Mr. Cabbage Buys a First-Class Ticket to Decadenceville

Last week’s blog entry on cabbage drew interest from people who wanted to know how to give it the bacon and maple treatment. Here’s the recipe I devised…

baconymaplecabbageBacon Maple Cabbage

Makes 8 servings

The Internet has loads of variations on this idea. This is how I do it:

1 head of cabbage, whatever type you have on hand or like best

¼ cup melted bacon drippings, or as needed

¼ cup real maple syrup, more if you like

1 tsp. cider vinegar

sea salt, to taste

red pepper flakes, to taste, optional

 

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Using a pastry brush (or your fingers), coat a 9” x 13” baking dish with bacon drippings.

Discard outer, messy layers and give the cabbage head a good rinse. Cut in half from root to top, then into quarters, root to top, and then trim out the core. Then halve the quarters longways so that you have eight wedges.

Arrange cabbage wedges in prepared baking dish. Brush cabbage with bacon drippings, drizzle with maple syrup and sprinkle with cider vinegar, sea salt and red pepper flakes to taste, if you like a little heat. (If the cabbage head is extra large you may want to cut it into 12 wedges and bake it in two layers. If that’s the case, arrange the first layer of cabbage, add half of the drippings, syrup, vinegar, salt and pepper flakes; then lay down the second layer and repeat.)

Tip: It’s difficult to sprinkle such a small amount of vinegar, so to make it easier I first put a teaspoon of it into a quarter cup measure, then fill the measure with maple syrup and give it a little stir with the tip of a knife. Then when I’m drizzling the syrup, the vinegar is being distributed too.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about an hour, or until the thickest parts of the cabbage are melty soft, which you can determine by poking them with the tip of a knife. When you’re going for decadent vegetables it seems silly to cook them only until they’re still crispy, so let them have the full heat treatment.

Enjoy hot, room temperature or cold. It’s even better the next day or two. I think room temp is best and suggest removing the cabbage from the fridge and letting it sit on the counter top for a couple of hours. When food is too hot or too cold you don’t get the full flavor.

Note: When you have just a few ingredients, be sure they’re best quality. For those of you living in the South, there’s no problem finding good bacon for your drippings. For everyone else, try to find bacon that is smoked, not just smoke flavored. And be sure the maple syrup is real, not maple-flavored corn syrup.

And there we go! Let me know how yours turns out.

Cheers!

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Cabbage Gets a Spring Makeover

veggiebin“Arrright, Cabbage! Your days in this bin are numbered!”
“Nooo, Mr. Carrot. Listen to me, Mr. Celery, just ’cause I ain’t a member of the Mirepoix Gang don’t mean I ain’t got no place here!”

(Yeah, I know. I really should get out more.)

Anyway, I didn’t start out loving cabbage. When I was growing up I had a grand aunt who adored cooked cabbage and crowed over it excessively. What she loved of course would be cabbage prepared in our native Southern way of boiling it to freakin’ death.

It looked disgusting. It tasted vile. And the squidgy texture was right out of a Halloween scary house where you wander around blindfolded and let them put your hands into bowls of icky stuff as they tell you what dissected body parts you’re handling.

I had no problem with slaw, so I got plenty of “good cabbage” when I was a kid. But when it came to the cooked stuff, I had to put my tiny foot down.

Even when, as an adult, I decided I liked cooked cabbage okay, I was still a little squeamish about it. Sometimes it was good, but at others, I’d have flashbacks to the bad old days and wonder if I needed some sort of trauma therapy.

Lately even the raw stuff is haunting me and my fridge. Our bi-weekly CSA boxes this winter have delivered to us way too many heads of cabbage—huge ones, I might add. It’s gotten to the point where no one wants to see me show up for a potluck because they know I’ll come bearing yet another cabbage salad.

cabbageNext time I might go for a little more char…

So while roasting other vegetables this morning I decided to try roasting some cabbage too. I cut it into inch-thick slices, brushed it with olive oil and sprinkled on a little sea salt. When it came out of the oven, I used the same bowl and brush to pour out a little orange-muscat vinaigrette, and I brushed the roasted slices with that and then sprinkled a little black pepper over top. And mercy me, I hit upon a great way both to enjoy the bounty of cabbage and to empty out my overcrowded vegetable bins. It was delicious hot. And chilled. And room temp, my personal fav.

Roasted cabbage is incredibly versatile. You can put anything on it that strikes your fancy. Next time I’ll brush on some bacon drippings and follow that with a drizzle of maple syrup (the real stuff, not brown-colored corn syrup with maple-ish flavoring). I’m betting it will be even better.

No siree, I don’t think I’m going to be plagued by a surplus of cabbage anymore.

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A Confirmation of Character

Whilst cleaning through the flotsam and jetsam of my computer this weekend, I ran across the following submission to a short story contest. Fiction is not my forte, but I figured there would be no harm in giving it a whack.

The short story was to be precisely 78 words long, not one word more or less, and the subject matter was “A Confirmation of Character.”

I didn’t win, place or show, but I don’t think it was too bad an attempt either. Here it is, and we’ll let history be the judge…

A Confirmation of Character

Maisie carried the hog’s innards, still warm from its body, to the pump, rinsed them and began cleaning them out so that she could make a stew for supper, since the carcass was reserved for the table at the Shipley household, where linens and fine dishes were the rule, when out popped a man’s toe, ragged and bony, and she knew what had happened when Moe got drunk, fell asleep in the pigsty and woke up screaming.

“Fool.”

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Earthquake Preparedness for the Gourmet Minded

EQ stash

Every time there’s a spate of earthquakes it sends me scrambling to our emergency stash to see how everything is holding up and what might need replacing or adding to; to take note of where the tent, sleeping bags and trunk of camping supplies have gotten up to; and to take stock of what we’d be eating for several days should the ground beneath our feet and under our house start to rock ‘n roll.

It’s good to periodically return to the stash and look at everything with fresh eyes so that I can note the glaring omissions and do something about them. For instance, as many years as we’ve kept a supply of non-perishable foods on hand for emergencies, I only recently noticed that there was no can opener in the kit. There is now!

Another thing I hadn’t considered until this week: We may have a Coleman stove, but who knows if we’d be able to use it after an earthquake? If the gas lines are broken, the last thing we should do is start a fire. So to the stash of assorted canned meats, beans, vegetables and fruits, quick-cook rice, instant oatmeal packets, dried fruit, nuts, instant coffee, powdered milk and Tang, I’ve added a bottle of Tabasco sauce and several types of seasoned salts. Just because we might have to eat our food cold during an emergency doesn’t mean it has to be bland.

Here are some combos I came up with during today’s inventory. None are what I’d call haute emergency grub (or apocalypse gourmet, as Himself called it), but they’re not half bad for cold meals you might be consuming from an upturned frisbee as you sit on the curb with your neighbors:

spamIf you like Hawaiian skewers of spam and pineapple chunks, then this pairing is good served cold with a sprinkling of hickory-smoked bacon salt to sub for some of the flavor you’d get from grilling.

beansPour black beans and sweet corn (both drained as best you can) into a bowl, stir and top with a sprinkling of chile-lime salt. Sure, it’s lightyears away from Mexican or even Tex-Mex fare, but it ain’t bad at all.

tunaHow about a Greek(ish) salad of sliced new potatoes, green beans and a dash of Greek seasoned salt?

Laugh if you will, but in this trio of meals we’ve just treated ourselves to three different cuisines comprising three protein sources, two vegetables, a starch and a fruit, all without relying on gas or electricity, and all ready to consume within minutes.

Food science writer Harold McGee similarly sorted through his earthquake supplies and made an amazing and wonderful discovery: Some food aged in the can—even when exposed to extreme temperature swings between summer and winter and back again—tastes really good and is safe to eat, as long as the can is intact, of course. His enlightening article on the gustatory delights of can-aged food gives me hope that we’ll be able to ride out the aftereffects of The Big One with some tastier-than-expected morsels from our stockpiled cans as we huddle in the backyard awaiting some semblance of normalcy to return.

Lest you think this is helpful only for those living on the West Coast, I grew up in West Tennessee, where we faced tornadoes, flooding and the occasional earthquake, so I can say that preparation for at least a few emergency scenarios is pretty much the same, as far as food is concerned anyway.

After the Fukushima quake in 2011, I read an earthquake preparedness piece online, written by a colleague of mine who lives in Japan, including a list more detailed than I ever could have imagined of the things it is wise to have on hand in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster. Her list was fairly exhaustive and included things like hazmat suits and pickaxes. In fact, it was such a daunting list that I momentarily lost sight of two facts that are good to keep in mind:

1. It is impossible to be completely prepared for a natural disaster.

2. You just have to do the best you can and try not to be overwhelmed by what you can’t.

P.S. Don’t forget the can opener!

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Garden Mystery Solved

spittlebugs

For ages I’ve wondered what force of the Universe was leaning down and spitting on my herbs when I wasn’t looking. Something hateful and spiteful (and spitful?) and totally jealous of my expert herb-growing abilities, I was sure.

You’ve wondered this too, right? You’ve strolled out into your yard with your morning coffee to admire the evidence of your healthy green thumbs when suddenly you’ve been completely grossed out by the sight of globs of white spume on your parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

“Ewww! NastEEEEEEEE!” you screeled as you slammed your morning cuppa to the ground, the pitch of your voice in the range of a three-year-old on a tricycle. Just not the gleeful holy-jeebus-I-have-a-tricycle kind. You danced around the yard doing an embarrassing little number called “The Gross-Out Shimmy,” looking more like a goober who’s afraid of a little foam on a plant and less like a boss on a Big Wheel. And God help you if any of it got on your hand….am I right?

For ages I’ve wondered what that stuff was. Turns out it is the evidence of “spittle bugs.” Can I get a “Duh?!”

Just in case your herbs look like they’ve been spat on (and let’s hope that, like me, you have them planted in the backyard where the general citizenry won’t see your humiliating little dance), let me enlighten you on what I’ve found, because it makes me as happy as a person can be who finds spittle on her herbs.

Turns out it’s completely harmless. The foam comes from the plant itself, in reaction to the bugs attaching themselves to it and laying their eggs. They’re harmless, too. The foam obscures the view of all that nesting and reproducing going on. Probably a good thing, because who wants to watch bugs mate, especially on something you were planning to eat?

Anyway, just snip that part off and use the rest of the plant. It’s as simple as that.

It’s amazing what you can find online when you finally get around to looking it up, isn’t it? If you happen to find a cookbook for spittle bug lovers, please let me know.

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