April 23, 2010


I had grand illusions of writing a complex and revelatory essay that would elevate the cabbage from its "humble" category in your minds, and place it firmly there instead as an indomitable character in the history of the human diet, and maybe even the human heart. However, the only notable references to cabbage my initial searches yielded weren't really about cabbage, they were about brains and foul smells and weight loss. The closest thing I came to a usable introductory quote are the words of Mark Twain ascertaining that "Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education." So you see, even Twain has nothing to say about cabbage, just cauliflower. Cabbage is probably just a humble vegetable after all. And though it's a reasonably good source of several vitamins, widely consumed around the world, and was popular in ancient Rome (burnt, it supposedly treats infections of all kinds?), I'm just much more interested in talking about lunch. People have eaten lunch for as long as I can remember, and it's also a reliable source of vitamins, and I haven't met a soul who doesn't like it. And it's humble. So, folks, today it's lunch I'll talk about.

Cabbage Lunch in Kigali, Rwanda

I don't know about you, but I usually eat lunch alone. Judging by facebook statuses and tweets around the 12:30-1:30 hour, a lot of other people do too. They must not have anyone to tell about just how happy their noon-time meal made them. So they tell everyone. "Chipotle Burrito-Bowl", "Yep In-N-Out again!", etc. If we care enough about lunch to broadcast it, you'd think we'd make more time for it.  I don't know what happened to my two-hour lunch break French upbringing and it's companion the three-course lunch, but ladies and gents, it's totally gone. And I miss it. This week I felt lucky to have rustled up a plate of sauteed cabbage with an egg, and gobbled it up between two blog-posts and an interior shoot. It was warm, a little sweet, and a little spicy (thanks to my brother -- he's at 0:36 -- who's been surreptitiously angling for me to add heat to my diet by gifting me things like yucatan sunshine), and a lot satisfying. Much more satisfying than working frantically on an empty stomach and looking up to see it's already four o'clock and I want a chocolate baked good, bad.

What do you say Vegetable of the Month Club, shall we do something about the eclipse of the lunch hour?

April 22, 2010

The Raw (Cabbage) Diet

I am very excite about the artistic possibilities for this vegetable, and leafy greens in general. I love the layering of the leaves, the curling and unfolding motion. And I love the cross section of cabbage, with the organic squiggly lines. Also, I have this great feeling of over-abundance when I cook cabbage. One head of cabbage seems so compact and manageable when whole, but when you begin to chop it appears to expand tremendously! I am still inspired, and I have prepped a canvas, and sketched with colored pencils. When I have more time I will work on more cabbage art.

My cooking and documentation did not meet my expectations. As per usual, I set out with high hopes. My vegetable fantasy use for cabbage would be jamie oliver's braised white cabbage with bacon and thyme. I'd also like to eat oysters. Cabbage and oysters make me think champagne and Lewis Carroll. Let's just start drinking champagne. Then we'll read portions of Lewis Carroll aloud ("The walrus and the carpenter...cabbages and kings!") Annie and Kate, I think you would really get into this portion of the party that is now happening in my mind. We're all wearing vintage lacy dresses and satin slippers (monochromatic, of course!) Katy has dibs on green. Em called mustard yellow earlier this week. Elizabeth, are you still into red? I'll be wearing pink, and I think I'll have to suggest a delicate strawberry dessert. Later in the evening we'll have coffee and chocolate.

So the lesson here is that thinking about cooking with economical vegetables leads to mental planning of decadent and fattening parties. Indeed, it is a slippery slope.

Back to reality. I did eat cabbage every single day this week. Bring it, Roberts Family. I have rebuked my caloric daydreams and am on The (Raw) Cabbage Diet.

How? Why? I had a lot of cabbage on hand, thanks to our little project. Also, I am a single woman in my late twenties and I don't always cook meals for myself. I eat salads. Sometimes I jog after work and feel tired. Or sometimes I just feel tired and would rather eat chocolate for dinner and feel bad about my poor eating habits the next day. Welcome to my life as a stereotype. Also, as I work in a part of town that feels like a food desert, I pack my lunch every day. I found cabbage to make a filling and delicious lunch. Plus, it does not wilt during my commute, or in our ancient office refrigerator. Two variations:

Sweet and Purple

1/4 of a red cabbage, chopped or sliced
1 medium granny smith or crisp red apple (I initially used green for the color contrast)
A handful of toasted walnuts
Cheese (gorgonzola or bleu or even a sharp white cheddar, cut in small cubes)
Sprinkle of golden raisins (optional)
Celery, chopped (optional)
Dressing (I used Brianna's Naturals Poppyseed; the only salad dressing that is worth purchasing in a store, IMO. Otherwise I'd suggest a simple mayo, lemon, and honey version)

Spicy and Green (no photo)

(a lot like Katy's taco recipe, but in salad form. Thanks, Katy, for giving me another idea for a salad.)

1/4 of a green cabbage, chopped or sliced
onion slices (red is pretty, sweet onions are also nice)
1/4 cup black beans, rinsed, drained, and slightly mashed with cumin and a little hot sauce
1/4 cup corn (okay, I used canned corn)
1/2 chopped tomato
1/4 avocado, in slices
Cheddar or feta cheese
2 Tbs. lime or lemon juice
chopped cilantro
A little salt
Tortilla chips (optional, but encouraged)

April 16, 2010

My Favorite Cabbage Recipe - sans photos unfortunately :(

Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw

(Don't get nervous about the slaw part if you don't like coleslaw - this is not your usual slaw! It's fresh and crunchy and no mayo.)

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 2 (2 tacos per serving)

1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp ground cumin
5+ tsp olive oil, divided
3+ tbsp fresh lime juice
2 cups shredded green cabbage (about 1/4 head)
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup + chopped fresh cilantro
4 yellow corn tortillas
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Place beans and cumin in small bowl; partially mash. Mix 2 tsp olive oil and lime juice in a medium bowl; add cabbage, green onions, and cilantro (extra is good! that's what the + sign is for) and toss to coat. Season slaw to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat 3 tsp olive oil in large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add 1-2 tortillas in a single layer. Spoon 1/4 of the bean mixture onto half of each tortilla; cook 1 minute. Fold tacos in half. Cook until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Repeat with remaining 2-3 tortillas while keeping cooked tortillas in a warm oven. Fill tacos with feta and slaw (or just pile it on top and eat the whole thing with a fork and knife!).

April 15, 2010

My Little Cabbage

My cabbage salad was a flop. I gathered some of my favorite flavors with high hopes - fresh lemon, olive oil, Parmesan, and garlic, and of course all those whorls of densely packed purple leaves - how could it go wrong? But it was oh. so. boring. Sigh. Painting the ingredients, however, was anything but!

As it turns out, a head of cabbage in cross-section is a tiny universe. As I drew the curves I wished my hydro-geologist-brother was nearby to explain the strata of the cabbage landscape. I found myself humming lullabies to a moon in its violet galaxy. I traced my way along an intestinal tract, and a explored the squid-ink hues of a topographic map.

And all along I found myself craving something crisp, and spicy, and sort of sweet. I love the raw crunch of this cruciferous vegetable. But I also enjoy baked, boiled, shredded, and - my current favorite - broiled cabbage from Benevolent Kitchen. It might have something to do with a cabbage recipe being just so quick and easy. Then again it might be that these wedges of soft green and crispy brown are a perfect vehicle for Dijon mustard - my condiment of choice! In any case, it made a nice addition to our St. Pat's meal. The other cabbage highlight involved putting the girls to bed early and cooking a late dinner for two with my man :) Venison tenderloin, polenta, and braised red cabbage with green apples. Sadly, I am unable to provide the recipe at this time. But yum. Oh and there was a little red wine. And some dark chocolate for dessert.Until I spent an entire nap-time (one of our common standards of measure around here) doing so, I never would have thought photographing cabbage could be so engrossing.

Not to mention entertaining when one aforementioned napper awoke. Ma petite chou chou!