Gush Katif-style heads of cabbage — meaning, an actual head that doesn’t need to be checked for bugs — might just be my most exciting grocery find ever. I’ve always been frustrated with the pre-packaged shredded cabbage. It’s expensive, lackluster, and tends to go bad after a few days. But I wasn’t about to check a head myself, so I just kept buying the bags and hoping for better results.
The first time we found this kind (where you separate the leaves, soak in soapy water for 3 minutes, rinse, and use), I was shocked at how good it was. I’ve always liked cabbage and loved cabbage salads, but this was crazy! Fresh, crunchy, crisp, and gorgeous — who knew?
This salad is an easy way to enjoy purple cabbage. Baby corn, scallions, and sunflower seeds add color, complimentary flavors, and a bunch of textures. The dressing is all pantry items, really simple, and makes this a knockout salad.
Plus, did you know that cabbage is one of the simanim we eat on Rosh Hashanah? With seven meals over three days, I’m willing to bet there’s a place at your table for a pretty purple cabbage and a couple of accessories.
- One year ago: Cream cheese swirl brownies
- Two years ago: Gypsy soup
- Three years ago: French onion soup
Yield: About 8 servings
- 1 large head purple cabbage (12 cups sliced cabbage, loosely packed)
- 1 (14 oz/410 g) can baby corn, sliced into ½-inch pieces
can baby corn
- ½ cup sliced scallions (green and white parts)
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- 7 Tbsp sesame oil (olive oil is also okay)
- 3 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp silan (date honey/syrup), honey, or granulated sugar
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ tsp fine salt
- Pinch ground black pepper
1. Quarter the cabbage and cut out the core. Discard any outer leaves that seem like they’ve seen better days. Separate the leaves, soak according to package directions (for Gush Katif-type cabbage), and pat dry. Stack several leaves together and slice thinly. Transfer all the cabbage to a huge serving bowl.
* If you’re using regular cabbage, consult your rav for guidance on checking it for possible infestation.
* If you’re using pre-packaged shredded cabbage, keep in mind that it packs more tightly when measured. Twelve cups of pre-packaged is probably too much for this amount of dressing.
2. Add baby corn, scallions, and sunflower seeds to the cabbage.
3. In a small bowl or straight in a glass measuring cup, whisk together the oil, soy sauce, silan, garlic, salt, and pepper. Pour over the salad, toss well, and serve.
Make ahead: For maximum crunch, prepare the salad and the dressing separately and combine them shortly before serving.
This recipe and story first appeared in the June 30, 2014 edition of “From Tali’s Kitchen,” my cooking column in Binah magazine.
I had been living in Israel for four months when my mother and sister made their bet official. If I was engaged before June 20, my mother would make my sister a batch of mandarin orange tofu. If I got engaged after June 20, my sister would make it for my mother (welcome to my family). On June 19, I called home with the news that I was booking a plane ticket, and that the man flying back with me would soon be my chasan. They decided that my sister won the bet and began planning the vort.
I’m the oldest child, so my mother had never made a vort or anything like one. Although I thought she could rely on my friends in the community to bring desserts, it made more sense to her to prepare the food herself. Understandably, she didn’t want to invite 80 people to the house without being prepared. So she and my sister, who had just graduated from high school and had a summer job decorating cakes in an upscale bakery, started working on “The Book of Vort,” a binder of the dishes they would prepare for the grand event. And so began a two-week-long cooking and baking extravaganza, the likes of which the kitchen and freezer had never seen. Six thousand miles away, making trip arrangements with my almost-chasan and dreaming of a diamond ring, I had no idea how much work was being done in advance of our arrival.
Of course, most of the focus of the preparation was on food. On the savory side, the list included tuna salad, egg salad, lentil salad, veggie platters with Costco-sized tubs of chummus, skewers with cheese, pickles, tomatoes, and olives (my sister’s invention), garlic rolls, stuffed shells, crispy fried potatoes, mini pizzas, and a couple of quiches, some of which was saved for the post-vort dinner with the relatives from out of town.
On the sweet side, there were caramel swirl brownies, chocolate peanut butter squares, raspberry and apricot crumble bars, frosted cupcakes filled with hazelnut cream, pudding parfaits, and chocolate chip cookies. It was all pretty ironic for a family that as a rule did not keep sugar in the house. Amid all of the homemade food that they’d slaved over was a last-minute addition of spaghetti with jarred tomato sauce. My sister could hardly believe it when one of the guests asked for that recipe, raving that it was the best spaghetti she’d ever tasted.
Crazier than the variety of food was the quantity. Not sure how much we’d need and afraid of running low, my mother and sister made 80 – yes, 80 – servings of most things on the list. Two of my close friends from high school came to the house early to help set it all up. But even with the beloved boxes-under-the-tablecloth trick to add height to the table, and even with all extensions in place to add length, there was simply not enough space. Searching for a spot for the 80 parfaits, my sister cleared off two shelves on the dining room bookcase.
The effort that went into all the cooking astounded me, but what I appreciated just as much were the little touches that made it personal. My vort dress had polka dots, for example, and that was carried through to the dessert decorations via polka dot sprinkles and tiny round candies. And when it came to choosing spoons for the parfaits, they went to the place that they knew would have them in my favorite color: Baskin Robbins. The worker on shift that day seemed to think it odd that someone would ask to buy 100 spoons but no ice cream.
Speaking of personal touches, my father and brothers provided musical entertainment in the form of an original song, “Tali Met Aaron,” which they performed with live instruments to the tune of “Going to the Chapel.” I can still sing the entire thing from memory, though with lyrics like these, that isn’t hard:
There were three things Tali wanted in the man of her dreams
first, he had to really like ice cream
second, he had to live in the Holy Land
and third, he had to like her brothers’ band
That isn’t to say that the boys weren’t involved in the food prep, though. One of the tasks on my mother’s do-ahead list was sorting lentils for a salad, and she asked one of my brothers to take care of that, using a white plate. He heard “wet plate,” thought it seemed kind of weird, and did it anyway.
I got plenty of use out of my polka-dot dress that summer, between our Maryland and Toronto vorts in July and our Israel vort in August. They were all beautiful, but only one included 80 servings of more than a dozen homemade dishes prepared by a devoted duo.
The next time you make a vort, or if you want to send an out-of-the-box dish to a friend’s dairy simcha, consider these mini haloumi skewers inspired by my sister’s version. They look festive but are simple to prepare, and anyone who loves cheese will be hoping for a handful. I’ll leave it you, though, to decide how many to make.
- One year ago: Easy aromatic pumpkin soup
- Two years ago: Mint chocolate ice cream sandwiches
- Three years ago: Spicy sweet potato oven fries
Yield: 20 skewers
- 7 oz (200 g) haloumi cheese
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 10 mini pickles, halved vertically
- 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
You will also need:
- 20 mini skewers
1. If the cheese is at all wet, pat it dry with a paper towel. Cut it in 5 strips, and cut each strip into 4 cubes for a total of 20 cubes.
2. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Fry the cheese until lightly browned on all sides. This can take as little as 5-10 seconds per side, so stay by the skillet the entire time. Set the cheese aside to cool briefly, just until safe to handle.
3. To assemble: Slide one tomato half, one pickle half, one cube of cheese, and a second tomato half onto each skewer.
Tip: To preserve the cheese’s crispy exterior from frying, do not refrigerate once it’s been fried. Instead, fry and assemble the skewers within 4 hours of serving and keep them at room temperature.
I love roasted vegetables, but make them often enough and I do get bored. Do you also suffer from veggie boredom? This is the perfect solution: roasted carrots with a crispy herb-and-breadcrumb topping is a dressed-up version of ordinary roasted carrots, but still quick and easy. It’s like the ever-popular apple crisp, except veggie-based and savory. Vegetable crisps! It makes so much sense.
Feel free to mix and match different vegetables and herbs. Cilantro complements carrots really nicely, but if you don’t like cilantro, finely chopped rosemary would be great, and so would your everyday parsley.
Rosh Chodesh Elul is next week (help!), and I’m starting to think about what to cook for Rosh Hashana this year. I only said “think,” by the way. Nothing more than that. If you’re also thinking, or bookmarking, or even planning a bonafide menu, save a slot for this carrot crisp.
- One year ago: Upside-down apple cake (highly recommended)
- Two years ago: Inside-out grilled cheese with mushrooms
- Three years ago: Curried eggplant and chickpeas
Inspired by Kosher by Design Short on Time
Yield: Serves 4 as a side dish
- 4 medium carrots
- ½ cup tightly packed cilantro, chopped
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more to brush the dish and carrots
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed
- ¼ tsp salt
- Pinch black pepper
1. Position an oven rack in the upper third of your oven and preheat to 400 F/200 C. Brush olive oil on a baking tray lined with foil or a 9×13 baking dish.
2. Peel carrots and cut into sticks (regular old carrot sticks). Line them in a single layer with some amount of breathing room and brush with more oil. You don’t need to leave lots of space, just don’t fill in every last crevice. Roast the carrots for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together cilantro, breadcrumbs, 2 Tbsp oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. When the 20 minutes are up (step 2), take the carrots out of the oven and sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over them. Return the dish to the oven for another 30 minutes. The carrots should be wrinkled and starting to blacken, and the top should be very crisp. Serve it up!
Do ahead: Because of the crispy breadcrumb topping, this dish is best when served right away. For Shabbos, I would make it Friday afternoon and leave it out until it’s time for everything to go on the plata. (When it’s just us, though, I’m fine with having this for lunch the next day — it’s still good.)
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