After a long hiatus, I’m easing back into things with this simple, delicious recipe. It comes from Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s Japanese Farm Food, a book my very generous (and wildly talented) cousin Kathy let me thumb through. It’s a fairly thick tome, with a mix of approachable recipes (like this one), and complicated ones (like ramen—soup, noodles, rayu and all!).
The book is as much a story of her life as a wife of a Japanese farmer as it is a cookbook. I’m not finished reading it, but I take away from it a deep love of family, food, tradition, nature, and culture. And despite that, it isn’t stuck in a distant past. Hachisu has a way of smartly modifying her home, kitchen space, rituals, cooking, and these farm recipes to suit the needs of modern life.
This is a quick pickle, to eat with rice (would be great with ochazuke). In the past I’ve had this cabbage dish with kombu, chile flakes, and ginger, but I like it this way best, with the lemon zest. It adds the right amount of fragrant brightness to the salty cabbage.
A couple of notes. The original recipe calls for yuzu. This is Los Angeles. I’ve gone through 5 (expensive!) yuzus and haven’t managed a suitable one for use. I substituted Meyer lemon (which she suggests), picked ripe from my mom’s tree. I also omitted the chile flakes because I have a new eater hanging around these days. She’s the reason for my absence, but now that she’s found different ways of occupying herself while I’m cooking, I’ll be popping up here more frequently.
Salt-Massaged Napa Cabbage with Meyer Lemon
Adapted from Japanese Farm Food
1/2 napa cabbage (cut in half, vertically), core trimmed and sliced thinly, crosswise
1 Tbsp salt
1 Meyer lemon, skin peeled and cut into slivers
Combine napa cabbage, salt, and zest in a large bowl. Massage and let sit until cabbage has softened and some of its juices puddle at the bottom of the bowl. Transfer to a ziplock bag and squeeze the air out. Let it sit in the refrigerator for 15 mins. Taste and add more salt, if needed.