I have always loved books. When I was growing up in the Bronx, buying books was a luxury we could not afford so my sister, Anita, took me to the local public library every week. Anita is eight years older than me and as a child I loved going everywhere with her, but our visits to the library were special. I did own a beautifully illustrated edition of Heidi but my favorite books were Eloise and Madeline. All three books were about young girls in foreign lands and while reading them I was transported to Paris, the Swiss Alps and The Plaza (The Plaza Hotel might as well have been in a foreign country). To this day my favorite books are set in other countries where I am introduced to new cultures, customs, and food.
When I was hired by a non-profit agency in the same building that housed the Los Angeles Jewish Community Library I was thrilled. For the past six years the library was my refuge. It was peaceful and calming and there was a wonderful collection of cookbooks that covered Jewish cuisine in Italy, Greece, Yemen and various other countries. All of this and Sally. Sally sat at the front desk greeting everyone who came to the library as she had done for over twenty years. I never knew what her exact position was but she clearly ran the library. Originally from India, Sally is a fantastic cook. Whenever my family is invited to her home we are amazed at the range of tastes, textures and scents. Going to Sally for dinner feels as if you are in the midst of reading a Jewish Indian cookbook. The variety of food that is served is astonishing. With an average of twenty guests each Shabbat dinner, there are at least ten appetizers and an equal number of entrees. Each dish is infused with cilantro, ginger and garlic.
Several months ago the Jewish Community Library closed. It was disappointing and sad. I miss the library and I miss Sally. I do not see her with nearly the same frequency but I think of her often. Here is a recipe for a cabbage salad that I have eaten at Sally’s many times. It is a perfect addition to any meal, Passover or any other time.
Sally’s Cabbage Salad
1 head cabbage, thinly sliced
3 jalapeno chilis, thinly sliced
1 bunch cilantro
2 lemons, juiced
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and allow to sit for about 20 minutes before serving.
Increase the number of chilis if you prefer spicier foods. I add lots of cracked pepper! NOTE: This is hot so reduce the number of jalapeno peppers if you prefer mild AND be careful how you handle the peppers.