My friends Margaux and Tim very kindly offered to share some of their excess Thanksgiving CSA produce. Tim arrived on the doorstep with a huge bag of kale and a napa cabbage as big as a newborn baby. This bag of greens took up a whole shelf in the fridge and we spent over a week having a series of cabbage and kale based meals.
There were at least four varieties of kale in the mix, including lacinato (or dinosaur) kale, Russian kale and curly kale (pictured from left to right). The top picture is of red Russian kale. Kale is a form of cabbage that does not form a head. It is both hardy and nutritious but can be tougher than cabbage so it is often used in soups. The taste varies between varieties but the lacinato kale has a taste reminiscent of savoy cabbage.
We tried roasting the kale but our favorite preparation was inspired by the Slow Food Columbus locavore dinner. Our winning combination was finely chopped kale with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice, salt and ground grains of paradise (similar to pepper but nuttier) with toasted almond slivers and shavings of parmesan cheese. It is a very refreshing, vibrant salad and even though I always think I have made too much, it always disappears.
Napa cabbage is also known as Chinese cabbage. It has a more elongated head, more delicate leaves and is a paler green than regular cabbage. We used the napa cabbage in a stir fry with mushrooms, in a preparation similar to the way that I usually cook bok choi. I also added some thinly sliced cabbage into some noodles which I tossed with a sesame oil, mirin and soy sauce dressing. The most successful use of the napa cabbage was in a bastardized version of okonomiyaki. I used Heidi Swanson’s recipe as a starting point, but after reading the comments, doing some research and assessing what I had in the fridge I created my own version.
2 leeks (thinly sliced)
1/3 of a very large napa cabbage (shredded)
1 sweet potato (grated)
2 large eggs (beaten)
6 rashers of bacon (diced and fried) – optional
2 tbsp pickled ginger (finely chopped) – optional
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 cup flour
1 cup water
salt to taste
Furikake – Japanese seasoning mix (to serve)
This was enough to make 3 large pancakes.
In a large bowl combine the flour, water and fish sauce until you have a smooth batter. Add the beaten eggs and mix well. You can then add the vegetables, and ginger and bacon if you are using them. Mix the vegetables thoroughly into the batter until they are well coated with the mixture. Season. Heat a large skillet to a moderate heat. We used some of the bacon fat to cook the pancake but you could use oil or butter. Spoon some of the vegetable mixture into the pan and press it down with a spatula. Our completely filled the pan.
It looks like coleslaw doesn’t it?! You do not want the pancake to cook too quickly or it will brown without cooking through. It is therefore best to keep the pancake thin.To flip it we slid the pancake out onto a plate, inverted the pan on top and then turned the whole thing over.
We served it in wedges sprinkled with furikake which is a seasoning mix containing seaweed and bonito flakes, sesame seeds, mirin, soy sauce, sugar and salt. I buy it at Tensuke market at Kenny and Old Henderson.
And so we came to the end of our huge bag of greens, but today I went to the North Market farmers market and I stocked up on cabbage from Elizabeth Telling, and Green Mountain potatoes from Wayward Seed Farm so I think I will be making bubble and squeak this week. It was pretty exciting to still be shopping at the farmers market in December, in Ohio! – there were four farmers there braving the cold – it was in the 20s this morning. The offerings were mostly root vegetables (including radishes, turnips, rutabagas, potatoes, sweet potatoes) but also squash, brussels, celery, lettuce, greens and some herbs. Roasted chestnuts were quite a treat too.