper
In a large bowl, mix together cabbage, fennel, radishes and all herbs. Squeeze over the juice of one lemon and toss to combine. Set aside.
To toast pistachios, add to a skillet and toast over medium heat until browned or add to a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees until browned and smelling nutty (about 10-12 minutes).
To make the dressing, whisk together all ingredients until emulsified (until it’s a thick, cohesive dressing).
Add the dressing to the bowl of "slaw" and toss together until well combined. Season with flaky sea salt, freshly ground pepper and top with pistachios and fennel fronds Optional toppings: baked tofu, avocado or sprouts ;)
*For simple baked tofu, I add 1 inch slabs to a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and tamari. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, flip and bake another 15-20 or until browned and tender. Season with sea salt & freshly cracked pepper.