Sometimes certain smells rip me back to a particular past. If I smell this one perfume, I’m back in my elementary school, walking through a hallway doorway, on my way to 5th grade graduation. Sometimes, this happens with foods too. If I see a large head of cabbage, cut in half displaying the white and purple labyrinth – I am back in the Marais, waiting in line for my second falafel in two days.
If you’ve never been to Paris before, picture this for me – small streets framed with bright white, red, yellow, green and blue door fronts. Hundreds of people packing them on a Sunday afternoon. A cold chill is in the air, so people hunch a bit, and talk louder than Paris normally permits. Groups are stationed as obstacles for the moving, waiting for Ruggelach, shawarma, or falafel and a warm shelter for ten minutes. This is the Marais, “the swamp,” “the fourth,” or the Jewish section of Paris.
Walking in the Marais my first time, I was overtaken by the boisterousness of the store owners ringing people into their shops in French, Italian and English. After we gave a few of their walking advertisements the cold shoulder, my friend ushered me to the corner falafel shop. It’s the one with the red awning, across the sidewalk from the bakery that has “the best Ruggelach in town” and a block from the main road, taking you off to the Seine.
We went inside to get our four euro falafel, then back into the biting cold to wait for the assembly line. Within five minutes, I was holding the epitome of the Marais’ Cuisine – a warmed pita stuffed with chickpea fritters, cucumber salad, tzatziki sauce, garlic, a tomato-chili salsa, and at the bottom, the warm, red cabbage.
There were a lot of “bests” with the falafel, but the red cabbage has and will always stand out. It was warm, savory, slightly sweet, crunchy but cooked. It was everything I wanted on that cold day, sitting outside in tragically artsy Paris.
And now, here I sit at home. Staring at a head of red cabbage, trying to imagine how those Parisians made the leaves strong but cooked, sweet and savory, and most of all memorable. It may not happen, but I’ll always have Paris, right?
Red Cabbage with Garlic & Sriracha
My attempts at doing red cabbage justice.
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. butter
1-inch thick strip of cabbage, cut along the latitude, chopped
Sriracha (or hot sauce)
Sauté garlic and shallot on medium high for one minute. Add cabbage and butter, and season with salt, pepper, and chili pepper to taste. Sauté for about 4 minutes. Add a bit of Sriracha. You don’t want to sauté too long, because you’ll lose the crispness of the cabbage and burn the garlic.
In another bowl, prepare a bed of salad greens topped with crumbled feta. Pour the sautéed ingredients onto the salad.