I think it’s safe to declare Spring is finally here. Oh YAY! Winter has dragged on, and I’m fed up with the cold weather. I’m so ready for warmer days and lighter, fresher eating.
A while ago we had a surprisingly delicious Italian style cabbage salad as a side dish at this cute little Italian restaurant down the road from our place; Franco Choo’s. It’s our favourite place for a romantic dinner: tiny, dark and cosy, with an intriguing menu and sophisticated cocktails; walking distance from home and reasonably priced. It ticks all the boxes for us. If you live in these parts and haven’t been – go.
I couldn’t wait to re-create the salad at home. It surprised me because it wasn’t a pickled, Eastern European thing, or a mayonnaisey American thing. It was fresh and crisp, with a toasty crunch from pine nuts, and a salty tang from parmesan.
I didn’t want to copy it, and it’s not been on the menu the times we’ve been back. I wanted to create the tastes as I remembered them, and added red wine vinegar soaked currants for a piquant twist. Who knows, I might be completely off the mark, but everyone loves this version and we have it weekly now, usually as a side to grilled salmon.
Now Spring is here and warmer days and lighter meals are on the radar, it’s a good time to introduce it to you.
It may seem just a simple salad, but it’s so much more than that. I love the subtle layers of flavour: the fresh, bland crunch of the cabbage; the merest hint of aniseed from the fennel; the apple’s tartness; the sweetness of the peas; the bright sweet/sourness of the vinegared currants; the toasty crunch of the pine nuts and parmesan’s salty umami notes. And . . . it’s so blinking healthy!
I have to come clean with you though, I would usually use a red apple, and half and half shredded purple cabbage, but I wanted a clean, green image, so food styling won out. No need for you to faff about – use what’s available and in season. I reckon finely slivvered fresh mint would kick it up a notch too. Maybe I’ll try that next time.