Cabbage is associated with winter in Greece. “You can’t have tender, sweet cabbage before the winter cold,” a farmer in Kea told me one October morning. The trick to turn almost any cabbage into a good salad is to “knead” the finely shredded leaves with salt and lemon juice. Here, instead of lemon a combination of orange and white ‘balsamic’ vinegar is used. The cabbage and carrots wilt and shrink, becoming juicy and delicious.
I tasted this salad recently at Ourania’s Tavern, on Samos island, and was fascinated. Ourania, the owner and cook, told us that the longer you leave the salad in the fridge, the better it gets; she was right, of course.
4 to 6 servings
4 – 5 cups finely shredded green cabbage (about 1/2 a medium cabbage)
3 medium carrots, peeled, and shredded
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup white ‘balsamic’ vinegar
About 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon or more ground black pepper
3–4 small dill pickles (about 2 inches long), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (optional)
1/2 cup halved, and seeded red bell pepper, finely cut into thin strips
A small handful of fresh mint leaves
Fruity olive oil
In a large bowl, combine the cabbage and carrots with the orange juice and vinegar, the salt and pepper. Rub, squeeze and toss the cabbage mixture with your hands until reduced in volume by about a half.
(The salad can be prepared up to this point a few hours in advance, or even a few days, then covered and refrigerated.)
In the serving bowl, combine the cabbage, pickles, if you are using them, with the red pepper, and some coarsely shredded mint leaves.
Drizzle liberally with fruity olive oil and taste to adjust the seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, vinegar or orange juice, if needed. Garnish with mint leaves and serve.