I generally try to employ as many senses as possible in cooking. I always trust my nose when it gives me even the faintest indication that something might be off (there is no debate or second-guessing, the food goes directly in the trash, unless dealing with something that ought to smell putrid). I try to arrange food on a plate in a visually pleasing manner. And I'm suspicious of any cook that does not try his or her own food before serving it. However, rarely does one get to explore the sense of touch (and rarer still, the sense of hearing unless at issue is something akin to crackling candy that performs fireworks on one's tongue).
I find that there is something deeply satisfying about preparing food with your hands. Like sinking your hands into dough, feeling the slippery texture of a raw egg slide between your fingers as you mix it into the velvety powder of the flour. Ripping apart lettuce leaves with your fingers for a salad. Sprinkling coarse salt with your fingertips as you season a soup, instead of dumping it with a measuring spoon.
The following is a recipe for a red cabbage salad which involves crushing raw shredded cabbage with your hands which I learned from watching my mom. Raw cabbage can be quite firm and difficult to masticate, and it therefore helps to tenderize it with salt or acidity of vinegar or lemon juice. Crushing the cabbage together with salt helps expedite the process, as you work the cabbage to absorb the salt more quickly. The amount of salt in the recipe may seem like a lot, and if you taste the cabbage with the salt still on the surface of the leaves, it might taste a bit over-seasoned. However as you let the salad stand, the cabbage will absorb the salt while it tenderizes, and the saltiness will diminish. You can always readjust the seasoning to your taste before serving.
Red Cabbage Salad
You will need:
1/2 head of red cabbage
1/4 medium red onion, very thinly sliced lengthwise
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1 tsp olive oil
1. Rinse the cabbage head, removing any wilted top leaves. Remove the core. Shred the cabbage with a knife into thin, long slices.
2. Place half of the the shredded cabbage into a bowl. Take half of the salt and add it to the bowl. With a swift movement, mix the cabbage and salt together with your hand, squeezing it as you hear a satisfying crunch sound, not unlike the sound of the snow crushing under your feet in the winter. Add the remaining cabbage and salt and repeat until the salt is well mixed, the cabbage is moist with juices, and the dark magenta color becomes more vivid.
3. Mix the red onion, parsley and dill into the cabbage. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil and mix well. Let the salad marinade, refrigerated, for at least half an hour to one hour. Serve chilled, giving it one final toss before serving.