Winter Cabbage Report + Citrus Miso Slaw

{The following is a guest blog to veganironchef.org, where long-time board member “JS” waxes on (and on) about Portland’s winter farmers market, recent culinary reads, and all things cabbage.}

girl meets cabbage, february 16, 2019, circa portland farmers market @ psu

girl meets cabbage, february 16, 2019, circa portland farmers market @ psu

I’m reporting in from the final cabbage. It’s been four weeks with two generous farmers market bounties that brought a total of eight cabbages into my life – make that ten plus + if we wanna get all technically cruciferous. I realize it makes me sound like a cabbage serial killer, but I do want to tell you what I did with every single one of them. It was often leaf by leaf.

I shop and cook by the seasons here in Portland, because it would be ridiculous to live any other way.

Come February….we begin to see asparagus that’s been trucked from regions south in the normal stores, but hold out. It’ll be here soon – the thick, thin, green, white and serious shades of purple here in the Pacific Northwest. Roasted – just barely or go all out – scorched with practically caramelized coarse salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon (again, from the south, but that’s a welcome exception). Pickled, and adorning your next bloody mary at that brunch spot you long for your favorite corner table in. Sautéed, and stuffed into one’s vegan omelet-blend of choice. Ah, twenty-nine-teen and chickpea, tofu, potato, magic bean juice, trademarked powders, squeeze bottles, and so on. Risotto is a given. Fast forward a few weeks, and when asparagus is this fresh and damn bountiful, I’ll spring (haHaHa) for these musts and even creamed in a bisque, if only to write that word, and quickly blanched or just shaved raw into some fancypants salads.

With this unexpected ode-to-an-ode “Asparagus Superhero” by Phoebe Nobles, which Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant brought to my attention, I’ll dial back to my winter of cabbage. I don’t recall much cabbage from my Western European-blend, New York childhood, other than the corned beef and cabbage my late mother would stew for my grandfather and herself this time of year. My childhood memories certainly include lots of green vegetables, usually sautéed with olive and garlic in the Italian tradition, Yet, cabbage, even as an international staple across cuisines and continents, was never in the mix unless it was stewed (smelly) and this time of March. Nah, I wasn’t a fan, and add that aroma to one more reason I eschewed eating meat from a young age.

I imagine much of this absence of cabbage had to do with its Depression-era stigma as a low-cost staple, and the effects that had on the two generations of Brooklyn-ites.

My current-day feelings on cabbage circle around my budget, with a healthy dose of trying out new-to-me recipes and meals out & about thrown into the mix for absorption and culinary admiration. When I think about the cabbage dishes I’ve eaten in recent years, I can credit Ethiopian, West African, Indian, Haitian, Malaysian, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Polish, Czech, Irish, Pacific Northwest, and Italian. Mmm, Earth. Yet, with ten cabbages cooked and consumed in the past four weeks, I could honestly give or take sauerkraut and rarely buy kimchi. I can get down with both, no doubt, but cooking in my thirties has made me realize I prefer my cabbage hot, or unfermented-and-briefly-dressed.

Is this love story with cabbage a way of overcoming my childhood disinterest in Cabbage Patch dolls? Maybe, but the reality is that it circles back to my current day thrifty-ness. My grocery shopping budget right now features a hearty haul at the PSU farmers markets every other week. Gaps are filled in a couple of times a month at the People’s weekly farmers market and my own late winter garden (which is often an excuse to grab these fresh tortillas, yes).

This time of year in Oregon can mean root vegetables, carry-over winter squash, and greeeeeeeens. Depending on the rainfall and frost and all that technical, seasonal jazz (not to forget to mention how early in the day you get out of bed and downtown), you’re opt to find fierce winter greens, such as kales, brussels, mustard greens, mizuna, and cabbages, galore.

In the past month, I’ve taken home lots of purple-and-green-hued savoy, two different colors of napa, cone, and sugar loaf cabbage – and that’s somehow excluding the classic green and red. Go figure.

smile, you’re on camera, cabbies

smile, you’re on camera, cabbies

A Look at Two PSU Farmers Market Hauls:

what – late Feb edition

  • 1 bunch of russian frills kale

  • ¼ lb of kalettes ™ > what a hip splurge! roasted with sesame oil, balsamic, garlic, coarse salt, and so on

  • 1 purple napa cabbage

  • 1 savoy cabbage

  • 2 heads of garlic > aka be still my heart

  • 1 irresistible rutabaga

  • ½ lb of new potatoes > to be roasted with aforementioned rutabaga and some carrots for sides and taco filling

next up, the early March shopping

  • 2 green napa cabbages – both flowering

  • 1 purple napa cabbage

  • 3 cool carrots

  • 1 unidentified but lovely bunch of choi

  • 1 cone cabbage – that is much bigger than it looks at that angle, wait...ew

Now, where did it all go?

First, and foremost, my constant are variations on a citrus-and-miso based slaw. It can be as zingy & sour & sweet & even sesame, as ya like. Each batch lasts a day or two, sometimes three, and brightens up tacos, roasted veggie plates, quick bowls of ramen or rice noodles, and any and everything I’ll throw into just that – the classic vegan bowl. If you’re a vegan who looks at vegan food on the internet and/or have been to the Bye & Bye, you know the type. For the confused, there’s a base of starch + protein + veggie + sauce + garnish…and it’s served in an actual bowl.

Back to my kitchen, I’m sorry (uh, self), was there already some sort of cabbage or green in that stir-fry over rice? Well, here’s some more. It even looks pretty! Now that this really matters, but I already pointed out the year and I saw the way you glanced at your smartphone as you sprinkled that vibrant bowl of slaw with a duo of toasted sesame seeds. It wasn’t subtle.

THROWING TOGETHER CITRUS-MISO SLAW

feeds 2-4 as a side, however generous ya wanna be

ingredients:

  • 1 small or ½ large head of savoy cabbage, thinly sliced – about a pound or two ­– my vote is for a vibrant savoy, but really, any cabbage or combination will do

  • 1 tablespoon miso – again, any will do – I’m partial to sweet white for this

  • 3-4 tablespoons of freshly squeezed citrus – lemon, lime, tangerine, tangelo, grapefruit, whatever ya like/have

  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon raw or coconut sugar or, agave, brown – whatever!

  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

  • pinch freshly ground black or white pepper

  • pinch sea salt

  •  optional but awesome: 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds

  • optional but lovely: a good splash of mirin

  • optional: 1 or 2 shredded carrots

what to do:

  1. Use a fork to stir together the miso, liquids (this includes the optional mirin), sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl (big enough to fit the finished slaw with room to move around).

  2. Taste it. Add more salt or juice or sweetness to taste! You want it to pop, okay?

  3. Add in the thinly sliced cabbage and the carrot, if using. Mix super well and macerate the cabbage mixture into the dressing with a spoon, or hey, use your hands.

  4. Top with toasted sesame seeds, if using. I sure hope so.

  5. Top your meal! Eat.

Needless to say, I made this at least four times over the month of cabbage-dom, sometimes with some purple napa thrown in for a celebrity guest appearance. You might think this was, is, was – my favorite cabbage recipe. Not so easy.

The “winter tomato” ode originates with my adoration of Micol Negrin’s Best Pasta Sauces cookbook. Well, I’ll dial back the precursor to my recipe testing days and Isa’s “Braised Cabbage and Seitan” from Appetite for Reduction, because that’s a solid, savoury dish that graces our dinner table at least twice each winter. Really, file both the incoming caramelized cabbage pasta and the braised cabbage + seitan as two recipes that my spouse has been known to enjoy, but question as to why I make them quite so much.

On another wavelength, I’m quite fond of Sichuan-style hot and sour cabbage, cooked down with Chinkiang black vinegar and mushroom sauce (in lieu of oyster). Heaps of flavor. Which brings me to taking any green cabbage, mind you, and/or mustard green, for that matter, and making a giant batch of unpork and cabbage-filled dumplings. Your freezer will thank you.

Now, as much as I seem to think of Chinese and Italian food (okay, throw in Jewish delicatessens) as the constants of my childhood, it’s clearly the Italian villages of my ancestors that flow from my heart and stomach when I cook from Micol’s book. It’s the whole reason I started talking about cabbage. It’s the rationale behind my bags overflowing with bowling balls of layer upon layer of greens (and a slug or two, let’s be real).


The recipes in Best Pasta Sauces are largely vegan-izable, especially if you like a challenge, and frankly, I’ve been vegan too long for most mainstream vegan cookbooks these days. But, that’s a rant for another one of our “#pdxvegancookbookclub” editions, and I just found myself putting quotations around a hashtag , so, I’ll stick to the cabbage. I first perused this cookbook after searching for “Italian cooking” via the local library. After trying out sauces starring radicchio, fresh tomatoes, basil, and that cabbage, I’ve fallen so hard I acquired my own copy. That rarely happens any more!

Thanks to Micol, I’m sautéing heaps of green cabbage down with herbed seitan sausage (in place of…duh) and fresh tomatoes come summer – sun-dried come winter. Throw in a more-than-healthy pinch of red chili flakes, simmer on down and finish off with some starchy water goodness, warmed pasta, and indulge in freshly grated homemade or storebought parm-of-choice on top (shout-outs to Artisan Vegan Cheese and Violife!) Mangia, mangia, mangia, MANGIA!

And this cabbage and sausage pasta sauce is my winter tomato.

I’ll save raving about epic roasted wedges and tender, smoked heads of green for pleasant memories to recount on a new day.

Other things I cooked with cabbage and then ate:

(and managed to take a photo of)

Cookbooks & books of note for these hauls:

  • Best Pasta Sauces by Micol Negrin

  • 101 Best Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die by Jet Tila

  • Hey There, Dumpling! by Kenny Lao and Genevieve Ko

  • The Chinese Takeout Cookbook by Diana Kuan

  • Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

  • Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

  • ·A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe {I’m nearly done with this fascinating, painful look at the 1920s-40s in the USA, and I’m more grateful for my humble garden than ever before}

& might I add this quote from the latter:

Fifty years before Alice Waters, just as the variety of canned and frozen foods was soaring, [Sheila] Hibben was preaching the gospel of fresh and local ingredients. While magazine editors celebrated the defeat of seasonality, Hibben insisted we respect it. ‘We have been too spoiled,’ she wrote, ‘by a craze for food out of season; for peaches from South Africa and strawberries picked green and shipped too far.’ The price for all that long-distance fruit was insipid pie and indifferent cobblers. Ingredients mattered.

– Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe, A Square Meal; featuring Sheila Hibben’s revolutionary work leading up to the publishing of 1932’s The National Cookbook

THANKS FOR READING!

Share your own cabbage dreams, and check out our @veganironchef instagram for more updates,. You never know, another farmers market report could be in store, courtesy of this very weekend, where only two cabbages were acquired. Oh, my.

Plus, Vegan Iron Chef be scheduling the next edition of the #pdxvegancookbookclub for those who wanna food-nerd it out some fellow late-night cookbook readers! <3