Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Blackened Cabbage with Kombu Brown Butter

When I saw this recipe in last month's Bon Appetit, I knew I had to make it. Isn't it beautiful, the purple cabbage with the purple chive flowers? It came at a perfect time, too, just as I was preparing to give a whole talk on cabbage at the Naked Food Fair! Yeah, I know, I'm a vegetable nerd.

I'm a big believer in getting a little char on all the cabbage-family vegetables - it brings out their incredible sweet, nutty, umami flavors. This recipe takes it to the extreme, and it really is fantastic. The basic idea is you throw a half a cabbage in the pan and let it cook undisturbed so that it gets almost burned, while basting it with butter.

As I was researching for the cabbage talk, I discovered some amazing things about cabbage-family vegetables (actually, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, collards, and kohlrabi are all botanically the same exact species - Brassica oleracea - just bred for different leaves, flowers, and stems.)
  1. They are well known to help reduce cholesterol - the fiber in cabbage can bind up bile acids, which are synthesized from cholesterol in the body, allowing them to be excreted and thus lowering overall cholesterol. Steaming actually makes the fiber better able to do this. 
  2. Some of the phytochemicals in cabbage-family vegetables are actually being seriously studied for its cancer-prevention properties. A compound called 3,3-diindolylmethane may help mitigate damage caused by radiation treatment. Compounds called glucosinolates are converted to isothiocyanates in your body, with the help of myrosinase enzymes. Raw cabbage has the maximum amount of these compounds, but steaming is not too bad. Cutting the cabbage and letting it sit a few minutes allows the myrosinase enzymes to begin their work.
  3. They have tons of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds too. Anthocyanin in red cabbage is a great example. And a substance called kaempferol in broccoli and kale may lessen the impact of allergens.
So, this recipe is actually kind of the best of both worlds - you get the deep browning that develops great flavor, but the rest of the cabbage just basically steams. 

1 small to medium cabbage
1 Tbs oil
4 Tbs butter
1 strip kombu (kelp) - this is really optional
Chives or other fresh herbs for garnish, finely chopped

Cut the cabbage in half through the core. Save one half for something else, or if you're really skilled, double the rest of the ingredients, get another pan, and do two at once.

Heat the oil in a skillet on medium-high. Set the cabbage in the pan, cut side down, and cook undisturbed for 10 minutes. Don't worry if it looks burned!

Add the butter and baste for 10 minutes (pour spoonfuls of it over top of the cabbage to help cook the top). Don't worry if the butter looks really really brown. Check to see if it is done by poking a skewer or a knife all the way through - if it goes in easily, it's done. If not, keep basting for another few minutes. Crumble the kombu and baste a few times more. Cut in half and serve on two plates, drizzled with some of the brown butter and sprinkled with chives.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Black Radish and Frisee Salad with Oranges

Early in the market season, and sometimes at the winter markets, you may find the striking black radish! Its skin is rough and its flavor is pungent - no delicate vegetable, this. It's not for eating out of hand or with buttered bread, like other radishes. It needs a more robust preparation, either roasted to mellow it, or paired with other strong flavors, as it is in this delightful salad.

1 T. honey
2 T. good white wine vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar
1 large black radish (about 3 inches diameter) or a few smaller ones
2 oranges (blood oranges are especially pretty)
1 T. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped roasted almonds or pistachios (optional)

In a medium bowl whisk together the honey and vinegar. Scrub the radish really well and remove the top and tail. Grate it into the vinaigrette and let it marinate about ten minutes.

Meanwhile, wash the frisee, tear it up into bite size pieces, and spin it dry. Cut a slice from the top and bottom of the orange so that it stands up nicely on the cutting board. Cut downward to remove the skin and pith, following the curve of the orange. Then slice the orange crosswise to make pretty medallions.

Add the frisee and olive to the bowl and toss with the radish mixture. Season with salt and pepper and top with orange slices and chopped nuts.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Orange, Radish and Jerusalem Artichoke Salad

I'd been wondering what to do with some Jerusalem artichokes I bought - they are kind of like jicama, but nutty tasting. They are the root of a type of sunflower! So I came up with this salad, inspired by (once again) Ghillie Basan's Modern Moroccan, a gorgeous cookbook with lots of pictures and surprising flavors.

4 oranges
3-4 Jerusalem artichokes (or perhaps sliced artichoke hearts)
2 radishes (or not)
1 T capers (or Kalamata olives)
Juice of half a lemon
Olive oil

Slice the peel off the oranges, cut in half lengthwise, then cut in thin slices crosswise. The Jerusalem artichokes can be peeled, or just washed thoroughly, then cut in thin slices, or perhaps matchsticks. Slice the radishes thinly. At this point the salad needs a bit more sour and salty, so I added lemon juice and capers. I think Kalamata olives might be even better though. Toss with olive oil and salt to taste, then sprinkle with paprika. Many people think of paprika as just for decoration, but I love its nutty flavor, so I use lots!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Romanesco and Chorizo Scramble

Romanesco has got to be the most gorgeous vegetable in the world. I always struggle to find a way to prepare it that honors its delicate beauty. One morning, Dave came up with this perfect pairing - romanesco sauteed with Spanish chorizo and softly scrambled eggs. It was heavenly for breakfast, and would make a delightful light lunch or breakfast-for-dinner.

Spanish chorizo is made with smoked paprika, then stuffed in casings and slowly dried, so it is hard and its flavor is intensely savory. I was so excited to find some at La Montanita Co-op recently! (It's very different from Mexican chorizo, which is sometimes made with beef, and is usually sold fresh as bulk sausage, not stuffed in casings.)

2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 head romanesco broccoli
2 oz Spanish chorizo
4 eggs

Break romanesco into small florets. Chop chorizo into small bits. Heat olive oil over medium flame. Add romanesco and chorizo, toss to coat with oil, and cover. Cook until the romanesco is just tender. Whisk eggs in a small bowl, and add to the pan. Cook, stirring gently until eggs are just set. Serve hot, with toast or grilled bread.