Too many cabbages? Que sera, sera

Que Sera Cabbage Salad

I’ve been so very tired lately. Too tired to cook, too tired to even figure out what I might want to eat. Luckily for me, exactly one and one half blocks from my house is a Mexican restaurant that makes a pretty decent and decently priced kid-sized bean, rice, and cheese burrito. I went down there yesterday and and once again bought my main meal of the day, asking them to add a side of this fantastic cabbage salad they make there. Then I carried my paper bag of burrito and salad back to my house and ate my rice and my beans and my cabbage. Meanwhile, down the hall, there were four kinds of cabbage in my refrigerator.

Yes, four kinds of cabbage. A half a head of napa cabbage, a red cabbage, a Savoy beginning to wither, and the most recent addition to the community, a pointy Wakefield. So I did what any girl would do when confronted with this sort of cabbage surplus. I called my mom.

Every year when I was a kid my mom and I would throw a huge Chanukah party. Well over a hundred people would pile into our little house, lining up in rowdy crowds outside the kitchen for latkes, and heading back to the dining room for plate after plate of the cabbage and cucumber salads my mother would start making the night before in enormous vats, keeping her eye on all the steps involving ice water and salt and vinegar throughout the night as she transformed our house into a twinkle-lit wonderland. It was this fresh, silky cabbage experience that I wanted to replicate, as much a winter cabbage association as the heavy cooked cabbage dishes I’d been putting off making.

Here, straight from Mom and the Silver Palate Cookbook, is the Que Sera Cabbage Salad of my youth (scaled down for a home audience, of course!).

(Recipe behind the “more”…)

Que Sera Cabbage Salad (from the Silver Palate Good Times cookbook)
This recipe needs to be started about a day in advance, but the actual prep time is minimal and it is so worth it for the silky smooth result, flecked with delicious hints of cinnamon from the pink peppercorns.

1 large green cabbage, finely shredded (I used the Wakefield)
3 T. kosher salt
1 red onion, sliced into thin rings
2 T. ginger, finely minced
1/2 C. fresh lemon juice
1/2 C. olive oil
1/2 C. fresh mint, chopped (I omitted this and it was still great)
1 1/2 T. pink peppercorns (I used peppercorn mix, which has pink, white, green, and black, but the pink ones are very important – don’t just substitute black!)
Salt to taste

1) Sprinkle the cabbage with 2 T. kosher salt in a large bowl. Let stand for 4 hours. After 4 hours, cover with ice water and let stand one more hour. Rinse and drain cabbage.

2) After cabbage has been standing with salt for 3 hours, place onion in a separate bowl and sprinkle with the remaining 1 T. kosher salt. Let stand 1 hour. Cover with ice water and let stand one more hour. Rinse and drain onion.

3) Combine cabbage and onion in a large mixing bowl.

4) Whisk together ginger, lemon juice, and olive oil. Pour over cabbage and toss.

5) Stir in mint and peppercorns. Taste, add salt as needed.

6) Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving.

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