Coleslaw with apples, sharp cheddar and hazelnuts

Coleslaw with apples and cheddar

Hello, my dears! We’ve been in Cape May for a few days. For those not familiar with Cape May, it’s a small town on the very southern tip of New Jersey. It’s a shore shangri-la! Unlike many places at the shore, it had a bit of shade. It has lovely gardens and shady streets, and it also happens to be a place that birds, well, flock to. You have your shore birds, of course, and you busy house wrens, with all of their chattering, sweetly bubbling drama, you have your migratory warblers. And I could swear I saw a magpie! Of course we don’t have magpies in New Jersey, but as the bird books will tell you, birds frequently accidentally or casually visit Cape May. I love the idea of an accidental visitor, especially if the visitor is a bird. We were casual visitors to Cape May, and we had a lovely time. Malcolm is a reckless & graceful water dog. If he sees the water, he must be in it, and he’s a natural at swimming in waves. Isaac, who can’t swim yet, is far more cautious. I worry that he’s absorbing my anxieties, because for some strange reason, for the past few years I’ve had a strange fear of swimming in the ocean. I didn’t used to be this way! I don’t like being turned upside down, and discombobulated. I don’t like my feet pulled one way, and my head the other, and my whole self powerless to keep my bearings. Well…you know what’s more fun than doing something you’re comfortable with? Doing something you’re a little bit scared of, but you know is fun. Malcolm explained how to do it. You watch the waves for a while, to understand their pattern. Then you walk sideways, feeling with your left foot, to the point where the sand drops off a few feet. Then…you…leap! I was so happy! It was a really heart-poundingly ecstatic feeling, being in the waves with Malcolm and David. The water was lovely, cloudy celadon green, the sky round and vast and clear. There were dolphins playing a hundred yards out. We were swimming in the same water as dolphins! If you stood with your arms out, and your toes just touching the ground, the swell of the wave would lift you gently and rock you, and you’d hang suspended and breathless, until it softly set you in the sand again. Sometimes two waves would come in quick succession, and you’d hover in the water, waiting to be set down, but delighted to be lifted up.

I could go on and on about it (and I probably will!) but it’s back to life, back to reality, back to work, so I’ll keep it brief for now.

I’ll tell you about this simple coleslaw. This is a nice summer salad, because it’s supremely easy to prepare, and it’s light and clean, but quite substantial, too. It’s good to take to the shore, because cabbage, apples and carrots all travel well in a cooler. Apples and sharp cheddar are a classic combination, of course, and they’re nice here with the sweet bite of cabbage, and the nutty crunch of hazelnuts. I dressed this really simply, with olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and lots of pepper. You could get fancier, with maybe a little dijon or honey or lemon, but I think the grated cheese added enough creaminess that a traditionally creamy dressing would have been too much too much. Isaac called this the “white salad,” and he liked it a lot. First he picked the hazelnuts out. Then, when everybody else had left the table and we were cleaning up, I glanced outside and saw him finishing it up. He cleaned his plate.

Here’s Summersong from The Decemberists. And summer arrives with a length of lights!

1/2 head cabbage – regular or napa – soaked, cleaned and drained
1 largish apple – cored & grated
2 carrots – peeled and grated
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1/2 cup hazelnuts – toasted & chopped
olive oil
white wine vinegar
salt & Plenty of pepper

Cut the cabbage into inch-long strips lengthwise, and then cut it width-wise into pieces about 1/4 inch wide. Put it in a bowl with all of the other ingredients. Adjust with more carrots or apples if you feel that they’re being overwhelmed by copious cabbages.

Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil over. Shake some sea salt on, and toss gently. Then drizzle a few teaspoons of white wine vinegar. Grate tons of pepper on, and toss gently. Serve!

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