We don't exactly have heavy cabbage culture in the US. Why not? We do live in a country that prides itself on its meltingpotitudinous qualities, or at least that used to, since now the official policy seems to have, uh, Changed.
Ok ok! But the fact remains that many of our large immigrant populations came from cultures with plenty of cabbage in their daily diet. Let's just think about Poland, for instance. Actually, let's think about all of eastern Europe. Hardy cold-surviving yet vitamin-containing vegetables like cabbage were hugely important in these cultures, and it shows: sauerkraut, salads, cabbage rolls, pierogi, all the crazy Russian stuffed dumplings you can eat, with sour cream and pickled beets: oh yes. If you go the other direction, you can look at very similar developments in Asian cultures, albeit using different varietals of cabbage: hot and spicy cabbage salads with vinegar and pickled ginger, more cabbage rolls, serious crunch in the wok mix, and fermented productions such as kimchi.
So people from all these cultures came to the US, bringing their individual foods and preparations with them. We still know how to make them, or can easily find out. However, none of these productions became in any way culturally predominant. We have one popular cabbage dish: coleslaw. You know how terrible premade coleslaw can be, with its revolting glorified miracle whip and sugar dressing and wilted, limp shreds of leaf. Ugh. Why not buy a whole, heavy cabbage and make something like this?
This cabbage salad is extremely easy; it only requires you to have some patience, and not very much of that. The salt is key. Salt will draw out the cabbage's moisture and simultaneously season it excellently well. Really, it turns out to be a very simple cabbage pickle.
Self-dressing cabbage salad
handful of carrots
Slice the cabbage into fine, fine strips. Cut a couple times perpendicular across the pile to make for rough matchstick action.
Put the cabbage in a bowl or plastic bag, and add several good shakes of salt. I used maybe half a teaspoon of crushed sea salt. Mix with your hands to get the salt evenly distributed. Then let it sit. Have some wine and watch someone else make you the rest of dinner.
Chop or shred your carrots. I sliced mine on the mandoline, because we were all "hey I remember we have this kitchen toy!" It is quite difficult to slice baby carrots on the mandoline without things flying everywhere, though. In the future I would use whole, full-sized carrots, and just grate them coarsely.
Give your cabbage a good squeeze every once in a while. Is it starting to wilt and exuding a little liquid? Good. That salty cabbage brine is the self-dressing. Add the carrot, mix, and squeeze the whole business some more. You could just as easily add the carrots earlier, but I wanted them to retain some sharp raw quality. I left it to sit for five more minutes, for maybe a half hour of waiting total.
When the cabbage is turning translucent around the edges, you're ready. Grind some pepper over the salad, toss, and eat.
That was it. Eat it.
You could add all kinds of vegetables to this salad. The cabbage makes it sharp and peppery, in the way that greens are peppery; if you wanted more pepper snap you could add finely cut daikon or regular radish. The carrot makes it sweet; you could add some finely slivered bell pepper to add to the sweetness. You could make it oniony by finely chopping some green onion, shallot, or red onion. You could add a squeeze of lemon or a few drops of vinegar to make it extra pungent. You could sliver and toast some almonds and scatter them over the top. Cabbage is delicious.