I’ve always liked cabbage–slaw, steamed, and even boiled if it was not cooked to mush. I’ll even just nuke a wedge with a little olive oil and salt sprinkled over it and call it a vegetable dish. It’s a good keeper that doesn’t get foul if it stays in the crisper for a while–especially if you just peel off the leaves from the outside of the head as you need them, instead of cutting the head in pieces.
Nigel Slater’s “Tender”
I’ve read a lot of Nigel Slater lately (Kitchen Diaries, Ripe, and Tender). I like his style: very descriptive of the garden, and the kitchen–almost makes me feel that I’m right there with him. I’m anticipating the followup volumes for Tender and Kitchen Diaries; his website is also well worth checking out.
Tender is a vegetable cookbook (as well as a gardening book)–not a vegetarian cookbook, though most recipes could be pretty easily adapted if you’re of the vegetarian persuasion. The discussion of each vegetable includes cooking as well as growing information, and most delightfully, a discussion of seasonings for the vegetable.
His recipes are simple, designed to make the most of excellent fruits and vegetables without being at all fussy. Quantities are rather loosely given, which makes it ideal for my improvisational style of cooking for myself (and the cat). I’ve found all sorts of thing I want to try, but here is one that particularly caught my fancy–perhaps because it’s fall, or maybe just because I had a head of cabbage in the crisper.
One of the seasoning he mentioned for cabbage was juniper berries. I’ve used juniper berries for other dishes, but can’t honestly say that I’d ever thought of trying them with cabbage. Here’s what I did to try this out.
Cabbage with juniper berries
- About 6 leaves from a medium head of cabbage
- 3 juniper berries
- dash of red pepper flakes if desired for spice
- dash of salt to taste
- small pat of butter
- Flatten the leaves on a cutting board and cut into bite-size pieces
- Add crushed juniper berries, (see note below.), chili flakes if desired, and salt.
- Toss the cabbage to distribute seasonings.
- Add butter and 1 tablespoon of water.
- Cover and microwave for about 4 to 6 minutes, until cabbage is still bright green, but tender (See NOTE).
- Though I used white cabbage, I’m sure this would be fine with red or savoy cabbage as well.
- The juniper berries are very oily, so I did not put them in my spice grinder–I used a mortar and pestle that could be cleaned easily.
- The microwave really seems to bring out the heat in the chili peppers, so add less than you might were you just going to sauté the cabbage.
- The amount of water needed will depend on whether the cabbage is just washed and still wet, and/or how tight the cover is. I don’t usually use plastic wrap, but Pyrex bowls with vented covers, so I do lose some steam.
- Sauté or steam-sauté would work as well–I just didn’t want to wash another pan when I was preparing this after a day of indexing work.
I’ve tried it now–right up there with caraway seeds.The combination is a winner–I’m not sure I can easily describe what the juniper berries do for the cabbage, but it certainly puts it in a different class from “boiled” cabbage that I grew up with and what is typical of “southern” cooking. I think it adds background earthiness and complexity to the flavor. It was no longer “just” cabbage!
It was a side for roast turkey thighs, but I can easily see this as a great side for pork, or most particularly for duck legs or duck confit. I’ll certainly make it again–probably on many occasions.
I didn’t use extra virgin olive as I normally might with cabbage because I just could not get the flavors of that and the juniper berries together in my head. (Cabbage with a little extra virgin olive oil is excellent, though.) If I were making this to go with duck, I make it with duck fat instead of butter.
cabbage with juniper berries
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