Monday, January 28, 2013

Cooked Red Cabbage with Red Wine Vinegar

Red cabbage doesn't get much love.  People often use it as eye candy in salads, but they rarely cook with it. I was that way myself until I hosted a potluck for a vegetarian cooking class ten years ago. One man brought his mother's recipe for sweet and sour red cabbage.  I can't remember whether it was the big hit at this potluck, but it was the most memorable recipe for me.

Since then, I've become a big fan of red cabbage.  For one thing, it's loaded with nutrients, in fact, red  beats green cabbage in all nutrient categories.  Red cabbage has twice the amount of antioxidants than  green cabbage.  Antioxidants called anthocyanins, the ones responsible for color, have also been found to be beneficial in memory retention.  Also, while vegetables are generally not considered a source of beneficial oils, both red and green cabbage offer a small amount of Omega-3 oils.

And as for whether cooked or raw is better, consider this: cabbage belongs to the cruciferous family and these vegetables contain goitrogens which can interfere with thyroid function.  Load up on too many raw cruciferious vegetables and you could put your thyroid at risk.

Some cabbage lovers go for flavor.  According to this blogger, the taste is the same when cooked, but he also pointed out that the price of red cabbage is usually a bit higher than green.

Best advice: choose red over green cabbage, it's worth the increased price.
You'll need one sweet-tart apple for this dish, too.  Some people like more tart apples like Newton Pippin or Granny Smith.  Use the apple you like, just not a gala or very sweet variety.

 As long as it smells like an apple, some dogs are happy.

I got the cabbage at Nash's Organic Produce.  Nash offers lots of cabbage this time of year.  Lots of people think coleslaw is perfet on the fourth of July, but local cabbages are harder to find in the summer, they're more of a fall and winter staple in the Northwest.

I used a mandoline slicer (not a fancy expensive one, but an attachment to a salsa maker that I got at a fair) to get really thin slices of cabbage.  A sharp knife works too.  I grated the apple with a boxy stand-up grater.  (Ignore the amount of moisture in the grated apple, it will all blend in with the cooked cabbage in the end.  My Cooking Assistant and his sister split the core to eat, minus the seeds. 

I also tried a new brand of extra-virgin olive oil for this recipe.  It's supposed to have a higher smoke point than other extra-virgin olive oils.   It's not local, but no olive oil is around here.  I will find out more about this oil for a future post.

Cooked Red Cabbage with Red Wine Vinegar
(Serves 4 to 6)
This recipe adapted from Local Vegetarian Cooking, which is apparently available new at Amazon for $134.  Seriously? If you want a copy for $10 plus shipping, contact me.

1 medium sweet-tart apple 
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive or canola oil
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's peppers (or use 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
4 cups thinly shredded red cabbage
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 to 4 tablespoons Florida crystals (sugar)
1/4 cup water
Sea salt

1. Grate the apple up to the core.  Discard core.  Toss apple with lemon juice.

2. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.   Add oil, onion, peppers and garlic.  Stir and cook for a few minutes.  

3. Add cabbage and stir until cabbage is coated with oil.  Add apples, vinegar, Florida crystals and water.

4. Stir, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until cabbage is soft and flavors have mingled.   Add sea salt to taste.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Roasted Balsamic Rutabaga, Sweet Potatoes and Carrots

Grey days and rain put me in the mood for roasted vegetables.  For one thing, they're easy to make.  All you need to do is pick your favorite vegetables.  I wanted rutabaga, and what could be better to pair it with than carrots and sweet potatoes?

More and more in the Northwest, I can find local sweet potatoes at the markets.  This is a picture of the sweet potatoes I found last year. 

I was shocked to find sweet potatoes almost a dollar a pound less this year--$1.50 a pound.  I mean seriously, nothing goes down in price at the grocery store, so this lower price was amazing.  Local sweet potatoes might just be a better bargain than store bought.

Sweet potatoes and yams were originally cultivated in South America and throughout the Pacific Islands.  They were a dietary staple by the time Columbus arrived in the West Indies.  The varietes called "yams" are really just another sweet potato with a higher water content.  The sweet potatoes at the farmers' market look and taste a lot like jewel yams.

Sweet potatoes weren't grown much locally in the Pacific Northwest until about 5 years ago when more farmers began branching out and growing specialty crops.  The season for sweet potatoes is October through March, and they're a welcome sight at markets in the winter.

I bought enough to make treats for the dogs, which always thrills my Cooking Assistant.

Slice and roast at 200F. for about 8 hours for chewy dog treats.

The sweet potato and carrot add a sweet balance to the roasted rutabaga.  You could add an onion and it would be even sweeter when roasted.

Rutabagas don't get much love, even from so-called "vegetable lovers."   Sometimes mistaken for a turnip, rutabagas do look similar to turnips, but these roots are a bit sweeter, with purple tops.  And like turnips, rutabagas contain Omega 3 oils.  

Still, you never see long lines for rutabagas at the market like you would for eggs or beef. 

And no matter what, rutabagas can be a hard sell. You just can't convince everybody that rubabagas are just as good as carrots or sweet potatoes.  At least not until you roast them.

If you aren't a fan already, try roasting them and see for yourself.

The secret is in how long you cook them.  Roast rutabagas for a long time and they become very sweet.

Spicy Roasted Balsamic Rutabaga, Sweet Potatoes and Carrots
(Serves 4 to 6)
Roasting is a great way to get to know rutabagas.  Root vegetables become sweeter the longer they roast.  I roasted these, then put them on a low heat in the oven until the rest of the meal was done.

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 large carrot, sliced
1 medium sweet potato, cut into small bite-size chunks 
2 rutabaga or turnips, medium dice
1 onion, sliced (optional)
Hot sauce, like Brother Bru Bru's
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F.    Combine vinegar, oil, and garlic powder.  

Place vegetables in a bowl and pour vinegar and oil over them and stir, coating all vegetables.  Spread on a baking sheet, in one layer.  Put vegetables in the oven and roast for one hour, stirring once or twice. All vegetables should be very tender.  

My Cooking Aasistant is about to change his mind about rutabagas.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Orange-Sesame Kale over Noodles

Kale Love

I didn't grow up with kale but I first tasted it about 20 years ago.  There weren't as many varieties then, so I chose and cooked curly green kale.  It was tough with a wild taste. I didn't think I'd ever grow  to like it.  Lemon improved the flavor, but did nothing for the texture. I felt like a cow, chewing and chewing. So for years, I chose collards over kale.  Then one day I bought lacinato, dinosaur or tuscan kale.

Tuscan kale is only slightly bitter and the leaves are tenderer.  Now, I'm drawn to this kale over and over again because it makes great chips, salads and it's always dependable soups, stews and quiches.

I like to buy kale at the farmers' market here because most of kale in natural food stores comes from California and this time of year, the colder it gets, local kale seems to get sweeter.  So when you buy kale at the store check that it comes from a local farm. There's the freshness factor when eating food from a farm down the road versus getting the stuff that was trucked in to the store from California.

Kale appears on our dinner table about twice a week.  The other day I found this link to 10 ideas for kale.  As I scanned them the idea for sesame noodles appealed to me.  But the recipe cried for some zip and tang. 

I wondered how sesame would taste with a little fresh orange juice and my homemade raspberry vinegar?

And I'm a big garlic fan, so I definitely wanted to add more sliced garlic.

The recipe indicated it could be a side or main dish, but I like a little more protein for a main dish, so if I chose main dish, I'd add sauteed tofu.  As a side dish, serve it with vegetarian sandwiches, lentil or nut loaf or a stuffed winter squash.

This kale can be tough if you don't cook it long enough.  You can blanch it before cooking to remove the bitter tones.

Orange Sesame Kale with Noodles 
(Serves 4)
Though this kale is good with noodles, and you can also use it with rice or potatoes.

12 ounces undon noodles or spaghetti or fettucine
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
5 to 10 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into slices
1 bunch kale, cut into thin strips
2  tablespoon orange juice
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
Agave nectar to taste
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
A drizzle of dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons sesame, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, toasted

1. Place a large pot of water on to boil.   Add about a teaspoon salt and undon noodles.  Cook according to directions.  Drain, rinse in cold water.

2. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.   Add the oil and garlic.  Stir and cook until garlic begins to brown.   Add kale, stir and add orange juice and raspberry vinegar.  Cover and cook until kale is tender. Add a little agave nectar, if you want to sweeten this dish.  This may take about 10 minutes.  Add salt and freshly ground pepper  

2. Serve over noodles.  Top with toasted seeds.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Lemon Brussels Sprouts with Shiitake Mushrooms and Pecans

Sides and Salads Monday

Three cheers for vegetables!  I've decided to post side or salad selections on my early week  posts for this year.   I've been thinking about doing this for a long time, and now I can't think of a better way to start the year than a post about Brussels sprouts.  

Most people either love or hate them, and sadly I often can't convince the "haters" to try fresh Brussels sprouts, not even in the middle of winter.   

I used to buy frozen Brussels sprouts--the ones that cultivate Brussels sprouts haters.  I'll just say, they weren't my favorite vegetable, and after choking down the frozen version, I get why so many people think Brussels sprouts are horrible.  But enjoying them fresh on the stalk at farmers' markets so many years ago, makes a difference in my attitude today.  

Let's show Brussels sprouts a little more love. Ditch the notion that all Brussels sprouts are nasty. Sure fresh market sprouts cost more, but the flavor is worth it, and  if you wait until January when it's very cold, Brussels sprouts become sweeter.  And the sprouts from the Northwest are sweeter than the ones from California.

Everyone likes them around here.  My Cooking Assistant prefers them raw, but he appreciates cooked sprouts, too.

It's also citrus season in California.  And if you want to know more about citrus, check out these five must-have citrus fruits this season in Marlene's Sound Consumer.  The article lists more things you can do with lemons--one of the most useful fruits in my refrigerator.  My favorite's include Meyer lemons (sweeter with thinner skins and more juice).  I also found this article about 100 things to do with lemons.  The only downside is if you add lemon juice to green vegetables, it changes the color.  

My solution?  Eat your vegetables right away.

I added shitake mushrooms to this because they're so good for your immune system.   I turned this side dish into a main dish by adding some cooked brown rice and quinoa and chunks of marineated tofu.  It was one easy dinner.

Lemon Brussels Sprouts with Shiitake Mushrooms and Toasted Pecans
(Serves 4)
You can use any kind of nuts you want with this side dish since they are just the garnish on top.  I often buy them already toasted. To toast pecans: preheat oven to 350F and toast pecans for 9 minutes.  Walnuts take a little longer.

1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh Brussels sprouts, washed and cut in half
10 shitake mushrooms, stems removed and diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's peppers
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest (outer peel)
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
Sea salt to taste
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Steam Brussels sprouts until almost tender.  Remove from heat and drain, reserving liquid

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Dry fry the mushrooms until they get limp.  Add olive oil and Mama Lil's peppers.   In a small bowl combien lemon zest, garlic, lemon juice and agave nectar.  You can add a little Brussels sprouts liquid or olive oil if you want.   

Add the shiitake mushrooms and liquid to the brussls sprouts.  Sprinkle with sea salt to taste  

Garnish with toasted pecans.

Someone can't help himself when it comes to Brussels sprouts.