Slovenia is interesting.
We had dinner tonight as what is referred to as a 'family farm', and brother, if you're thinking this is nostalgic of some sort of Steinbeckien/Commie group of austere buildings by a highway with dour-faced women in aprons furiously baking bread, you're exactly right! The surroundings, however, are lovely, full of nature and nature's things. Streams, pine trees, pudding-faced children, etc.
So we were served a 'family style' dinner - what does this mean, exactly? is this or is this not a euphemism for crap? - and it was fine. Over-cooked but flavorful pork slices off a loin, mashed potatoes, and - here's what I want to discuss - really good cabbage, cooked down for what must have been 45 minutes or so with water, lard, salt galore, poppy seeds, pepper, and I don't know what else! What spices do Eastern European countries use?? There wasn't paprika. Hmm. Who knows? Anyways, it was cooked down to this unctuous savory mess that was still toothsome, it went SO WELL with pork. It got me thinking about cabbage which I feel deserves a defense.
I feel quite protective about cabbage. It gets a bad rap in American cooking. Well, fuck off and go bully something deserving, like okra! Cabbage is versatile, nutritious, cheap, and super-yum. I realize people's immediate association is that of a tenement in lower Boston, replete with wet diapers in a tin washtub, screaming red-faced bablies, and women with work-roughened hands named Mary, but seriously, cabbage is way good. Here are my relatively inexperienced favorite ways of making it:
1. Cabbage via Casey's mom 'a la Edinburgh'
Take a cabbage.
Cut it up. Into bite size pieces. Put in pan. Cover halfway with water. Salt. Boil 3o min. Drain. Return to pan. Add hell of butter and pepper. Taste and add more salt.
DUDE. I know this sounds way shanty, but listen, it's very tasty. Cabbage, once you get over the sulpherous cooking smell (I can't believe I just wrote that sentence) has an ephemerally sweet and vegetabley earthy taste that is reminiscent of other more cruciferous plants but is wholly its' own. And I know butter is sort of a cheat but really, if ever an elemental earthy flavor deserved that particular proverbial silk lining, it's cabbage. It just makes the dish - if such a basic idea deserves that moniker - shine. It's really good. When Casey's Scottish maw served it on a wintry eve, I was all set to snigger and disdain, but ended up asking for seconds.
2. Cabbage a la Sara Reeske.
Sara doesn't necessarily make her cabbage this way but I draw inspiration fron her fresh salads that go so far beyond what I thought of as 'salad greens'.
1 half green cabbage
handful chopped parseley
2 fistfulls spinach
1 clove garlic
juice half lemon
quite a lot of olive oil, well not TOO much, maybe 2 tablespoons
LOTS OF SALT
a big pinch sugar
splash white vinegar, apple or white wine - not much, tiny splash
whatever seeds you have around - pumpkin, poppy, or sesame - toast all these in a dry cast iron pan for a few min. before adding.
if you want to get real West Coast on this, add some Braggs or soy sauce. You don't? Okay, that's cool, whatevs.
Ok this recipe is pretty obvious - but here's the rub* - raw cabbage has a lovely nutty flavor and a pleasant resiliant texture, but you need to slice it FINELY. Like coleslaw fine. Otherwise it's really too daunting, jaw-wise.
Try it, it's very good. You feel sated after eating too and it's very very healthy. Not in a gay Co-op way, but really.
*Don't you hate when you read salad recipes online and they list all the ingredients and give complex further instructions? For mixing an uncooked salad? NO SHIT chop the ingredients into bite size pieces and toss with dressing! Jesus! What am I, five???