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Cabbage

October 28, 2014 - Radio Kitchen - Cabbage

As the fertile fields of Maryland start to wind down the 2014 growing season, there are still a few hardy vegetables that are still being harvested.  One of the more interesting is also one of the most humble, and that would be the cabbage.  And thanks to our gallant local farmers, we have a lot of varieties of cabbage to work with.

This is a very old, domesticated vegetable, and it's thought that cabbage soup may be one of the oldest "recipes" known to man. With China leading the way, there are a large number of varieties grown around the world.  Our simple green cabbage is the most familiar.  Its large smooth green leaves are ideal for stuffing and rolling up (reminiscent of stuffed grape leaves).  It is the perfect cabbage for coleslaw, and if you pickle it and set it aside for a few weeks, you can make your own sauerkraut.  Farmers will plant varieties like King Cole and Early Jersey Wakefield.

Savoy Cabbage is a very pretty variety.  Its curly leaves are very attractive, and its mild flavor when raw makes it a nice ingredient in salads.  Many Chinese stir-fry recipes call for thinly sliced Savoy cabbage, which lends a sweet earthy flavor to the dish.  Savoy King and Savoy Queen are two varieties you probably will see.

Red cabbage is very similar to green cabbage, except for a smaller size, and the pretty deep magenta color.  You can use red cabbage exactly like the green, and in a cole slaw it really adds a striking visual element.  But red cabbage really hits its stride when you gently braise it in a tasty acidic liquid like red wine vinegar.

Napa cabbage, sometimes called Chinese cabbage, is long and round, almost like a loaf of country bread.  It has a very mild flavor, with a peppery kick to it.  As its Asian name implies, it is a classic choice for stir-fries.

Bok Choy is a bit of an odd-ball cabbage.  In structure, it looks a bit like Swiss chard, with numerous leaves springing up from a central stalk.  Its long green leaves are more reminiscent of spinach than cabbage, but the mild spicy flavor is definitely cabbage-y.  Its natural affinity for garlic make it popular in many Korean dishes.

One of the classic recipes for using up leftovers is the British favorite "Bubble and Squeak".  You can make it from scratch using mashed potatoes, boiled cabbage, onions, garlic and bacon.  Just cut up and mash everything together in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and fry it in a broad skillet is some butter.  The idea is to press the mixture down so that it takes the shape of the skillet, fry it a while, then flip it two or three times.  You want to go for a golden brown finish.   

Here's a nice idea that comes to us from Scotland.  It's Creamy Savoy Cabbage and Carrots.  Cut up the tender leaves of the cabbage and shred your carrots into long slivers.  Boil the two together until very tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and then  dress with butter and cream.  Season to taste.  This simple dish is a very tasty accompaniment to a turkey dinner.

The rich red color of braised red cabbage dresses up the autumn dinner table.  Here's a nice idea for Braised Red Cabbage and Bacon.  Use a Dutch oven for this recipe.  Start off by cutting bacon into pieces and cooking it in the Dutch over until it begins to brown.  Add your cut up cabbage with some chopped onion and apple slices, and cook it in a bath of chicken broth and apple cider vinegar.  Add some brown sugar and mustard for flavor, and let it simmer at low heat for an hour or so.  And like many dishes, it's better the next day.
 

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.