Always Hungry? Cabbage Casserole

white cabbage cropped IMG_6018One of the recipes from Always Hungry?  that I wanted to try was the Cabbage Casserole (pages 236-237) since I feel that cabbage is an underappreciated vegetable that should be (at least) a winter staple. I suspect that when many people hear cabbage mentioned as an edible thing, they think “coleslaw”, or the St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage, or, perhaps, stuffed cabbage.

The other advantages to me were that it was an “all phases” dish, and I didn’t see anything that would make it impossible to freeze for later use. So, the Cabbage Casserole happened today. When I’m trying a new recipe, I like to make it as directed, except for seasonings that I thought needed adjustment for my taste. As usual, I found one thing that I felt could be modified without changing the results, but would make the recipe easier.

The directions call for blanching the cabbage in boiling water. I assumed (yes, I do know what “assume” does to you and me) that the blanching was to soften the cabbage a bit so that the texture wouldn’t be crunchy in the finished dish–just as you soften the leaves when making stuffed cabbage with whole leaves. Instead of blanching, I put the cabbage, with a splash–maybe a tablespoon–of water into the microwave until it had softened–about 5 minutes, then proceeded with the layering of the meat mixture, the cabbage, and the apple-tomato mixture as instructed in the recipe. Then, into the oven.

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cabbage casserole and serving on blue plate

cabbage casserole

The casserole is out of the oven, and I’ve enjoyed a serving. It’s another keeper. I’m surprised and pleased. The seasoning as in the recipe is good as is, though for my taste, I may add a little more garlic next time. The amount of cinnamon is perfect.  It’s another keeper even though it’s associated with a weight-loss program. The final result has a bit more liquid than I hoped, even though I baked it uncovered a little longer than the recipe called for. The recipe did not call for draining the tomatoes, but I’ll do that next time.

The microwave was apparently a good substitute for the blanching: the cabbage is tender, and not at all crunchy. I’ll happily eat this again, looking forward to having a glass of a hearty red wine to accompany it.

cabbage casserole up close

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Always Hungry? Meal Plan

Since I seem to be unable to stick to a recipe, am a picky eater, and have a lot of difficulty with breakfast, I’ve downloaded the Simplified Meal Plan from Always Hungry? website, and very carefully read the requirements for the “Building a Phase 1 Meal” (pages 151-152).  Since I was having a lazy day I did some adaptation on the “Herb-Roasted Chicken Thighs” since chicken thighs often show up on my house menus. I decided to make this a one-pot meal.

roasted chicken thigh, greens, black beansAfter seeing a post on slow roasted kale on Stefan’s Gourmet Blog, I decided I could make a one-dish meal that met those Phase 1 requirements. Using a bag of salad greens (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and some others) I put enough into the clay cooker to give me the amount of cooked greens that I needed for two meals (two of the thighs were for other uses). Since I’m such a fan of greens and beans, I added enough black beans for two servings. Since bell peppers are on the okay list, I added red and orange mini bell sweet peppers to the mix.  Finally, I topped that huge pile of greens with the chicken thighs sprinkled with salt, red pepper flakes, and oregano. The soaked clay cooker went into a cold 400 °F oven for a little over one hour and out came a meal that had the protein, vegetables, and the carbohydrates (the beans). All I had to add was dessert. (Yes, this meal plan includes dessert–in this case a cup of fruit and 1/2 ounce of dark chocolate.)

One of these thighs is going to find its way into chicken salad with grapes and pecans (substitution for walnuts) for one of the prescribed lunches and another into the freezer to pull out when I need a quick dinner ready with the vegetable, meat, carbohydrate quantities already worked out.

Kitchen disaster. . .

. . . but a happy, tasty ending.

Cat looking into refrigeratorI’m feeling a cold draft–very cold draft–around my ankles!

I know I’m not dreaming though it’s the middle of the night or somewhere in the wee hours of the morning–I’ve come to the kitchen (without turning on the light) to get a drink of water. . . .

Cold draft? Really, really cold draft–on my ankles.

Reality gradually seeps into consciousness:  I’m standing in front of the refrigerator–which has a bottom freezer, which I have stuffed pretty full.. . .

Light on. Obviously I’ve stuffed the freezer a little too full or something has fallen out of place. The freezer door is very slightly ajar. Even in my rather sleep-befuddled state, brain clicked on. Several epithets which should not be printed. Open freezer door and palpate the front packages: kale, butternut frozen onions, kalesquash, chopped onions. Soft, but not obviously completely thawed, but destined to turn into a huge clump of re-frozen vegetables.The only meat even close was a game hen which was still hard as a rock.

I closed the freezer door and checked that it shut completely, and tightly. Back to bed, knowing that I would have to do something with those veggies in the morning. (The ice cream was far enough back and in a corner that it was still hard or I guess I’d have been compelled to eat it right then and there–hmmmmm, should I go do a careful check on the ice cream?)

Morning after: I’ve got work that that to be done NOW so spending a bunch of time in the kitchen or skulking through cookbooks isn’t on my agenda. It’s time for some improvisation: take chopped onions, chopped kale and cubed butternut squash. . . .add some bratwursts that are in the fridge. Add a portion of mixed grains (brown basmati rice, red rice, barley, rye berries) and one multipurpose rice cooker.

I’m sure you’re not surprised that I’d resort to the rice cooker, given all the other things I have it to cook. Once you understand the physics of its function, it’s really easy to make it do what you want. So here we go again with the rice cooker.

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Kale, butternut squash with bratwurst

Cook’s note: first this is not a recipe–it’s an improvisational happening. Secondly, it’s recommended that you deliberately thaw the vegetables in the refrigerator or on the counter instead of the method described here if you wish to have them unfrozen. You can put frozen vegetables in the rice cooker without thawing unless you have a great big blob of frozen stuff. You can adjust the proportions of kale, onions, and squash as desired.

Ingredients

  • one standard-sized package chopped kale, thawed
  • one standard-sized package chopped onions, thawed
  • one standard-sized package butternut squash, cubed
  • 4 fresh bratwursts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/2 cups water (or amount called for in the cooking instructions of your grain)
  • dash of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of oregano or herb of choice

Preparation

  • add olive oil to rice cooker bowl
  • add thawed onions and let sauté briefly
  • push the onions to the sides of the rice cooker
  • lay fresh sausages in a single layer and then redistribute the onions evenly over the bottom and partly over the sausages; they will brown lightly on the side in contact with the bottom of the rice cooker bowl
  • add 1 cup of grains
  • add kale and distribute evenly over grain and sausages
  • add red pepper flakes and herbs
  • add scant 2 cups of water; your rice cooker may need more or less, adjust as needed
  • close rice cooker and leave until it switches to “warm” function
  • stir contents (grains should be a bit underdone)
  • add remaining water
  • add butternut squash on top of greens, grain, and sausages
  • close rice cooker and leave until it switches to “warm” function a second time
  • check doneness of grain; if needed add a bit more water and wait again
  • when grains are cooked as you like them, serve!

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Despite the ridiculous circumstances that gave rise to this recipe, it was very tasty, and I’m sure some version of it will be made again. The combination of kale with the butternut squash was delightful. The combination of grains gives some interesting texture and flavor to the dish.

A son goût!

cat on kitchen counter

Dandelion greens for supper

soon to be supper

soon to be supper

Yesterday, it was sunny, a bit breezy, but warm enough to have the doors and windows open (in spite of the pollen).  Today, that warmth and sun is somewhere else, so I needed some sort of cool weather, one-pot meal.  (One-pot particularly since I’m right in the midst of a big indexing project, too.)  My rapid trip through the local Harris Teeter left me with a lovely big bunch of dandelion greens, and a pair of Sicilian sausages to play with.  Add onions, red bell peppers, and a little garlic and it will be supper.

Although the  dandelions are blooming (and that’s good–my bees will be here soon) I didn’t go out and forage for the greens.  I took the wimpy way out and bought them.  But they still taste good.

The dandelion greens from the supermarket are going to be older, tougher leaves than I’d pick were I out foraging.  The really young  leaves can be used as salad greens, uncooked.  These need cooking. Whether cooked or raw, dandelion greens are bitter–in a good way that makes them pair particularly well with the “sweetness” of Sicilian or Italian sausages.

Sicilian sausages

Sicilian sausages

The Sicilian sausage is similar to Italian, but has orange added so  it is “brighter” and not quite as “sweet” as Italian, nor as spicy as hot Italian, but the contrast between the sweet spices of the sausage and the bitterness of the greens is lively–certainly not bland.  Since these sausages are not hot, I added some hot red pepper flakes when I was seasoning the greens.

The sausages were browned (as described by Nigel Slater in his Real Food:

all in the pot

all in the pot

Very, very slowly and gently in a bit of olive oil.  (If you’re cooking for one, at least get some of his books from the library–they’re fun, easy reading, and have some good advice about food, and cooking in general, and one particularly.)

I added two medium onions thinly sliced, a red bell pepper cut into strips, and three large cloves of garlic (chopped), to sweat with the sausages for a bit, and finally, the chopped dandelion greens (with the very bottoms where there was only stem and no leaf removed with a hefty  pinch of kosher salt.  No extra liquid is required as the onions and peppers will give off some liquid, and the moisture left on the greens after washing is enough for cooking in the covered brasier. The domed lid will accommodate that pile of greens until they wilt down to not much volume like most greens.

Other than a pinch of kosher salt, garlic, and the red pepper flakes, I didn’t add other herbs or spices as I thought the seasoning of the sausages was enough contrast to the bitterness of the greens.

sausages and greens

ready to serve

I would really have liked to add some cannellini beans, or other white beans, but since I’m trying low-carbohydrate eating to lose some weight, I just couldn’t do it–though it was tempting, and I love beans. (A small display of will power, here.)

As you can see, there’s no recipe for this–you just use peppers, onions, and greens so that it looks right, keeping in mind that greens do really cook down to less than you expect when you look at them raw. I would have used a smaller amount of vegetables had I been adding the cannellini (or garbanzo) beans to this–or added another sausage.

That second sausage and the rest of the veggies have been popped into a heavy-duty freezer bag, with as much air removed as possible, to await another chilly, rainy day when I need something warming to eat–my version of the TV dinner.

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Wine?  But of course! Nothing really fancy. Just part of a bottle–my last one unfortunately–one of my favorite “everyday” Chateau d'Oupia Les Heretiques, IGP Pays de l'Herault, France labelwines: Chateau d’Oupia Les Heretiques.   It’s a blend of old-vine Carignan (90%) and Syrah (10%) that has some bright clean, cherry, plum, and spice that goes nicely with a lot of my casual cooking–even just a burger, or just sipping without food.  It’s also in the price range to make it “everyday”. It’s time to go to the Wine Cellar at Sutton Station and get some more of this.

plate of sausage, veggies

A son goût!

 

Sausages, greens, and beans this evening

Today has been a particularly bone-chilling, dreary, damp, windy, rainy day with temperature steadily dropping this afternoon; looking out the windows you see puddles of water everywhere and you can’t really walk anywhere without getting wet feet;  this calls for  something filling, flavorful, and warm for supper.  (I also need to “tidy up” the freezer to get rid of some of the partial packages of this and that which have accumulated from single-serving cooking.) Since I’m really fond of charcuterie, that seemed like a good starting point for comfort food tonight.

plate of greens, edamame, and a sausage

sausage, beans, and greens for supper

I found Sicilian sausages (house-made) at Harris Teeter when I went shopping yesterday (in 70°F weather, but knowing the forecast) so I got some sausages for a one-pot meal.  Part of tidying up the freezer involves using the bits and pieces living in there, so I thought I’d improvise on one of my favorite meals: braised green, sausages, and beans. The Sicilian sausages are similar to spicy (not  raging hot) Italian with orange zest added so it does well with any rather mellow greens, like turnip, or kale.

I was pretty confident that I had greens of some ilk in the freezer, beans, onions and the like as well; all I needed for my supper was the sausages.  What I found in the freezer to go with my sausages were turnip greens and edamame (soybeans).

I browned the sausages in olive oil, added onions, some garlic, the turnip greens, and edamame and a bit of water.  After reaching a simmer on the stove-top I popped the covered pot into the oven at 425°F oven and went back to the computer to keep working.  After about half an hour in the oven, I uncovered the pot for about 15 minutes to let a little more liquid cook off and supper was ready!

I usually use two sausages to make this–one is quite adequate for a single serving.  I like to put the “leftover” in the freezer for a quick meal later as this freezes and reheats well.  There are lots of easy variations on this dish–use other types of beans like cannelinni, borletti, or pinto–or potatoes to fill this out.  Vary the greens–if you have a sweeter sausage, then mustard greens make a great contrast with their sharp, slightly hot flavor. This can be turned into soup really easily too: slice the sausage, add some broth, add some pasta, and a whole new meal.

There are so many delicious sausages out there and an almost infinite variety of greens to pair them with. You don’t need exact measurements here at all so it does well for single-serving meals.  Just cruise through the produce department and eyeball the greens: frisée, dandelion, kale, mustard…  Bitter greens pair well with sweeter sausages like lamb or sweet Italian–have fun, improvise and a son goût!

Wine? of course!  This just needs a good “everyday” red–even something out of a box, like the Portuguese Alandra box red.  We are, after all, talking peasant comfort food here.

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Fårikål (Norwegian lamb and cabbage stew)

Cold, rather dreary day so I’m making some warm, cuddly, comfort food from my most recent cookbook, The Kitchen of Light by Andreas Viestad.

I made the lamb and cabbage stew–well, sort of–I had goat meat in the freezer so I substituted that for lamb.  As I’m writing, I’m smelling it cooking–and practically drooling on my keyboard.

The stew is in the oven in my “small” Dutch oven (did not make the whole recipe). It smells SO good. I’ve been reading posts from a friend on Facebook singing the praises of this stew–reheats well–which means I can make a batch and freeze some.

The seasoning of this stew is bay leaves and black peppercorns–a lot of black peppercorns, cooked with the meat and cabbage.  This surprised me when I read the recipe because I’ve seen sources saying that black peppercorns will be bitter with long cooking, so it’s not usually added until late in cooking, though this is not dry heat, so that may make a big difference. This recipe calls for 1 to 2 tablespoons of black peppercorns.  (From tasting so far, I think I’m going to want to add more black peppercorns.)

Product.DisplayNameReally good, fresh-ground black pepper is one of my favorite spices.  I’ve gotten hooked on the India Special Extra Bold Tellicherry  and that’s what I’m using in this recipe.  Regular Tellicherry or Malabar pepper should also work.

Fårikål (Norwegian lamb and cabbage stew)

This recipe is adapted  from The Kitchen of Light (Andreas Viestad)–It’s easily adapted for single-serving cooking, but also suitable for making the full recipe and reheating/freezing.

Ingredients

  • 6 pounds of bone-in lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces.
  • 4 pounds of green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups cold water
  • fine sea salt (to taste)

Preparation

  • Layer the meat and cabbage in a large pot
  • Add black peppercorns, bay leaves, butter, and sprinkle in flour
  • Add water
  • Bring to a simmer, covered,
  • Cook about 2 hours over medium-high heat about 2 hours
  • To increase spiciness, add 1 more tablespoon peppercorns and cook an additional 15 minutes
  • Season to taste with salt
plated lamb and cabbage stew

Lamb and cabbage stew (from Wikipedia)

My first adaptation was the use of goat meat since that’s what I had in the freezer–as well as goat brown stock.

The goat meat was excellent, but in the future  I’ll use bone-in lamb shoulder chops, cut into appropriate-sized chunks.  My other adaptation of this recipe was to put it in the oven to cook at 300°F until the meat was very tender. It’s unlikely that I’ll want to make full quantity  of this recipe–more likely half, which will still give more than one meal, and  some to freeze.

This is NOT a pretty dish.  By the time the meat is really tender, the cabbage is NOT going to be pretty and bright green.  There’s more discussion of this dish on My Little Norway.  I like more peppercorns than that recipe uses–I actually added a lot more–and finished my serving with carefully roasted black peppercorns, coarsely crushed.

This has me looking for other recipes using cabbage–which I think is an under-appreciated winter vegetable. Too often I think it’s thought of as “slaw”.  After reading Viestad’s cookbook and North: The New Nordic Cooking of Iceland  by Gunnar Karl Gislason and Jody Eddy,  I want to explore more Scandinavian cooking.  I found lots more recipes on New Scandinavian Cooking, too–and the manifesto of the “New Nordic Cuisine”.

For a beverage with this dish? Well, a porter would be excellent. If I were doing wine, I think I’d look for something really robust–something that has at least some alicante bouchet in it, or maybe a Minervois–I think this calls for some research!

A son goût!

 

Hot & sour soup

Swanson hot and sour brothOccasionally  my curiosity gets the better of me while I’m meandering through the supermarket and I bring home something that I usually would not buy.  This time is was a box of Swanson’s Chinese Hot & Sour Flavor Infused Broth.  Usually the “flavor infused” would be a signal to walk on by. Since I do use Swanson’s chicken and beef broths and stocks, I stopped and looked at the ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t feel as if I were in the chemistry lab stockroom, so I bought it.

I do really like hot and sour soup–it’s my usual test of a Chinese restaurant–usually disappointing since my standard was set in Hong Kong!  I don’t see another trip to Hong Kong in the future, so I thought I’d try it.  My expectations were not really high as I opened the box and tasted it, but it was better than I’d thought–the hot and the sour were pretty well-balanced.  It’s main problem was that it tasted boxed–in other words, it needed some brightening up–like most boxed or canned stocks or broths.

Armed with my box of broth, I decided that although I wanted hot and sour flavor, I didn’t want to buy esoteric ingredients that I might not use again for a while just to try it out.  I thought maybe I could do something that was in the “spirit” of hot and sour soup with what I found in the fridge and pantry without a trip to the Asian market. So no tree ears or lily buds, and not even bamboo shoots.

vegetables on salad bar at Harris Teeter

prepared veggies

I found a basket of sliced mushrooms  in the fridge,  shelled edamame and collard greens in the freezer, water chestnuts in the pantry, and some rotisserie chicken and some pork in the fridge that needed given a re-do.  My only addition was a very large handful of julienned carrots (from the salad bar of my local Harris Teeter).

Since this was one of those OMG-I-don’t-have-time-to-cook occasions, I got out the rice cooker (cum slow-cooker) and added the hot and sour “flavor-infused” broth.  I sautéed  the mushrooms in just a bit of peanut oil until browned and gave the carrots a brief swish through the pan with the mushrooms, deglazed the skillet with a bit of the broth, and poured that into the slow-cooker. I added the edamame, collard greens, and the water chestnuts and set it for two hours.

When the collard greens and edamame were done (about 2 hours) I added the chicken and  pork  to heat through.  At the same time I added a piece of fresh ginger root and a small clove of garlic to “freshen” the flavors up a bit.

Obviously not a traditional hot and sour soup, but it was a good test of the “flavor infused” broth, and pretty tasty with the chicken and pork to add some richness, and the textural variety of the mushrooms, greens and water chestnuts.  A garnish  of green onions when served finished it off nicely. (I didn’t add the eggs, either.)

Verdict on the broth–not bad–actually much better than I expected– but if I’m going to make traditional real Chinese hot and sour soup (with tree ears and lily buds) I will start with my own stock–besides, I really like my hot and sour soup with pork. But if it’s just hot and sour I want, I might use another box of “flavor infused” broth!

A son goût!