Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sundays with Sparky - Stompin' Savoy Cabbage Rolls


I’ve been thinking about giving Sparky a cookbook as a Christmas present, compiled from the pages of this site, so I took a gander at the Recipe Index to see where we were: Hmmm—we’re a bit dessert-heavy, don't 'cha think?  Because most desserts involve baking and chemistry, they're a really good starting place for novice cooks, as there are clear, concise rules and a good bit of hands-on, crafty things to do—plus you wind up with a tasty reward at the end! 

However, those of us eager to make our kids at home in the kitchen often forget to teach the very foods we’re trying to get them to eat: fruits and vegetables.  If you are even a moderately skilled cook, this may well be because its not rocket science: almost all vegetables can be prepared in four ways: steaming, roasting, sautéing, or blanching/boiling.  Once you get past basic prep techniques (remove tough skins if they’re inedible, wash, cut into similar-sized pieces, cook.) and then a few basic cooking techniques, most of the plant-based world is your...oyster.

042We had an absolutely gorgeous head of Savoy cabbage, and I realized this was a chance to combine techniques and kill a few birds with one vegetable. 

One head of Savoy cabbage 
Two large carrots
Two cloves of garlic
A small knob of fresh ginger
2-3 slices bacon, cut in small strips

045I started by having Sparky peel the large outer leaves off the cabbage until we had about 8 whole leaves.  Then he cut the cabbage into quarters and sliced it thinly off the core.  048We then used a vegetable peeler to make "carrot noodles" so our carrots would be about the same thickness as the cabbage - keeping vegetables relatively the same size and shape ensures everything cooks at the same rate.  

050Sparky peeled the ginger by scraping it with a spoon, and then we used the microplane to grate about a half-tablespoonful of ginger and two cloves of garlic into a fine pulp.

051Sauté: We preheated our cast iron skillet until it was very hot, and added our bacon.  When the bacon had rendered out its fat, we poured off the excess so that there was just enough fat to coat the pan.  (For a vegan version of this dish, omit this step and use olive or canola oil.)  Then we put the pan back on the heat, let it warm up a bit, and added the garlic and ginger along with the carrots and cabbage.  Sparky stirred it around and kept it moving until all the cabbage was slightly wilted.

052Blanch:  At the same time, we brought a few inches of water in our big pot to a rolling boil, and dropped in our whole cabbage leaves.  When they were a gorgeous bright green and slightly wilted, we fished them out and set them aside to cool a bit on a cutting board.

055Working with one leaf at a time, Sparky put a small pile of cooked cabbage stir-fry near the stem, and then folded the sides over, and rolled the leaf up from the bottom like a burrito.  We then speared the bundle with a wooden skewer to hold it together.

066Steam: once all our bundles were completed*, we put the steamer basket in our same pot of water and covered it tightly with the lid.  We steamed the bundles for about 5-10 minutes, or until the cabbage was tender at the stem.  These make a delicious, light side dish - and they're beautiful to boot.

(*We found that the rolls could be put in the refrigerator and steamed later.)

As we'd only used about half our cabbage filling, we opted to postpone steaming the rolls as outlined above and had them for dinner instead.  I made a delicious, quick lunch by searing some tofu in the skillet with bacon grease, and then added back the remaining cabbage and carrots along with some cooked spaghetti and soy sauce. 


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