Cabbage reimagined

I like cabbage, but it doesn’t always get my creative juices going.  One of my favorite ways of eating it is to cut it into circles, drizzle on olive oil, salt, pepper, and caraway seeds and then roast it in a hot oven.  It gets a little sweet and the texture is soft but not gooey or slimy and the caraway with cabbage is a guaranteed combination.  I guess for others, their “go to” idea with cabbage is coleslaw, or so it would seem from a recent article in the New York Times.  They gave 12 other ideas you could make with cabbage other than slaw.

One of them caught my eye, mostly because I still had half a pound of ground pork left over from making potstickers.  I also had dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts in my freezer.  It seemed too simple to be delicious, but I thought I’d give it a try since I had half a head of cabbage languishing in my refrigerator from the previous week’s farm delivery.

It was the simplest of written recipes.  In fact, it’d be silly to do anything other than just reproduce it here.

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Ground Pork and Peanuts (as written exactly in the NYT link):

Put neutral oil in a large skillet over high heat.

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When hot, brown 8 ounces ground pork, then add 1 tablespoon each minced garlic and ginger, and cook for 15 seconds; add shredded Napa cabbage (1 small cabbage) and cook, stirring, until soft and slightly brown, 5 or 6 minutes. [My note:  I didn’t have Napa cabbage and my half a head was pretty large, so I just used the cabbage I had.  It looked like a lot but cooked down nicely.]

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Add a handful of peanuts and cook until lightly toasted. Turn off heat, and stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons soy sauce.

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Garnish: Scallions.

So, I didn’t have scallions, but it was great without them.  The flavor of the peanuts really complemented the sweetness of the cabbage and all of the other Asian flavorings of garlic, ginger, and soy sauce.  The New York Times knew what they were talking about on this one.

Pumpkin Potstickers

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We received a beautiful blue-gray pumpkin from our CSA a couple of weeks ago. It was lovely – short and squatty with a lovely hue. I was told it would be a “dry” squash which made me think it might be a good squash for using in some recipes where extra moisture is not helpful.

Since I split my share, I had half a pumpkin to myself. I roasted it in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes – until it was tender. I let it cool a bit, cut my half in half, and then scooped out the cooked flesh. It was quite dry. I tasted it and it was delicious.

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One half of what I had went into a quick squash baked mac and cheese. I used a basic recipe for a 9 x 9 inch pan and added the mashed pumpkin to the cheese sauce. I wasn’t trying to hide the pumpkin so I didn’t mash it entirely, but if you were trying to sneak it past some kids, you could really mash it until it was super smooth and would disappear into the sauce. My way, you still got a bit of squash now and then, and I also added a bit of nutmeg to actually highlight the squash and bring its flavor out. It was delicious immediately and as leftovers for a few days.

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The other half of my pumpkin went into postickers.

The filling is relatively simple even though it’s quite a few ingredients:

  • a little less than 1/4 c. onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • about 2 tablespoons ginger
  • one carrot

I chopped this up in my food processor and then added by hand (stirring, not processing):

  • the cooked pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • ½ pound ground pork (plain, not sausage)
  • 5 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • a few drops of hot chili oil

The egg and cornstarch help to deal with the moisture that is produced by the vegetables and the pork. It’s not a lot, but it helps the texture a lot.

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It works best with round wonton wrappers since you pinch them like pie crust as you close them and they become the classic crescent moon shape. I couldn’t find them and got lazy so I just used the square ones. I tried curving some of them in a tortellini shape so they’d stand up in the pan for the starting process of the cooking. For the rest, I just made them as triangles and froze them for use later. Making potstickers takes time but is relatively simple. Lay out a layer of wonton wrappers, add a bit of filling (less is better since they seal better), and then wet two edges with water and press in your preferred way to seal. If using the round wrappers, you do a kind of pie crust pinch as you press the edges together which makes them into the pretty potsticker or gyoza shape. Like I said, looking back I wish I would have taken the time to cut my squares into rounds using a biscuit cutter.

To cook, you add a tablespoon or two of oil in a sauté pan and place the postickers on their widest edge in the pan to brown. In my case, since the shape was not the ideal shape, I actually flipped them over to brown the other side.

Once brown, you quickly toss in a few tablespoons of water and throw on the lid. They instantly sizzle and then steam. Once most of the water has evaporated or steamed off, you remove the lid and let them get crispy again (a second frying, essentially).

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To serve, I use a simple sauce of soy sauce, a bit of white vinegar, and a few drops of hot chili oil. If I had to guess, I think it’s about 1 part vinegar to 2-3 parts soy sauce and really only a drop or two of chili oil.

They didn’t look as good as they should have, but they were still quite delicious!

Cider day! (and a pear juice cocktail)

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Yesterday, the kind folks at Pitchfork and Crow invited all of its CSA customers out for cider pressing, pumpkin picking and a potluck. This yearly fall gathering is always a lot of fun and we head home with yummy apple cider.

This year I had to go late so I missed the apples, but I was in time for Asian pears and Bartlett pears. Hurrah. Something new!

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I spent most of my time in a chair chatting with new people and good friends and enjoying the amazing October sunshine.  I did end up with a half gallon each of each type of pear cider.

 

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It was great to watch Jeff give kids tractor rides. And to see kids try to carry pumpkins that were bigger than them. To scrounge up a few tomatoes in the hoop house for a recipe I want to try. Watching folks make “brooms” out of sunflower stalks and dried herbs like mint and field flowers.  A great day all around!

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Fortified with lots of pear cider, I had to come up with a plan. I froze most of the Bartlett pear juice (it’s sweeter than the Asian pear) for later.  I decided to think of creative drinks for the Asian pear cider. I know many intend to ferment it, but I’m not that patient. I want the cocktail now.

Today I made a “pear martini-rita.” In a jar, I put in:

4 ice cubes
3/4 c. Asian pear juice
2 oz. Vodka
A generous squeeze of lemon

I shook this in the jar (my improved cocktail shaker) and poured it into a glass I had rimmed in sugar like a margarita. I topped with a little fizzy water for some bubbles. It was fresh from the pear and not too sweet.

Happy autumn in Oregon!

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Easy macaroons

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I don’t really use convenience baking products much, but I recently got a free package of “break and bake” macaroons from a company called Immaculate.

They’re my kind of company. They support artisans and use their artwork on their packaging. A community-minded company, they also make a mean macaroon. So yummy and easy. I may stop thinking about making them myself.

I didn’t expect to like them, so my tearing into the package makes for a wonky photo.

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I noticed their other products at my store are gluten free. I’m not apt to buy them if I want a chocolate chip cookie, but for a macaroon…
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The roasted flavors of fall

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It was a beautiful day in Oregon — the colors and crispness of fall with the blue sky and warmth of late summer. It’s the kind of day that makes it hard to think about living anywhere else.

It was also Saturday. Our outdoor farmers market goes until the end of October so I knew I was heading there. We had beautiful striped and solid red beets this week from the farm (Pitchfork & Crow) plus I had half a head of fresh garlic from a previous week.  If nothing else, I knew I was going to roast those.

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I found lovely things at the market: yellow cauliflower (Persephone farm) and juicy carrots (Minto farm).

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I decided to roast them with some rosemary from my garden. Caramelizing vegetables makes them sweet and flavorful without a lot of extra anything.

I chopped everything about the same size but left the cauliflower a bit bigger since it cooks faster. I split everything into two pans so as not to crowd the vegetables, tossed them with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and the rosemary.

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Both pans went into a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. I took them out, stirred them, and put them in for another 20 minutes.

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The veggies were tender and very caramelized. I tossed everything together in one bowl, added a flavorful olive oil (the oil I use when I know I’ll taste the oil!), and more fresh pepper. That alone would have been delicious.

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Gilding the lily, I added some feta cheese. Soooooo good! The salty creaminess of the cheese melting slightly with the warm, sweet vegetables was the perfect combination.

Happy fall vegetables!!

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