Tag Archive | cabbage

Crunchy Cabbage

Crunchy Cabbage

I love spending time with my mom, especially when she visits. I took the week off to do the things that we love to do together.

The week was filled with good food, of course, with my mom doing most of the cooking. It’s the only time I become the sous-chef in my own kitchen and gladly. I still learn so much from her.

She came up with bags full of veggies even though I warned her I didn’t have a lot of room in my fridge and reminded her I don’t have a cold storage space. Her bags included an extra large bag of rapini and one of equal size of broccoli and two 5-lb cabbages! I just looked at her and before I could say anything she asked me not to be upset with her. I can’t imagine what she would have brought up if I hadn’t issued the warning. I couldnt complain too much. She fed us for two weeks. It was nice.

She made all the classics: rapini and potatoes, broccoli and pasta, macaroni in pomodoro, breaded chanterelles, pizza, fennel, chickpeas and pasta, and crunchy cabbage. Yes, lots of carbs – it’s the only way she knows how to cook vegetarian for me. I’m a few pounds heavier, but it was well worth it.

I had forgotten how much I loved crunchy cabbage. That’s why this is the recipe I am featuring this week. My mom was quite pleased that I was sharing one of her recipes, non-recipe actually. She looked at me strangely when I pulled out my kitchen scale to weigh the cabbage and had to think about it when I asked how much of the white beans I had to pre-boil (you may use canned beans). It was cute when she asked, “even the oil you have to measure”? Such a foreign concept for her, but the measure of a true cook.

So, you have my mom to thank for this week’s recipe. It’s southern Italian cooking at its best. Five simple ingredients and a cooking method so versatile you can interchange most leafy vegetables. I think it’s my favourite way to enjoy cabbage, caramelized, sweet, and crunchy good.

A celebrity chef once said that Italian peasant food is fit for queens and kings. Like most other things, I think it’s food at its best because it is understated and unpretentious.

Over her two week stay, I got to do some cooking for her: squash couscous, minestrone, Spanish tortilla, winter salad, and probably the best pancake breakfast I have ever made. My mom loves pancakes and no visit is complete without a big pancake feast.

We also took her to our other favourite breakfast place, Baker Street, and to Pinelopi’s Greek Kitchen one night.

She noticed my current knitting project is practically complete and went out and bought some yarn for my next project, a scarf for her. I just smiled.

We visited a nursery with a friend out in Carleton Place, played in its Christmas store and then all enjoyed a piece of pumpkin pie at the Good Food Company.

We made gnocchi one afternoon, and lasagna sheets, as well as tagliatelle another afternoon, all by hand. I know how to make these things, but I wait for her visits, so we can make them together. These are the moments I love best with my mom. The stories that she recounts, the memories shared, the laughter, and the time spent together, so precious.

We watched “Gone with the Wind”, one of my all time favourite movies, and shopped of course.

I treasure these moments with my mom and look forward to her visits each year; they are extremely dear to me.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Cabbage, green, ex-large, cut into 1- inch thick slices 5 lbs
Salt 4 tbsp
Olive oil 1/2 cup
Bread, day-old, whole wheat, cut into small half-inch pieces 5 oz, approx. 1/3 of a baguette
Beans, white, pre-cooked 2 cups

1. Slice cabbage into 1-inch strips.

2. Bring a medium pot of water to a medium boil, add salt and cabbage and cook cabbage for approximately 20 minutes, or until cabbage stems are cooked through.

3. Strain cabbage and set aside.

4. In a large and deep frying pan, add bread squares, boiled cabbage, and olive oil. Bring pan to medium heat and cook until the water from the cabbage begins to evaporate, approximately 10 minutes, until the bread soaks up cabbage juices and is soggy. Stir occasionally.

5. Add beans and raise the dial by one and continue to cook cabbage over medium-high heat until golden. Every 2-3 minutes , stir cabbage until most sides are golden and caramelized approximately 25-30 minutes.

6. Check seasoning. Remove from heat and serve on its own, as a side, or with sausages.

Creamed Cabbage and Fennel & Smoked Apple Sage Sausages

Creamed Fennel & Cabbage

This post is as much about the creamed cabbage and fennel as it is about the vegan sausages.

I grew up in a family that made its own homemade Italian sausages, so never entertained the thought of trying vegan substitutes. That homemade taste is not replicable, besides, I don’t like things to taste like meat.

Recently, I came across Artisan Field Roast vegan products on a food blog and since they were highly recommended, I decided to give them a try. Though I eat very little processed food, something in the list of ingredients convinced me that these had potential.

I cooked only one for me (John had the real thing) and besides being a little dry on the outside (probably my fault – I used to over cook my meat too), the smoked apple sage sausage was incredibly delicious, not meaty tasting, and easy to digest. Their producers call them “a savory combination of apples and sage anchored with yukon gold potatoes with a subtle hint of hickory smoke”. It’s a new way of looking at vegan sausages – not meant to replicate, but celebrate vegetables employing an old tradition.

Sausages and cabbage are a very classic combination. This time, I decided to cream it up – my way. I added a thinly sliced onion and bulb of fennel, which does a very good job of accompanying the cabbage without hijacking the dish. I created a cabbage soup a few years ago and discovered the delights of combining fresh sage and dried marjoram. On their own, sage and marjoram are quite floral, but together they make a bouquet.

There’s something very satiny about cabbage, which when lightly enveloped by the cream, infused with the bouquet of herbs, makes the ordinary, extraordinary. I use cream sparingly in my cooking and quite often it’s 5 or 10 percent cream. I achieved the full fat effect by incorporating just a little bit of cornstarch. Really, it works!

Each spoonful of cabbage feels like silk on the tongue – extremely sensual, even luxurious, and combined with the smoked apple sage sausage makes this a perfect match.

In terms of weeknight meals, it doesn’t get any easier or quicker.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

 Olive oil  5 tbsp
 Onion, small  1
 Marjoram, dried  1 tsp
 Fennel, bulb, sliced thinly  1
 Cabbage, sliced thinly  1.5 lbs
 Salt
 Black pepper
 Cream, light  1.5 cups
 Sage, leaves, fresh, chopped  13
 Nutmeg
 Cornstarch  1 tbsp
 Water  2 tbp

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil.
  2. Add onion and cook 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add marjoram and fennel and cook 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add cabbage and cook 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add cream, salt, black pepper, sage, and nutmeg and stir until well combined and the cream is heated through.
  6. Combine cornstarch and water and add to the cabbage and cream; combine well.
  7. Heat until the cream has thickened to desired consistency and cabbage is cooked to your liking. In my dish, the cabbage and fennel both had a slight crunch.

Braised Tofu Napa Nabe

Braised Tofu

People assume that because I am a vegetarian, I must like tofu. Well, that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, I don’t love tofu, except fried, of course. Predominantly, there are two reasons for this: 1) contrary to popular belief, tofu is not bland. I detect a very subtle taste that kicks in at the very end that I absolutely detest. This aftertaste is not detectable when fried, which is why I love fried tofu. 2) As North Americans, most of us don’t know how to cook tofu in a way that brings out its best. We add tofu as is, often not even marinated, to our familiar dishes and expect it to taste great.

A number of years ago, I was shopping at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market and discovered Ying Ying Soy Foods. I decided to give their tofu a try and was shocked to discover that with very little preparatory work, I was able to not only eat the tofu, but enjoy it. The next time I visited Toronto, I brought my cooler along and stocked up. I expressed to the woman behind the counter that I have had issues with tofu for the longest time, but for some reason, I was really enjoying her product. She was not surprised to hear this at all. Besides the fact that her product is organic, she explained that they use a type of coagulant used traditionally for centuries that made the difference in their product. I have been hooked ever since and use nothing else.

I’m not sure what to call this dish. Canadian Living calls it braised tofu napa nabe. Sure, I’ll go with that, but it’s so much more.

In a previous post, I talked about how “in the wintertime, we love to eat hot comfort food. We turn to dishes that warm our bellies, melt our hearts, and insulate us from the cold. We look forward to dishes like roasted root vegetables, steaming soups and stews and baked casseroles like macaroni and cheese. There are reasons for this; Canadian winters can be mighty cold!”

That’s what this dish screamed to me: comfort food, comfort vegetarian food, new comfort vegetarian food. In spite of all the cabbage and shiitakes, the broth tastes neither like cabbage, nor like shiitakes, but a beautiful blend of both that combine with the vegetable broth, mirin, and tamari to produce an insanely delicate, extremely flavourful (but not overpowering), and smooth broth. Even though the list of ingredients for this dish is not exhaustive, there’s enough variety to make every bite intriguing, forcing you to go back for more. I dug in with both a fork and a spoon and my husband followed suit. Swimming alongside those hearty chunks of cabbage and shiitakes were those perfectly cooked grains of basmati brown rice, not only adding texture, but substance. Then of course, the tofu, which dipped in the ponzu sauce, had a hint of saltiness that delighted the tongue and revealed with that first bite the secret known to centuries of tofu eaters, that if cooked properly, tofu could be and definitely was exciting.

I made some minor changes to the recipe, which I believe are true enhancements, namely: using a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil to slightly caramelize the onions and garlic (of course I added garlic), deglazed the entire thing with the mirin, replaced the soy with tamari, upped the mushrooms and used only vegetable broth, omitting the water. I cooked up some brown rice and served a generous ladle in each bowl before topping it with the broth, veggies, and tofu.

This is quick, easy, weeknight comfort food.

Serves 5

Ingredients:

Oil, peanut 2 tbsp
Onions, small, sliced  2
Garlic, cloves, minced  2
Mirin  1/4 cup
Broth, vegetable  6 cups
Cabbage, napa, small, chopped in big pieces  1.5 lbs
Mushrooms, shiitake, slice larger mushrooms in half, remove and discard stems  12 oz
Tofu, soft or medium, drained and cubed 3/4 lb
Tamari 1/4 cup
Onion, green, chopped 1 (for garnish)
Ponzu sauce for dipping tofu
Rice, brown  1.5 cups (uncooked)

Directions:

  1. Prepare rice as directed on package (my brand of rice cooks in approximately 40 minutes).
  2. In a medium pot, heat peanut oil.
  3. Add onions and cook for 3-4 minutes until they begin to caramelize.
  4. Add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
  5. Deglaze with mirin. Allow to reduce for 2 minutes.
  6. Add cabbage, mushrooms, and broth. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.
  7. Add tofu and tamari; simmer until tofu is heated through, about 5 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat.
  9. To serve, place a ladle of cooked rice in each bowl. Top with two ladles of vegetables, tofu and broth. Garnish with  green onion.
  10. Serve with ponzu sauce for dipping tofu.