During winter months, usually soup is on the table more often than salad. This year, however, I am having an intense relationship with raw cabbage. It's not that I discovered it, but I've been reminded how much I like a salad of finely shredded cabbage, and how much I enjoy playing with it, adding various ingredients and tasting the results.
One such ingredient recently has been pan-roasted salmon, prepared according to the recipe2 in Jessica Fechtor's memoir Stir3, the current selection of our Cook the Books Club.
I enjoyed the book, both for the writing style — clear, concise, without frills but also rich in vivid images — and for the way the author deals with her health scare, the various setbacks and subsequent challenges. I like that she keeps her focus on her experience as individual. My favorite part of the book comes at the end of chapter 14, where she writes:
The doctor's question was a version of something I'd start hearing a lot. “Everything happens for a reason.” People said it to me all the time. I know they meant to comfort. [...] I'd feel my chest tighten every time and do my best not to roll my eyes.
Everything happens for a reason? I don't see it that way at all. To me, only the first part is clear: Everything happens. Then other things happen, and other things, still. Out of each of these moments, we make something. Any number of somethings, in fact.
What comes of our own actions becomes the "reason." It is no predestined thing. We may arrive where we are by way of a specific path—we can take just one at a time—but it's never the only one that could have led us to our destination. Nor does a single event, even a string of them, point decisively to a single landing spot. There are infinite possible versions of our lives. Meaning is not what happens, but what we do with what happens when it does.
I'd like to meet Jessica Fechtor and give her a hug to thank her for writing this half page.
Back to beautiful cabbage, fresh from the farmers' market, the recipe for the salad is mine and while you don't need to follow Fechtor's recipe for the salmon part, I recommend you give it a try: it is easy, fast and gives a very nice result. I also prepared black cod (a.k.a., sablefish) in the same way and was happy with my decision. I usually purchase king salmon (a.k.a., chinook) or coho, rigorously wild-caught.
The weeks before Christmas (Natale) I bought a lot of persimmons at various farmers' markets in Berkeley. I mean, how could I not? They are excellent eaten out of hand or used as ingredients. Plus, the farmers' market were taking a break until early January, so I planned accordingly.
One day, as I was shredding cabbage, I thought about adding sliced Fuyu persimmon. Leftover salmon invited itself to the party and tahini sauce convinced me it would bring the ingredients together in a nice salad. I loved the result. I made more salmon, had more leftovers (avanzi), prepared the salad again and again enjoyed it to the last bite, so I am sharing the recipe below.
I made roasted sesame tahini and tahini sauce for an earlier recipe4 and have since used the sauce with various vegetables always with nice results. For this salad, I made a batch without garlic. Tahini sauce offsets persimmon's sweetness and brings together the rich, oily salmon with the crisp, fresh-tasting cabbage.
Salad ingredients serve 1, to be multiplied as needed; tahini sauce ingredients make 1/2 cup
Ingredients for toasted sesame tahini:
- 1 cup /150 g / 5 1/4 ounces white sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Ingredients for tahini sauce:
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml tahini, homemade or store-bought
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml water
- 4 teaspoons / 20 ml fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Note: the recipe I used previously4 includes: 2 roasted garlic cloves, peeled and crushed OR 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced. I omitted the garlic in the tahini sauce for this salad.
For the salad, for each person:
- 2 ounces / 55 g roasted salmon
- 1/2 medium Fuyu persimmon
- 4 ounces / 110 g finely shredded cabbage
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml tahini sauce
Note: Fuyu is a non-astringent variety of persimmon. It can be eaten when firm or it may be left to ripen (and soften), as preferred.
How to make toasted sesame tahini
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet on medium heat until they are tanned and fragrant. Shake the skillet often or stir the seeds with a spatula. This will take just a few minutes, so guard the seeds like a hawk: they will burn easily. Transfer the seeds to a plate and let cool completely.
Process the sesame seeds in a small food processor or blender until a thick paste forms. Add the olive oil and process until smooth. Add sea salt and process briefly to distribute. Transfer the tahini to a glass jar and refrigerate until ready to use.
How to make tahini sauce
Rather than raw garlic, I prefer to use roasted garlic, whose flavor is more muted. As I use the oven often, it is easy for me to wrap a few unpeeled garlic cloves in foil and put them in the oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on the oven temperature.
Whiz all the tahini sauce ingredients until smooth. You will get more than you need for the beans, but this sauce can be used to dress roasted or steamed vegetables.
How to compose the salad
If the roasted salmon is refrigerator-cold, warm it up slightly. Flake the salmon.
Wash the persimmon, halve it, pull away the stem and use the knife to remove the core. Slice half for the salad. If the slices are long, halve them crosswise.
Plate the salad: season the cabbage with the sea salt and toss. Distribute the salmon and the persimmon on the cabbage bed. Drizzle the tahini sauce on the top.
Serve with additional tahini sauce on the side. Each person will toss the salad before eating.
If Fuyu persimmons are not available where you are, try substituting it with an Asian pear.
1 A great find at a thrift store: it has a small chip and no lid, but I paid $1 for it
2 Pan-roasted salmon recipe
3 Stir by Jessica Fechtor
4 Purgatory bean salad with tahini sauce and Asian pear
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the insalata di cavolo cappuccio, salmone arrosto e cachi mela audio file [mp3].
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FTC disclosure: I have received the tablecloth free of charge from the manufacturer (la FABBRICA del LINO). I have not and will not receive any monetary compensation for presenting it on my blog. The experience shared and the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.