Nanette Hebdige – April 29, 2020
Handshakes and hugs are a thing of the past. It’s FaceTime, Skype or Zoom for most everyone. Local eating hotspots are closed, and we can’t even go for a leisurely walk at the park or for a breath the fresh air by the beach. We dread going to the grocery store as it’s a production and the ingredients are not really the ingredients, as we have to get creative and use whatever is at hand when we cook.
Humans are social creatures and all of us are feeling like it’s Groundhog Day every day. Like me, you’re probably sick of cooking and baking, no matter how passionate we feel about our food, this imposed isolation it’s taking its toll and we’re all over it.
That being said we still gotta eat. So why not try cooking something different with a new ingredient?
Consider the humble yet stalwart cabbage, which is one of the unsung heroes in the veggie arsenal. It shouldn’t be forgotten or given the pass-over as it warrants a much-deserved ode because of its versatility! Did you know that broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and the infamous kale, all are members of the cabbage family?
And here’s another mind-blowing health fact – cabbage is a cancer fightin’ veg!
Yep, cabbage is majorly nifty. It can be pickled, left crunchy in slaw, added to stir fries, sautéed as accompaniments for meats and of course added in soups for fantastic flavor. Where would St. Patty’s Day be without its infamous corned beef and cabbage? And if your Grammy didn’t make you hardy stuffed cabbage rolls growing up with velvety tomato, you were seriously missing out.
However, most cooks shy away from its putative anonymity, as the sheer size of the veg is a beast to contend with. But let me assure you there are a myriad of creative ways to render its preparation. If you are eschewing the idea of cabbage altogether, you should really rethink that option, because you will be pleasantly surprised at the mouthwatering results as well the affordability of this veg.
Here are a few cabbage-laden additions to add to your veggie arsenal, with easy prep that are bangin’.
PASTA WITH GARLIC, CABBAGE AND TOASTED BREADCRUMBS
(Following the recipe from Melissa Clarke from the cooking section of NYTimes)
As peculiar as it sounds, this is a righteous pasta dish, bursting with flavor considering the little ingredients it has. Before we go any further, let me drop the bomb now. It has anchovies.
Now that you’ve had your “aww hell no!!!” moment, don’t have a rejection hissy-fit over it – or even worse, pass this recipe over just because you read the word “anchovy”. For the large community of consummate anchovy haters, I will let you in on a secret. Anchovies are epicin pasta dishes and tomato sauces. They add depth and umaminess (yep, that’s a word) becoming very nutty once dissolved and the fishy taste you are so worried about it’s a GONNER! So, MAN-UP because this recipe isn’t just economical is outta bounds amazing!
If your aim is to develop and sophisticate your palate, you’ll have to become an overcomer. As we get older many of the things we had an aversion to when were kids are gone. To become a true chef, a gourmand and a foodie, experimenting with ingredients and shedding preconceived aversions is fundamental.
½ small head of Napa cabbage – very finely shredded
6 cloves of garlic finely – chopped (separated into two bunches)
3 large shallots – finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 TBSP unsalted butter
3 TBSP of EVOO
1 TBSP of parsley – finely chopped
1 PKG of Mostachiolli or Penne (you could also use any long pasta)
¼ TSP of red chili flakes
1 TBSP of balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze
4 anchovy filets – chopped
½ cup of Pecorino Romano
½ cup of homemade breadcrumbs – (store-bought are OK in a pinch but homemade are best)
6 sage leaves – finely sliced
In a skillet, heat up the butter and 1 TBSP of EVOO (Extra virgin olive oil). Add the shallots, garlic and chili flakes and sweat for about 5 minutes. Incorporate the cabbage and toss for a few minutes and add the vinegar. Simmer, stirring often for about 20 minutes until caramelized and allow for all the ingredients to become good friends. Add the sage. Season with a lot of freshly ground pepper – omitting salt, as the anchovies are already salty – you can adjust seasonings later.
White the cabbage is caramelizing, add 1 TBSP butter and a good drizzle of EVOO into a separate skillet, add 1-2 cloves of finely fresh chopped garlic and a small pinch of red pepper flakes and the anchovies (c’mmon, you can do it!). Allow the anchovies to dissolve being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the breadcrumbs and mix well. Set aside.
Boil pasta according to package instructions and reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water.
Add the pasta to the skillet with the cabbage and the some of the reserved pasta water. Toss well with the Pecorino Romano and the parsley. Check for seasonings and add more fresh ground pepper before serving. Top with the breadcrumb mixture and serve immediately.
POTATO, LEEK AND CABBAGE POTAGE
This is a very hearty soup with amazing depth in flavors – an antithesis considering the simplicity of its ingredients. It may sound like a winter dish, but it will definitely take the out the lingering chill in late spring months. Perfect for a weeknight meal. Some ham or sausages can be added or even a can of cannellini beans, but why complicate things, as it’s superb without anything else – and it’s even better the next day.
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP Olive oil
½ head of cabbage – shredded (savoy, regular green or even red cabbage)
1 large sweet onion – Maui or Vidalia – sliced thinly
2 leeks – white parts only, washed thoroughly and sliced thin
4 chopped garlic cloves
4 medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes – peeled and cut into small cubes
2 large carrots – peeled and chopped in rounds
2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
1 TSP of sweet Spanish paprika
1 TSP of dried thyme or a couple of fresh sprigs
3 cups of low sodium chicken broth (or Vegetable broth if you prefer)
1 TBSP chopped chives or parsley
In a large Dutch oven, place a couple of knobs of butter and melt with the olive oil till frothy. Add the leeks and the onion and sweat for about 5 minutes with a pinch of kosher salt. Add the garlic and the paprika and cook a few minutes more. Incorporate the shredded cabbage and sauté till it becomes somewhat wilted. Add the broth, potatoes, bay leaf, thyme and simmer for about 1 hour. Dicing the potatoes very small makes them dissolve into the soup and they add a velvety softness to the potage.
Cut up medium sized squares from an old baguette or any bread at hand; place in a cookie sheet sprinkled with EVOO, salt and pepper and bake at 350F for about 10/15 minutes till golden brown. To serve the soup, place a few croutons on the bottom of a bowl, ladle the soup and top and sprinkle some chives or parsley and shavings of Parmesano or Pecorino Romano.
The origin of the cabbage roll is unclear since it is a popular dish all over Western Europe.
In Poland they go by Golumpki and Sweden calls them Kaldolmar; Russia has Golubtsi and in the Slovak areas Halupki is on many menus. In the Balkans and Turkey, they refer to them as Sarma. The popular Jewish cabbage rolls, holishkes, use the tomato sauce sparingly and the Egyptians stuff their cabbage rolls (Mahshi) only with rice, spices and herbs (dill and mint), and have no meat. The humble cabbage roll has even travelled as far as Asia, where shitake, seafood and tofu, mixed with other local condiments and stuffed inside the leaves.
Here in the US, the cabbage rolls were made popular by Jewish and Swedish immigrants and consisted of different fillings of ground meats and rice as they were economical and hardy. Probably, many of you may have recipes passed down from your grandmas and mamas.
These rolls freeze amazingly well, that’s if you have any left.
1 whole large cabbage – core removed and a few outer leaves reserving them
½ LB of ground pork
½ LB of ground sirloin
¼ cup of Panko
¼ cup of white wine or marsala
1 egg – beaten
1 large onion – finely chopped
2 carrots – finely chopped
3 garlic cloves – finely chopped
1 Trader Joe’s bag of frozen Basmati rice – (added frozen and not cooked)
½ TSP of garlic powder
splash of ½ and ½
bunch of parsley finely chopped
salt and fresh ground pepper
Boil the cabbage for about 25 minutes and remove from the water with a large strainer or two large forks. Allow the cabbage to cool before handling.
Make a thin tomato sauce. (Recipe is in my sauce section)
In some olive oil, sauté the onion, carrot and garlic – for about 5-8 minutes – till the veggies have become a soft. Cool. In a metal bowl, add the ground meats and incorporate all the other ingredients. Grab a cabbage leaf – use the largest and the ones that are not torn (save all the other leaves) – and place some of the mix inside the leaf a fold like a burrito – tucking in the sides first and then rolling. In a large oven pan, place a thin layer of the tomato sauce on the bottom. Then add some of the unused, boiled torn cabbage leaves and start placing the rolls, seam side down. Don’t cram them in like sardines, but make sure that they are snug. Add some more tomato sauce over the rolls, a drizzle of EVOO and finish covering with some of the remaining boiled cabbage leaves. Doing this, keeps the rolls moist and prevents them from drying out in the oven. Cover the pan with foil and bake in a 375F oven for about 1 hour.
CRUNCHY ASIAN CHICKEN SALAD
This salad will get you major accolades and kudos so you will make it a staple for celebrations and to bring to parties. The dressing can be labeled as the OG of Asian homemade dressings. I can almost guarantee it will become part of your salad dressing repertoire. Make sure you are using fresh cabbage and bot the packaged stuff (that goes for all cabbage dishes that call for shredded), once the cabbage has been sliced, it loses its freshness and most of its vitamin.
Shredded Napa and red Cabbage about 1½ cups of each
Rotisserie Chicken – about 2 cups – cubed of shredded (you can use grilled shrimp as well)
½ cup of chopped peanuts (you can use macadamia or cashews instead)
1 mango sliced or cubes into small pieces
1 cup of shredded carrots
½ red onion thinly sliced thinly
½ cup of chopped cilantro
½ cup of edamame’s
½ cup of chopped mint
3 scallions – finely sliced green and white parts
¼ cup of daikon or radishes – cut into rounds and then matchsticks
2 TBSP Vietnamese fish sauce; juice and zest of 1 lime; 1 TBSP honey; 1 garlic clove, finely chopped; 1 TBSP of rice wine vinegar; 1 TBSP of miso paste; 1 shallot; ½ TSP of garlic chili sauce; 1 TSP of peanut butter; ½ bunch of fresh cilantro; ½ cup of grapeseed oil pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Drizzle oil and mix well. Check for seasonings
Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the dressing, mix well and allow the ingredients to become good friends – about 30 minutes before serving. I find it best to serve it at room temperature as that is when the flavors are at their peak.
BRAISED RED CABBAGE
In the cabbage division, this is one knockout side dish, and it really shows how incredibly versatile and invincible this workhorse of a veggie is. Heavenly in flavor with the addition of cinnamon and epic in pairings for all meats – steaks, chops, ribs; on top of lamb burgers, in grilled cheese and even on pizza. It is better the next day, so ensure there are leftovers. After you prepare this, you’ll wonder why you didn’t make more!
1 red large onion – finely sliced
4 slices of bacon cut into pieces or ½ cup of chopped pancetta
1 Apple peeled and cored – and cut into ½” squares
1 large head of red cabbage- finely shredded
1 TBSP honey or maple syrup
1/2 cup of toasted walnuts
1 whole cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 cup of low sodium chicken broth
1 TBSP of Balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
In a Dutch oven brown the bacon to lightly crisp and render its fat. Remove to some paper towels and leave some of the bacon fat in the pan. Add the onions, a pinch of salt, bay leaves and the cinnamon stick and sweat them for about 8-10 minutes over low fire.
Remove the lid and bring quickly to a boil and allow the liquids to evaporate so it thickens, about 2 minutes or so. Adjust seasonings before serving.
In Lombardy, specifically the town of Valtellina, near the Italian Alps bordering Switzerland, Pizzoccheri is a hearty and easy to prepare dish served typically for the après skiing crowd as this is an awesome, hearty winter dish. If you’re thinking that Pizzoccheri it’s a gourmet Italian pizza, sorry pal, you’re wrong. Buckwheat noodles are a part of the dish, with potatoes and cabbage added to make it a nice and stout. You can substitute the buckwheat for lasagna noodles and a good alternate is pappardelle.
1 small head of Napa cabbage – thinly sliced in a mandolin
½ LB of cooked lasagna noodles cut into ½ “strips, or pappardelle
3-4 medium sized Yukon potatoes – peeled and cut into small cubes
½ large onion sliced
1 TBSP of chicken bouillon
5-6 cloves of garlic – sliced
3 cups of chicken stock
½ cup of pancetta
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
In a pot add some olive oil and sweat the onion for a few minutes with some salt. Add the garlic slivers and pancetta and cook for about 2/3 minutes. Incorporate the cabbage, potatoes, stock, bouillon and cook until all veggies are tender, about 30 minutes. In a pot of boiling water, cook the fresh pasta for a few minutes and drain. Add the pasta to the veggie pot and cook a few more minutes. Ladle the pizzoccheri into bowls with loads of Pecorino cheese and fresh chopped parsley.