In my group cooking and nutrition program, I share a recipe formula for a refrigerator salad with a base of massaged purple cabbage or kale. Prepping vegetables is the most time-consuming part of a meal. And although they say we eat what's in our fridge, I believe we eat what's prepared in our fridge.
With that in mind, the premise of a refrigerator salad is to use ingredients that are robust and hold up well in the fridge marinating together, providing a quick, read-to-eat vegetable option anytime we need. With purple cabbage and beets, today's salad is an especially easy way to work those blue/purple foods we're often lacking into our everyday meals.
And yes, cabbage can be massaged just like kale. The trick is to use a large, sharp knife or mandolin to slice it very thinly. If using a Conehead cabbage, the slice is less important because the leaves are more tender than a regular round cabbage.
Once I have the massaged base, I vary up the add-ins week to week. Today's recipe is special because it includes whole coriander seeds. I know this might sound strange - we're not used to eating spices in their whole form. But some whole spices such as cumin, coriander, fennel, and mustard seeds, are absolutely edible and delicious. If you've eaten an authentic curry, whole grain mustard, or your grandmother's homemade pickles, you've eaten whole spices. ;-)
The inspiration for coriander seeds came from the many delicious Ayurvedic-inspired salads I had at a yoga and meditation retreat a few summer's back. It's been filed away in my notes to share with you ever since. Better late than never, right?!
The coriander seeds are lightly toasted here and give a welcome, bright pop of herbal, citrus flavor. Cabbage benefits from bright flavors, whether that's coriander seeds, citrus, vinegar, ginger, or capers. I offer substitutions in the recipe headnote just in case, but I do hope you'll give coriander seeds a go, not only for their novelty but also their plant power.
Along with other spices and herbs such as turmeric, oregano, cinnamon, and ginger, coriander seeds contain terpenoids, a class of chemical plant compounds. Terpenoids possess strong antioxidant activity to fight oxidative stress in our body that leads to aging, inflammation, and disease.
So, whether it's for its vibrant color, make-ahead strategy, an excuse to play with food, or the antioxidant power from coriander seeds and blue/purple phytonutrients, I hope you're as pumped to make this salad as I am!
Massaged Purple Cabbage & Coriander Seed Salad
Serves 4 (scale up as needed)
Notes: The coriander seeds make this salad unique. They give a bright pop of citrus flavor that you can't get from anything else, and they elevate the entire salad. If you don't have them on hand, substitute with toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds for crunch and a few spoonfuls of capers or grated ginger to taste, for brightness. Capers and ginger are obviously different from coriander seed but a comparable "brightener" replacement.
- 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
- 1 small head (550 gr) purple cabbage (Conehead or regular round variety)
- 2 medium or 4 small (260 gr) cooked beets*
- Small bunch (20 gr.) cilantro, leaves + tender stems chopped
- 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
- 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. maple syrup
- Toast coriander seeds in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant and slightly browned (~2-4 minutes). Halve and core cabbage. Slice very thinly, using a mandolin or large, sharp knife. (The slice is less important if using Conhead cabbage.)
- Place cabbage in a large, deep bowl. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar, drizzle of olive oil, and generous pinch of salt. Massage until tender and reduced in volume.
- Slice beets in planks, stack planks, and slice across to make thin batons. Add beet batons, cilantro, coriander seeds, and 1/4 tsp. salt to massaged cabbage. In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar and remaining ingredients, including the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt. Pour over salad and toss to combine.
- Taste and adjust salt, sweetness, and acidity as needed. (Sometimes cabbage salads benefit from an extra squeeze of lemon, depending on the density and type of cabbage.)
*For quick work, I like using the vacuum-packed cooked beets found in the refrigerator section.