In northeastern France, the region of Alsace Lorraine, there is a traditional dish called Chou Rouge Braisé, or Braised Red Cabbage. Borrowing influences from the heavy-tasting cuisine of eastern Europe; this vegetable dish is no namby-pamby. Its pink panache is rivaled with bold flavours of butter, onion, cloves, tart apples, red wine and paired with game, typically red meat. I imagine this rich and warming dish would be a very cosy for those dark winter nights.
One noteworthy point is the use of tart apples. The acid helps to retain the purple color of the cabbage. Cue chemistry. Red cabbage are rich in plant pigments (flavinoids) called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are weak organic acids that appear as different colors depending on the numbers of removable protons attached to the molecule. In an acidic environment, anthocyanins reflect red light, and as pH increases to alkaline conditions, the reflected color spans the rainbow from red to blue to green to yellow. That said, it would be an interesting culinary experiment to braise red cabbage in an alkaline environment (baking soda?) and have a ghoulish dish of green or yellow cabbage instead (Halloween ideas).
The truth is that I learnt about Chou Rouge Braisé only after I had made the raw version, which was put together with the remnants of languishing vegetables in the supermarket I bought thanks to late night shopping. During the initial phase of transitioning to a predominantly raw foods diet, I burdened myself unnecessarily with preparing gourmet stylized meals, or in Instagram lingo, “eat-the-rainbow.” However these days monomeals are very much satisfying and pleasurable, such as this Raw Red Cabbage Salad tossed gently in an olive oil French dressing. Yes, coincidentally French too. Red Cabbage, especially when eaten raw, has a stark peppery flavour that is difficult to pair. I took a chance on pears to add a mild fruity sweetness and it was a bullseye choice. Thinly sliced red onions accentuated the pepper tones of the red cabbage, and a smattering crunchy walnuts brought everything in harmony. Simply put, the combination of ingredients here is stunning.
I will make it a point to attempt Chou Rouge Braisé at least once.
- ½ medium red cabbage, quartered then chopped
- 1 large red onion, peeled and quartered then sliced thinly
- 2 small ripe pears, peeled and sliced into batons
- ¼ cup walnuts, chopped
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons brown rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast powder
- ¼ teaspoon liquid sweetener of choice (date paste, coconut nectar, maple syrup)
- ⅛ teaspoon sweet paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon dried Italian herbs (oregano, basil, tarragon or use fresh if available)
- A pinch of dry English mustard powder
- Remove the outer leaves and shred the red cabbage finely with a sharp knife or use a food processor to shred it. Place the shredded cabbage in a large salad bowl.
- Thinly slice the onions. Add it to the salad bowl.
- Peel the pears (you may keep the skins on if preferred) and slice into batons. Add the sliced pears to the salad bowl, along with the chopped walnuts.
- In a small bowl or jar, place all the ingredients for the French olive dressing and whisk or shake to combine. Pour over the salad and toss well. Return the salad bowl to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes for the flavours to infuse.
- Best enjoyed cold.