Monday, November 5, 2012

Cabbage Done Spicy

This final recipe comes from the book Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates, and details a dish invented on the fly by a Tibetan chef who was working at Moosewood many years ago. Though the book itself is below the par of most of Moosewood's books, this dish has been a guaranteed crowd pleaser with just about everyone I've served it to. The original recipe calls for this to be served as a burrito, though I find it's just as good on its own with rice. Additionally, this being a Moosewood recipe, the original was vegetarian, though my adaptation contains meat.

2 cups chopped onions
2 tbsp oil (I find that untoasted sesame oil is a great option, but avoid olive oil at all costs)
2 tbsp minced/pressed garlic
3 tbsp fresh ginger root
1 tsp salt
4 cups shredded napa cabbage
1 or 2 tsp asian chili paste (such as sriracha)
2 cups peeled and grated carrots
8-16 oz seitan/tempeh/chicken/pork
1 tsp dark sesame oil

To start with, let me say that I recommend preparing the ingredients beforehand, rather than on the fly. The shredding and grating involved in this recipe is fairly labor-intensive and the ingredients are subsequently added to each other fairly quickly.

Before, however, you tackle the vegetables, deal with the meat, if you're using meat. Though this is a stir fry, I don't recommend cooking the meat in the stir fry, as the flavor is less impressive cooked that way, and if you're going to use meat, do it justice and get maximal flavor out of it. I recommend salting and oven roasting it, similar to the roast chicken recipe. Allow it to cook until slightly browned, then allow to cool. When cooled, slice it into thin strips, perhaps a quarter inch wide. I typically use chicken thighs, but pork chops can be just as good.

Ok, now that you've finished prepping the vegetables, it's time to get to work. I typically use a wok for this dish.

Start by frying the onions over medium heat until golden brown. Add the garlic, ginger root and salt, and cook for about 2 minutes, until the aroma rises nicely. Next, stir in the cabbage and cook until the cabbage is limp (about 10-15 minutes). I recommend napa cabbage for this recipe, as it wilts well, and makes a great stir fry.

Once the cabbage is soft, add the chili paste, carrots and seitan/tempeh/meat. Cook 10-15 minutes more, until all veggies are soft and golden brown. When finished, remove from heat and drizzle the dark sesame oil over the dish and mix well. Serve immediately.

If the last dish didn't make you a fan of cabbage, this one is guaranteed to do so.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cabbage Done Heartily

This recipe is a take on colcannon, a traditional Irish dish involving cabbage and potatoes. It works as a great standalone meal, and reheats very well in the oven. It involves a few pots, but the result is excellent, and worth the work.

Colcannon is a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs type of meal that is fantastic in the dark and dreary days of late autumn and winter, and what's more, it features bacon! But wait, isn't this a natural health blog? What's bacon doing in the recipe? Quite simply, I've found that the appeal of bacon is stronger than the repulsion of Brussels sprouts or cabbage, and that not only does bacon work with the flavor of crucifers quite well, but is also an effective way of introducing people to these fantastic, health-promoting foods.

2 pounds potatoes
2 1/2 cups chopped/shredded green cabbage or kale
2 cups chopped Brussels sprouts or broccoli
8 oz bacon
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Peel and chop the potatoes, then boil them in salted water until soft. Waxy potatoes (such as Yukon Gold or red potatoes) work as well as mealy potatoes (such as Russets) both work well, though clearly produce slightly different dishes. I personally prefer waxy potatoes, which give the dish a chunky consistency, whereas mealy potatoes make for something more like a mash.

Meanwhile, steam the cabbage/kale and Brussels sprouts/broccoli. The trick here is to steam them just enough that they can be easily pierced with a fork, and then remove them from the water (if you're using kale, add that after the rest of the veggies have cooked, and allow it to cook until wilted). Many of us grew up eating overcooked veggies in general, and overcooked crucifers in particular. Not only does overcooking bring out the sulfurous flavor of these veggies, but it also gives the veggies a soggy, limp consistency. And seriously, if you're trying to get people to eat challenging veggies, at least cook them so they're appealing.

Ok, so finally, the bacon part. Cook the bacon as usual, and then allow to drain on a plate. Please allow for house/apartment to smell like goodness and draw all parties to the kitchen. Using the bacon grease, cook the onion until browned, adding the salt and pepper as it nears completion.

Now for combining. Drain the potatoes and veggies and place in a large bowl, add the onion mixture, crumble in the bacon, and mix thoroughly. Place in a casserole and top with shredded cheese. Place under broiler and allow the cheese to melt and bubble.

Serve immediately. For a true British Isles experience, serve this with stout or porter.