Sunday, June 27, 2010

. . .of cabbages and kings

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--...

         -Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There

The Walrus never did get around to talking of cabbages. A shame, really, as cabbage is what I've got, and cabbage and kohlrabi is what was harvested (along with Asian greens, zucchini, radishes, salad turnips, garlic scapes and garlic).  Therefore cabbage is what I am working with and thinking about this week. And I would have liked to hear what the Walrus had to say about cabbages. Ah well. . .

The word 'cabbage' comes from the French caboche, meaning head. But not all cabbages look like heads-- some, like savoy cabbage, have crazy textured curly leaves, while bok choy has wide white ribs topped by deep green leaves, and Chinese celery cabbage is elliptical in shape. While all can be cooked and stored the same way, each has its own unique flavor and  personality. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, kale and brussels sprouts are all in the same vegetable family- aptly called the Cabbage Family.

Hard white cabbages (think 'corned beef and cabbage') can be stored in the refrigerator for over 2 weeks. Cabbages with more delicate leaves, like bok choy and Chinese cabbage are more perishable and will spoil sooner. Once you cut the cabbage, it should be wrapped or it will get moldy.

To cut cabbage, cut it in half right through the core or stem, and then cut again into quarters. Cut out the core. Cut either crosswise for shorter slices or lengthwise for longer pieces. Or just chuck into a food processor and cut coarsely by pulsing a few times.

Cabbage can be:
 *eaten raw-- in salads and coleslaws
*sauteed with onion, garlic, herbs-- in butter, oil or with bacon bits
*stir-fried with garlic, ginger, soy sauce and scallions
*braised by sauteeing it first and then simmering in white wine or broth
*boiled and served alone or with a sauce or butter
*gratineed by blanching it first and then baking in a cheese sauce with a
breadcrumb or panko topping
*stuffed (after blanching) with meat and/or rice and vegetables and then simmered
in sauce
*not to mention pickling (kimchee!) or brining (sauerkraut!)

Spring Rolls
This is a wonderfully flexible recipe. These can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator for a really healthy, refreshing snack. Most any fresh vegetable can be substituted for the ones in this recipe. To make them a meal, serve with Peanut Dipping Sauce and add some leftover meat, chicken or shrimp.

2 cups very finely shredded cabbage, any kind
1 cup yellow or green beans
1 bunch radishes
1 medium cucumber
2 carrots
1-1/2 to 2 Tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
salt to taste

12 rice wrappers*
water as needed

Bring 4 cups water to a boil.  Trim the beet greens from the beets, leaving 1-inch stems, Place the beets in the water, and when the water returns to a boil, cook 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender. Rinse in cold water and then refresh in ice water. Slip the skins off. Slice into matchstick-size pieces. 

Bring the water back to a boil and add the beans and carrots. Cook for 3 minutes and refresh in ice water. Trim the stem ends and then cut in half lengthwise and then into 1-inch pieces. 

Peel the cucumbers and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and cut into 1-inch lengths. Cut each piece lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices.

Combine the vegetables, honey, sesame oil and salt to taste. 

Fill a shallow bowl with water and place a rice wrapper in it to soften. Remove from the water and place on a dry surface. Place about 2 Tablespoons of filling in the middle of the wrapper. Fold in the sides, and then roll-up. Place on a serving plate, seam side down. Repeat with remaining filling and wrappers. 

Peanut Dipping Sauce
1/3  cup smooth peanut butter
2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 scallions
1 lime
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger
optional; minced garlic
chili oil
sesame oil

Mince the scallions and juice the lime. Grate the ginger. Combine all ingredients and add warm water as needed to obtain the desired consistency.

Refrigerator Coleslaw
'Coleslaw' is Danish for 'cut sly'- or chopped salad. Salting the cabbage first acts as a preservative and allows this coleslaw to stay fresh longer.

1 large head cabbage
1 stalk celery
2 carrots
large handful chives
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
pinch pepper
1 teaspoon celery seed

Chop the cabbage, celery, carrots, and chives. Place all the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and cool. Toss with the vegetables and chill.

Vietnamese Style Cabbage Salad
I have a plethora of mint in my garden. Some say it's a weed, but I think of it as a gift! I love it in my tea, in tabbouli, in salads (you could even add some to the spring rolls, above)

1/2 large head, or 1 small head of cabbage
2 carrots
2 Tablespoons fresh mint or dill
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
3 Tablespoon sugar
3 Tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 lime
2/3 cup peanuts

Shred the cabbage and grate the carrots. Mince the dill or mint. Juice the lime and combine with the soy sauce, sugar and vinegar. Pour over the veggies and toss. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Just before serving, sprinkle on the peanuts.

Wilted Salad with Asian Greens
. . .and not to neglect some of the other vegetables in my CSA box this week:

1 bunch garlic scapes OR 1 small onion
3 Tablespoons oil, such as canola oil
1 pound Asian greens, pinch or mixed lettuces
1 cup sliced radishes
1 cup sliced salad turnips
large pinch kosher salt
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
sunflower seeds or chopped pistachios

Chop the garlic scapes or onion. Heat oil in a small skillet and saute the scapes or onion. Place the greens, radishes and salad turnips in a bowl. Add the cider vinegar and salt to the pan and pour all over the greens while still warm. Toss and top with the sunflower seeds or pistachios.

Just a few more days until my next share! 


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ever SO Much Lettuce: Beyond the Salad

The weather in southern Connecticut this summer so far promises an awesome growing season- a perfect mix of cool, wet nights and warm sunny days. This is a big difference from last year's rain, rain and more rain~~ I'm looking forward to this season!
I'm late in starting this blog. Blame it on end-of-the-school-year melancholy. Or procrastination. Maybe both. But I will be posting recipes and ideas of what I do with my CSA share from this point on.
The first of my CSA shares from Stone Garden Farm included leaf lettuce, baby bok choy and Asian mix (aka more lettuce), as well as radishes, Hakurei turnips ('salad turnips'), small pots of herbs, scallions, kohlrabi and garlic scapes. Fred and Stacia Monahan, the owners and farmers at Stone Garden, also raise chickens, pork, beef and sell fresh eggs. The share often includes a dozen of the best fresh eggs (if you've never had a truly fresh egg, you have no idea how 'eggy' really fresh eggs taste!)

Back to what has been in my box. Hmmm. . .I like salad- I do. Future blogs will include some fun and easy salad dressing recipes. But as much as I like a good salad, I also tend to get cantankerous if I have to eat the same thing every day. So what to do with all that lettuce?

First things first- how to store the veggies.
Leaf lettuce will last much longer in the fridge if it is washed, dried and stored in toweling. Separate the lettuce leaves and swish in a bowl of cold water. Spin dry in a salad spinner and lay out on layers of paper towels or a clean tea towel and roll up. Place in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator and the leaves will stay crisp for several days.
If the tops are left on the turnips, radishes or kohlrabi, cut them off and store them separately from the bulbs (otherwise the greens sort of suck the life out of the vegetable and they lose their crispness quickly).

Once you've taken steps to make sure that your vegetables are stored correctly, you can figure out what to do with them. I have been in an Asian mood lately, so here are some of the ways I've cooked the veggies.

Asian Egg Pancakes with Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg (optional)
bunch of scallions (reserve one for the dipping sauce)
bunch of radishes
oil as needed
Wash and trim the scallions and radishes and cut into very, very thin slivers (technically a julienne cut- but don't skimp on time and effort here- good knife cuts will really elevate this dish).
Whisk together the flour, water, salt and egg (if you are using it). Fold in the scallions and radishes. Heat a nonstick or cast iron skillet until very hot. Add enough oil to just cover the bottom of the pan. Drop the batter into the oil in large tablespoons. Lower the heat slightly and cook until crisp on the bottom. Carefully turn over and cook until the other side is browned and crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm while you repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with the dipping sauce
Dipping Sauce: combine 1/4 cup each of soy sauce and rice vinegar with 2 teaspoons sesame oil, the remaining scallion-minced, a minced clove of garlic and a big pinch of red pepper flakes.

Tofu and Noodles with Peanut Sauce
1 package extra firm tofu
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 bunch baby bok choy
2 cloves garlic
2 large salad turnips or 1 medium cucumber
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
4 Tablespoons rice vinegar
5 ounces dry pasta or 2 cups cooked pasta (like spaghetti or linguini)

Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and saute the tofu cubes until they begin to crisp. Set aside.

Wash and trim the bok choy and cut into strips. Mince the garlic. Trim the salad turnips and cut into strips (if using the cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into thin slices).

Blend together the peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar and garlic. Combine the vegetables, tofu and pasta and pour the sauce over. Serve at room temperature.

Yummy, easy, and everything can be done in advance~~ just heat the pancakes in a low oven (about 300 degrees) for a few minutes before serving.