This recipe comes from Joan Nathan’s new cookbook, King Solomon’s Table. If you are not familiar with Joan, she is the Grand Dame of Jewish cooking, offering redemption for Jewish mothers everywhere who are likely known for their bland matzoh ball soup and dry kugels. Sorry, Mom.
I recently had the good fortune of attending a Q&A with Joan Nathan that was led by Bonnie Benwick, Food Editor of The Washington Post, at the Israeli Embassy in DC. This discussion confirmed what I had gleaned from reading the recipes in King Solomon’s Table–not only is Joan Nathan an accomplished cook but she is a master researcher and historian. She has spent her life meeting people of all cultures around the globe and getting to know them through their food. An invitation to cook with Joan is akin to sharing coffee with a friend–a chance to get to know one another. Through food, Joan Nathan has been able to connect the dots and trace modern day recipes back to their historic roots. I find these sorts of backstories fascinating and it is why I consider this new cookbook not only a great resource but a fabulous read.
About halfway through my journey with King Solomon’s Table, I landed upon this recipe for Slightly Sweet and Sour Cabbage. It immediately piqued my interest with the first sentence of the introduction, “This recipe comes from Sara Yaech, a woman whom I met on a trip to Havana the week before Barack Obama visited Cuba.” As Joan explains, Sara is a descendant of Turkish Jews on her father’s side, who came from Istanbul to Cuba in the 1920s and Jews on her mother’s side who descended from Bessarabia and Poland, who perhaps came to Cuba from Spain as stowaways on Christopher Columbus’ ships. Sara grew up with Turkish and Ladino food and has spent her life teaching Jewish women in Havana about their culinary past.
At Sara Yaech’s house, she and Joan made lunch together using some of the subsidies Sara gets each month from the Cuban government–three pounds of rice, red and black beans, sugar, brown sugar and eggs. Sara picks up her monthly allotment of chicken and beef once a month from the kosher butcher. Anything else, she must buy at the Cuban kiosks that act as supermarkets and it is here that cabbage is found everywhere.
I am beyond excited to be visiting Havana this summer on a culinary journalistic expedition with curious friends. We are planing to meet Cubans who will share with us their history, personal stories and delicious, homemade food.
So it is with this recipe, a somewhat atypical taste of Cuba (but one that will work well alongside a variety of grilled meat), that I say goodbye for my summer of adventure, research and rejuvenation. I promise to come back to you in September with new stories and new recipes. Until then…Enjoy!
- 2 Tbls vegetable oil
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 sweet red pepper, sliced thin
- 2 tsp finely chopped garlic
- 4 c finely chopped cabbage, purple and/or white, thinly shredded
- 2 Tbls brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 Tbls wine vinegar
- 4 Tbls tomato sauce
- 2 Tbls parsley
- Heat a sauce pan with oil.
- Add the onion, pepper and garlic and saute until the onion is golden.
- Stir in the cabbage, brown sugar, salt, wine vinegar and tomato sauce.
- Cover and simmer until most of the liquid has disappeared and the cabbage is soft.
- Adjust the seasonings and serve, sprinkled with parsley.
- Can be served warm or at room temperature.