Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cabbage salad with za'atar

This is an easier and tangier version of the Hungarian cabbage salad that I posted a while back.  I have altered the seasonings considerably.  Overall, I prefer this one, and it goes well with an Israeli omelet or simply grilled or pan-fried chicken cutlet  or tofu (with shawarma seasoning if you want) in pita of laffa bread with some hummus or tahini for a very easy meal.  It is also a good accompaniment to a Middle Eastern meal and makes a nice lunch with some feta. 

Cabbage salad with za'atar

  • 12 ounces to 1 pound of cabbage (1/2 of a smallish head)
  • Salt
  • Olive oil, about 1- 2 tablespoons, more if you aren't worried about calories
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced red onion or shallot
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots (more or less and optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • Pinch of sugar and of a a hot pepper (cayenne or Aleppo are nice, use more of the latter)
  • 1/2 tablespoon za'atar 
  1. Clean the cabbage by removing the outer leaves. I have heard that once you do this, the cabbage is so clean that tap water will only make it dirtier.Cut in quarters and remove the core.
  2. Shred very finely. You can use a mandoline if you have one. What I do is cut it into very thin shreds with a very sharp knife, starting at the top with the cut surface facing down. After several cut, given the way I hold the knife, there will be an overhand, so I rotate the cabbage so that the cut surface faces up and continue cutting it into fine shreds, almost slivers. You are almost scraping the cabbage, as if you were cutting shawarma or gyros off  the spit.  This doesn't take long and the cabbage seems to come out fine enough this way.
  3. Put the cabbage in a large bowl and salt lightly. Toss in the remaining ingredients.
  4. Weight down the salad: this softens it without blanching. Cover the top with some plastic wrap or wax paper, put a plate or pot cover on it, and weight it down with a heavy object. I use a Thai mortar. A large can would do as well. Leave it for as long as you want, but at least an hour.  Chill when it softened to your taste.
  5. Toss and taste for salt before you serve. This amount should serve 4 as a side dish.. 
  6. The cabbage  is best later the day you make it or the next day. It can be kept longer, but should not be considered a long-term asset.
Za'atar: Za'atar is an herb in the same family as thyme in oregano that grows wild in the Middle East.  It is also a spice mix containing this herb, sesame, sumac and some other seasonings.  Use the spice mix in this dish.  The precise mix will vary, but I tend to use Galil brand which is available at the local supermarket. You really won't go wrong with any of them.

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