The cabbage of my childhood came in a Styrofoam container with the red initials, “K.F.C.” on the outside. Truth be told, I’m not sure I even knew there was cabbage in that slaw. My dad loved it, and still does to this day. Personally, the combination of mayonnaise and cabbage don’t do much for me. Give me a good potato salad, or a creamy chicken salad with purple grapes bursting with juiciness, but coleslaw? I’ll pass. It’s simultaneously too heavy and sweet for my taste.
So, I really hadn’t actually eaten much cabbage until three years ago, when my husband and I took a trip to Israel. I am not exaggerating when I say that we saw cabbages the size of beach balls. I was flabbergasted! Cabbage was everywhere at the roadside stands and in the city markets, which were sometimes nothing more than a woman with a few bags and piles of produce. We found it pickled and dressed in every imaginable way at lunches and dinners. Though it sometimes lay hooded in mayo-based sauces, it was also bright and crisp, sleekly dressed with the simplest of ingredients.
I found that I loved cabbage, though I still preferred it sans the white sauce. This salad was born of that trip, and is now a staple at my house. We keep a big container in the refrigerator and eat it with everything: soups, sandwiches, meat that’s been roasted or grilled and even a plate full of quickly scrambled eggs. You probably already have everything you need for the dressing on hand, which means this side dish comes together in five minutes or less. It keeps great in the refrigerator up to a week and is equally delicious leftover. Even my daughter, who for the first five years of her life claimed to hate salad, comes upon me slicing huge heaps of cabbage and cries out, “Are we having cabbage salad?” in an excitement she rarely bestows upon vegetables.
Simple Cabbage Salad With Lemon
1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thinly
1/2 head purple (I refuse to call it red) cabbage, sliced thinly
Juice of one lemon
¼ – 1/3 cup tasty olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbages, rinse the heads well and cut in half. Remove cores, slice thinly and toss in a big bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the sliced cabbage and then squeeze half the lemon over the top. Add about two teaspoons kosher salt and a good helping of freshly ground pepper.
Toss everything together to combine and then taste it for flavor. It will likely need more lemon juice, though perhaps not the entire second half. Depending on the size of your cabbages, it may also need more of salt, but taste it first to be sure. It should be zippy from the lemon juice and well salted. If you’re puckering up after the first bite, drizzle on a little more olive oil. Ideally, you would prepare this and let it sit while you work on the main dish, but feel free to eat it right away if needs be. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.