Monday, March 30, 2009

Napa Cabbage & Red Onion Salad and Paul Rudd: Together at Last

Mostly in life, it’s the little things that make the big things work. Clocks are powered by tiny, irrepressible gears. People are powered by small, delicate organs. Good movies are powered by Paul Rudd.

Recently, The Boyfriend and I realized that every solidly funny film we’ve seen since 2004 has starred Rudd in some capacity (Pixar films excepted). Adorable and dorky (adorkable?), he’s made Anchorman, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Role Models, and now I Love You Man much better for his presence. Maybe it’s the timing, or the fact that in less comic circumstances, he’s a stone hottie. Either way, the guy is MAGIC. He even made the last season of Friends almost tolerable, long after Phoebe and Ross drove most fans to tear their own spleens out.

Still, Rudd isn’t a superstar. He’s simply a smaller player in big films that wouldn’t work without him, kind of like today’s recipe. (How’s that for a segue?)

Let me explain: on its own, Napa Cabbage and Red Onion Salad is pretty good. A slaw-type dish, the combination of cilantro, ginger, and toasted sesame oil push it above most of its brethren. Still, I’m not sure I’d eat a big bowl of it for a snack. First, there’s the onion breath issue. Second, it just feels like it needs something else.

See, on top of chicken breast, Napa Cabbage and Red Onion Salad could be divine. Mixed with cold noodles, I could see it turned into a great light dinner. Paired with a burger? Perfection. All of these possibilities could morph this solid, capable dish into something much bigger than itself, while elevating the dish as a whole.

Essentially (and here’s where we tie this all together), it’s like taking Paul Rudd and sticking him in a pretty good comedy. All of a sudden, both become awesome. (BAM!)

Of course, should you try to make this yourself, there are two things to know:

1) To reiterate: this dish is VERY oniony. You won’t be making out with anyone for quite awhile afterwards (unless he/she REALLY loves you). If you’re averse, I might up the cabbage to three cups to counteract the onionosity.

2) I reduced the salt by half a teaspoon. If you like salt, add more.

In conclusion, go see I Love You Man. And bring some of this salad. Together, they could make each other even better.

Napa and Red Onion Salad
Serves 4
Adapted from Beyond the Great Wall by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.

1 small or 1/2 medium large red onion (1/4 pound), sliced into 1/8-inch crescents
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
4 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons roasted sesame oil, or to taste
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon rice vinegar, or to taste
About 1/2 cup coriander (cilantro) leaves

1) Put onion into a wire sieve. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Toss. Let drain 10 minutes.

2) To a large bowl, add cabbage. Pour boiling water over cabbage. Walk away for 2 minutes. Drain. Put cabbage back in bowl.

3) Rinse onion with cold water. Squeeze to get extra water out. Add to cabbage bowl.

4) In a small skillet, heat sesame oil over medium heat. Add ginger. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add vinegar. When it starts bubbling, pour contents of pan over cabbage mixture. Toss well. Add remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Toss again. Serve right away OR let it hang out for about an hour. (I left this overnight, and liked it much better after sitting.)

5) Season with a little more sesame oil and salt before serving. Add cilantro. Toss. Serve

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
46 calories, 2.3 g fat, $0.58

1 small or 1/2 medium large red onion (1/4 pound): 49 calories, 0 g fat, $0.18
1-1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
2 cups shredded Napa cabbage: 40 calories, 0 g fat, $0.65
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, or to taste: 87 calories, 9.3 g fat, $0.40
1 tablespoon minced ginger: 5 calories, 0 g fat, $0.16
1 tablespoon rice vinegar, or to taste: 1 calorie, 0 g fat, 0.24
About 1/2 cup coriander leaves: 2 calories, 0 g fat, $0.66
TOTAL: 184 calories, 9.3 g fat, $2.31
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 46 calories, 2.3 g fat, $0.58


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