The transition from leafy, spring greens to the crisp violet storage vegetables and emerald succulents of high summer has begun. Red cabbages and violet beets lie taciturn beside scarlet radishes and carrots the hue of the scorching sun. Snap peas, kohlrabi, and cucumbers replace red leaf and romaine, while spinach wilts in the noontime heat and falls dry to the earth.
With the transition comes a shift in salads; the soft, leafy arugula and buttery bibb mixes pass and crisp summer slaws slip onto the plate. The crunch of hard, tightly wrapped cabbage is softened by watery cucumber and the draping of a grated beet. Snap peas and kohlrabi echo with crisp sweetness, a concert in contrast against the damp raining humidity of the summer air.
From vegetable to salad, I use only a grater and a whisk. I rub the skin from the beets, staining the white porcelain of the sink a deep, gory red. The kohlrabi goes more quietly, green pastel and knobby knuckles giving way to pure white. The cabbage falls leaf by leaf, the snap peas in half, and the cucumber with limbs strewn across the board. In a large bowl, the gratings mix and bleed together, a violent sea of purple and green.
Finally, I whisk yellow yolks hard with the dripping stream of measured oil. Slowly they stiffen and lose translucence, emulsifying into a satisfying mayo. I grind in a clove of crushed garlic and a dash of vinegar, and pour the dressing over the slaw. Purple becomes pink, yellow turns to cream, and I sit down to a bowl of tangy summer salad.
CRISP SUMMER SLAW
Finely chop 1 small head red cabbage. Grate 3 small red beets, 1 head kohlrabi, and 1/2 medium sized cucumber. Snap in half 1 cup sugar snap or other edible pod peas. Combine in a large bowl.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk 1 egg yolk until smooth. Drip in, whisking constantly, 1 cup olive oil, making sure to add slowly enough to keep mixture opaque. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 clove crushed garlic. Mix well. Spoon over slaw (there may be some leftover*), adding several tablespoons white or cider vinegar and fresh ground pepper to taste. Toss well and serve chilled.
*Garlic aioli will keep in the fridge for at least a week, if not longer.