Though it's slowly changing, our industry doesn't have a reputation for being particularly friendly or caring towards vegetarians and vegans. Sure, if you ask for it, you'll get your no-meat-dairy-free pasta, but odds are the chef and the cooks in the kitchen are cursing your name.
Though I eat meat, I grew up in a family full of vegetarians and don't really get the whole gung-ho meat mentality that some chefs have. On a personal, pragmatic level, I save money and feel better when I'm eating a healthy dose of vegetables. On a professional level, I think you risk undertaking unimaginative and lazy cooking with menus that are heavily focused on meat or fish. Anybody with a nice steak, a hot pan and a thermometer can make a meal most people are going to be happy with. The same can't be said for a head of cabbage; making that delicious and appetizing takes thought, care, technique and a bit of creativity.
This salad is for all the vegetarians sitting around the Christmas table with nothing to eat. If you omit the crème fraiche, this is vegan. If you're eating ham or turkey over the holidays, don't worry, this goes rather well with those, too.
1 tablespoon grape seed oil
½ cup savoy cabbage, roughly diced
¼ cup cooked barley (spelt, quinoa or brown rice would make excellent substitutes)
2 Brussels sprouts, trimmed and finely sliced on a mandolin or with a knife
2 tablespoons dill, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons toasted walnuts, lightly crushed
1 tablespoon raisins
1 teaspoon capers, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon crème fraiche or sour cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil. When you can see thin wisps of smoke coming from the pan, add the cabbage spread out on the pan. Do not stir or toss. Allow the cabbage to caramelize deeply (it should look almost burnt). Take off the heat, cool on a tray and set aside.
Mix the cabbage with the rest of the salad ingredients, except for the crème fraiche, together in a bowl.
To make the dressing, place the lemon juice, Dijon and honey in a bowl and whisk together. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking until you have an emulsified vinaigrette. If it splits and you can see blotches of oil, it means you added the oil too fast. Don’t worry, it will still taste good, but will have a slightly less enjoyable mouth feel.
Dress the salad with the vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. It should be sour, sweet and a little piquant from the mustard.
On a serving plate, place a dollop of crème fraiche. Spoon the salad over the crème fraiche and serve.