Posts Tagged ‘cabbage’
One of my favorite dishes at asian restaurants is always fresh spring rolls. The beauty of the thing comes from it’s simplicity and contrasts. The perfect spring roll has fresh, crisp vegetables wrapped in smooth and silky rice paper wrapper and a dipping sauce that’s subtle enough to not overpower those less pronounced flavors. There is also a certain challenge to the aesthetic of the spring roll (read: it’s a stone cold bitch to roll them and make them look good) which adds to your enjoyment when you finally get to chow down.
You can make these with almost any variation of ingredients but I find it generally boils down to these groups:
You can use shrimp, pork, chicken or beef pretty much. And it doesn’t really matter how you cook it either. I’ve had my best successes by marinating one of the above and grilling it as the grill flavor really comes through in the end.
- Leafy greens
Usually lettuce or cabbage of some kind, cut into strips.
Typically Thai basil or mint leaves, but normal basil and cilantro are also good choices.
Take your pick: carrots, cucumbers, celerey, bean sprouts, bell peppers, eggplant maybe. Anything along those lines, julienned.
- Sometimes noodles
You can omit these if you want a more veggie filled spring roll, otherwise get some thin asian noodles like mai fun/cellophane noodles/glass noodles.
You’ll want to get everything prepared beforehand so once you get a rice paper wrapper moistened you can turn it into a spring roll asap. Get the protein cooked and sliced, all the veggies julienned, and the noodles boiled. Then set everything up assembly line style.
Spring roll wrappers start out as very stiff and fragile, and they also curl up on themselves when they hit water, so to soak them you really need a vessel which is wider than the wrapper and fairly shallow so it’s easy to get out of the water. I use a large dinner plate and it’s just big enough for the job. Pour some boiling water in the plate and let it sit for a minute or so until it’s cool enough you can get the wrapper in and out without burning yourself. It only needs 10-20 seconds under the water to get properly moistened, then take it out and try to keep it from a) tearing or b) sticking to itself. Lay it on a flat surface which is slightly wet, to keep the wrapper from sticking. Then start adding the ingredients. You will want to make a little pile of the filling about a third of the way up the wrapper, not right in the middle.
The order of how to place the filling doesn’t really matter, but whatever you want to show through the rice paper is what should go down first. If you’re using shrimp, they look good on the outside, otherwise maybe start with the herbs. You really don’t want to overfill these or it will be close to impossible to wrap them. After rolling a few of them you will get a good idea of the appropriate amount of filling.
Once you have everything piled up, take that bit of wrapper closest to you and start to roll that up on top of the filling. Once you have basically covered the filling with that piece of wrapper, fold in the two sides kind of like a burrito. After that, finish rolling the whole thing up and you are good to go. The wrapper will stick to itself so no need to use any kind of food adhesive to close it up. I know these are served as appetizers at most restaurants, but these things are so good I usually just end up making a meal out of them. One last thing to consider: the wrappers will dry out slowly if left in the open air. Usually when I’m making these for other people I try to finish making them as close as possible to when they will be eaten. Otherwise you could try keeping them in a tupperware with a moistened paper towel draped over them, that would probably help them keep for another hour or two.
The only other thing to figure out is what you’ll be dipping them in. Peanut sauce is a good choice, as is sweet and sour sauce. The Food Network has some good recipes for dipping sauces. Or if you happen to live with someone who makes a killer jalapeno jelly/syrup concoction, use that. That’s what I did.
A week or two ago, the New York Times had an article about some cabbage dishes that break the stinky stereotype. Meg has been saying for months that she wants to cook more soups, so the cabbage soup recipe seemed like the perfect choice
Bess Feigenbaum’s Cabbage Soup
Adapted from The National, Manhattan
Time: 3 hours
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup minced or grated onion
1 cup peeled thinly sliced carrots
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes in purée
1 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 pounds cabbage (tough outer leaves, core and ribs removed), sliced into 1/4-inch-wide ribbons.
1/2 cup golden raisins
Fresh ground (preferably medium grind) black pepper
Sour cream, optional.
1. In a 6-quart pot over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and add garlic. Cover and cook until garlic is tender but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add onion, and sauté until translucent. Add 3 cups water, carrots, tomatoes and purée, tomato paste, ketchup, brown sugar and bay leaf. Simmer at a lively bubble for 10 minutes, then crush whole tomatoes with potato masher or fork. Continue to simmer until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
2. Using an immersion blender, or working in batches with a stand blender, process mixture until it is coarse, not puréed. Return sauce to pot and add lemon juice, cabbage ribbons and 3 cups water. Place over medium-high heat and cook at a lively simmer until cabbage is cooked to taste, from al dente to meltingly soft, 1 to 2 hours. Add 3 to 6 cups water, to thin to desired consistency. Ten minutes before serving, stir in raisins and a few twists of black pepper. If desired, garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream.
Yield: 8 servings.
I’m pretty sure that I’ve never cooked with cabbage where it takes center stage, as in this soup. Embarking on this new frontier, Meg and I decided to closely adhere to the recipe. I was excited to use this opportunity to test my eye-balling skills, figuring out how to accurately judge whole ingredients’ measurements. For example, I was a little surprised to see that only about one and a quarter small onion was needed to make a cup of diced onion.
The recipe was, all in all, fairly easy. Basically, just cut things and put them in pot and let it all cook for a while.
So…. how did it taste? Meg and I both agreed that it was WAY too sweet. Edibile, but too sweet. (Which maybe shouldn’t be a surprise given that the article the recipe comes from is Cabbage’s Sweet Side.) The recipe calls for brown sugar, ketchup, raisins, and a full cup of tomato paste–all adding to the high level of sweetness.
The soup might work better as a small part of a larger dinner, but when taking center stage, Meg and I agreed that the sweet needs to be take down a notch or two. We we next try, we are going to definitely cut the brown sugar and the ketchup. Meg also had the idea of adding in some India or Middle Easter spices. (I’m so proud of her improvisational thinking!!!) I think that with Meg’s spices this dish might be great served over rice–but only more cooking will tell!