This article and recipe originally appeared in the Oct. 31, 2011 edition of “From Tali’s Kitchen,” my biweekly cooking column in Binah magazine.
I’m sharing the article almost in its entirety (trimmed just a bit), even though it’s considerably longer than a typical blog post. What do you think? Was it a good read? Or was it too much scrolling down, better if abbreviated? Let me know in the comments section.
It was supposed to be a cabbage salad.
The night I created my Rosh HaShanah meal plan (16 days in advance, mind you) I penciled in an Asian cabbage salad, a la Jamie Geller, for the fifth meal. My husband and I love Asian-inspired salads, so I figured it would be a winner. I added “shredded purple cabbage” to the quickly-growing shopping list and moved on to meal no. 6.
We never ate that salad, though. I guess you could say I was a victim of my own advance planning. My husband did a big pre-Yom Tov grocery run, and dutifully brought home the purple cabbage…and then it sat in the fridge for eight days.
The week wore on, and I didn’t hold out too much hope that it would last.
You may be wondering why I didn’t just run back to the store for another bag. What’s the big deal, right?
Actually, it is kind of a big deal. The grocery shopping, I mean. When you live on a yishuv and don’t own a car, bringing home kilos and kilos of food isn’t so simple.
Our yishuv is made up of some 300 families, many of which own cars. But since many others — like us — don’t, tremping (hitchhiking) is a way of life. When you tremp, you rely on the public to get around. Each driver is doing you a personal favor, each driver is performing an act of chesed. And since the public bus travels to and from the yishuv only a few times a day, I often feel that it’s this public wellspring of chesed that keeps my household running. Especially when it comes to the kitchen.
Of course, there is the local makolet — that’s where we buy fresh produce, dairy products, and eggs. But when it’s time to stock up on staples, I wait for our next trip to the “real” grocery store.
The Rami Levi some 25 minutes down the highway is a Real Grocery Store. It is clean and well-stocked with an untold number of items. It is well-staffed with people able to answer your questions. And it is huge. If you’re accustomed to shopping in America, it would probably seem normal to you. But duck your head in a yishuv – or in many other communities in Israel – and you’ll know what I mean. (Rami Levi is so large that it even has a shul. For reasons I don’t quite understand, it’s right by the diaper aisle.)
When we go to Rami Levi, my husband brings his massive camping backpack, the one that always seems to take over his 6”2 frame. Once we’ve emerged from the store, he carefully arranges the cans and bottles and boxes and bags inside it so that nothing will get crushed on the way home. And then we wait. To be more accurate, we pounce. Our task is to watch the shoppers coming out of the store, trying to figure out which one is our best bet. A harried mother with a cart piled high with food and four little kids would be a poor choice. But one person by himself with just a few bags — now that’s the kind of shopper we want.
From Rami Levi, we usually get a ride to the tachanat delek, the gas station in the region that serves as something of a meeting point between the various yishuvim. Once there, we wait again, this time for someone in our yishuv stopping for gas on his way home, or for a kind soul driving to the gas station just to see whether anyone needs a ride.
Even on the best days, the whole thing can be something of a project. (I want to clarify, though, that the complications involved in grocery shopping are not because “everything is harder in Israel.” It is simply a result of the fact that we choose — quite happily! — to live in a somewhat remote area, and that we choose to do so without a car.)
At any rate, there was no way I was going to the grocery store during those last few days before Rosh Hashanah. And ironically, I was by then so certain there would be no more food shopping that it didn’t even occur to me to get that cabbage in the makolet.
So I took the crazy thing out of the fridge the morning of the fifth Rosh HaShanah meal (Shabbos Shuva lunch) as if I was going to use it. I eyed it skeptically, sliced the bag open, and took a sniff. It smelled, I reported to my husband, like bad cabbage.
It was time to make up my own Asian-inspired salad. The result? This Asian baby corn salad. It’s simple, colorful, and delicious, with a dressing that brings out and complements the flavors of the vegetables. Although the taste is sophisticated and more likely to appeal to adults, the tiny size of the corn and tomatoes may even intrigue your kids.
It just might have been a good thing that the cabbage went bad.
- 1 can baby corn, chopped
- 14 cherry tomatoes, halved
- ¼ cup scallions, diced
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- ¾ Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- ¼ tsp honey
- ½ Tbsp sesame seeds
1. Combine vegetables in a small serving bowl and mix.
2. Drizzle soy sauce, oils, and honey over the vegetables and toss. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and mix lightly.
3. Serve immediately (refrigerating 10-20 minutes before serving is also fine).