How to tell you're a food geek: you have all the ingredients to make two kinds of gumbo in your fridge, but you instead have to make catfish pom because your malanga is going south (anyone who can reveal the undiscovered punchline hidden in this last sentence "wins" a seat at the next SnL). BTW, another indicator that you're a food geek? You're not Surinamese and you can make pom without looking at a recipe.
Today's pom will be my first truly customized version, mostly because I'm lacking the correct ingredients: we'll be using fresh-squozen mandarin orange juice instead of reg'lar, and lobster stock instead of chicken stock. We'll see what happens.
UPDATE: it tastes very much the same as the original...further reinforcing my belief that the dominant taste of pom is the taste of malanga, which is why pom's flavor is simultaneously so unusual and so unfuckupable.
I also cooked up and ate separately a piece of zoutvlees, and it tastes very much like a highly salted piece of beefsteak. Not spiced at all as far as I could tell.
In the Housewares department: we desperately need to re-evaluate our fridge/freezer setup, it's completely useless as is.
In the Entertainment department: I've enjoyed Eten met Bianca since I first watched it (even before I knew someone who worked there). It's so not like most food shows: there's a certain calm, honest, informed interest about it that I find really appealing. I also like Bianca's personal tone, which to me comes off as quietly smart and, eh...unobsequious, maybe, in all the right places.
Anyway: I just watched an episode that I'd known was in production, but hadn't seen the finished product: Pannekoeken! Wherein they talk to Joachim from Japanese Pancake World and film him making okonomiyaki (among other things)...great stuff.
Jiminy Cricket, what a weekend. Friday's 6-guitar swordfight turned out to be fun and not boodley-boodley-boodley (mime Eddie Van Halen fingertapping to get the full effect here) at all. IIRC, more than 100 people paid, which is a lot for the Music/Dance series (I can't decide if this just lazily needs a sexier moniker, or if it's a back-to-basics kind of avant-gardism)...
...and then Saturday was just hard work from 3pm to 5am. We were already operating with a bare-bones crew, hoping that we'd be able to power through an unusually crowded night with our usual rag-tag team of misfits, but: one of our bar staff fell ill and another one of them ended up unexpectedly playing in the first band of the evening, after their guitarist/founder's wife fell down the stairs back in England causing him to not make the trip (whew, that's not really much of a sentence, is it).
So with all this falling about, we were forced to go all Transformers for the night: everyone was doing 3 different things simultaneously, the place was utterly packed, and we had a record-setting bar night (for our events) to boot, mostly beer, at least 30 crates of Grolsch (and Palm and Koninck). Our most successful evening yet in terms of consistent musical quality and sheer profit, but we were so understaffed that it was difficult to fully enjoy it while it was happening.
We were so torn up at the end of the night that we didn't even clean, the 5 of us looked at the rather gross devastation around us and actually decided that it would be smarter to return 6 hours later at noon and clean then (and actually, it might have been the right decision). But I guess this is what makes OT301 OT301...if you want an overstaffed place with underseasoned music, Paradiso is right down the road...
Right. But anyway, Saturday's event expanding into Sunday afternoon kind of trashed the SnL as well...I have to just laugh at my gumbo plans...I was so not even close to making gumbo this weekend. I'm going to try and knock it out before I go to America this week.
For those of you not plugged into the VDuck Mojo Wire, the Smell 'n' Learn originally scheduled for this weekend has had its topic changed from cassoulet to gumbo in the interest of prep time and to account for the distinct possibility that it won't actually happen: since we all have a late night Saturday, we're not sure how we'll feel about cooking, eating, drinking, etc come Sunday. And gumbo ingredients take up a lot less fridge space.
Usually, that is. Except I'm thinking of making two gumbos (you know, to compensate for the simplification of switching to gumbo). Definitely one duck gumbo, and maybe a seafood gumbo? I had thought that the recipes would be coming from the Gumbo Pages, as they have in the past, but somehow I forgot about the treasure trove of opinionated gluttony that is eGullet.
After a "bit" of browsing around out there (Gumbo Pages' advantage over eG is that there's no need to browse around, everything's just right there), I've decided that if Gumbo SnL happens (and probably even if it doesn't), I'm going to do a duck and sausage gumbo with a medium-dark roux, and a roux-less shrimp and okra gumbo, using the sadly departed Fifi's recipe for the fowl and My Confusing Horoscope's nice-looking okra tutorial for the seafood version.
By the bye, the "tuna meatball" recipe I talked about here is enjoying a bit of the limelight here on MSNBC. The featured version is not Kenny's version (though it was good), or Mara's version (pictured above), but Mr. Oliver's original version. Try it, it's great...I think it's what we're having for din-din vanavond.
EDIT: Regarding different grades of tuna for this recipe and baking vs. frying, Mara had the following to add in an email to a friend (and since she has been the polpettrice every time "we've" made this, well we should listen to her):
i think they want you to use fresh tuna, but mark and i have made it only with good quality canned (or even just john west) and there was no discernible difference from the time our friend made it with fresh. also, in the recipe i think you're sauteing the fresh tuna with the cinnamon and the spice gets infused in this way - if you're using canned, just increase the cinnamon by at least another tsp (maybe more). and toast the pinenuts separately. also, i have always baked my meatballs, so this is another option instead of frying which can be a god-awful mess. maybe 175C for 25-35 minutes?
And to answer your unasked question: yes, I've been reduced to rummaging through Mara's sent emails to get cooking tips.
While Mara's genius shrimp and sage risotto from last night is being assembled above, let's take a brief detour via an alluring behind-the-scenes peek into the glamour-soaked home life of the Vegetarian Ducks...
Jo3n kitty has just resumed a habit she developed when we first moved into this apartment: beginning at about 4:30 in the morning, she becomes obsessed with waking Mara up.
We found this very cute at first because Jo3n has always been a little shy and solitary, so her unstoppable need to be close to Mara was initially interpreted as very sweet by us. Two factors, however, seriously mitigate the sweetness of this gesture: 1) she does it EVERY MORNING. 2) she will not stop until Mara gets out of bed.
The photo above was taken in pitch black darkness at 5am. Take note of Jo3n's "I Love Mara" face: whiskers forward, glazed, dreamy eyes, etc. Also note Mara's head directly beneath Jo3n's paws. After Jo3n stands on Mara's neck for a while, she then moves to the back area:
And "kneads" for 5-10 minutes. Apparently, this is done to stimulate milk production in the mother cat's teats. We have been trying to show Jo3n where Mara's teats actually reside for some time now, but Jo3n shows no signs of modifying her approach. After a few minutes of this, Jo3n realizes that shit ain't happenin', so she enables the distress signal (a plaintive meow every 20 seconds) and then assumes a "wait and see" approach:
Then she starts from the top, occasionally mixing things up a little by scratching around frustratedly in her litter box for 10 minutes at a time before returning to the head/neck position. I have many more pictures of Operation Early Bird in progress, but they all tell the same story: bad kitty.
The good news is: we've recently discovered an effective defensive maneuver: if Mara and I switch sides of the bed, the Jo3n unit becomes confused and cannot execute her fiendish plan. Why this works is a bit of a mystery. Oh right: it's because Jo3n's brain is roughly the size of a large prawn.
Last night, actual prawns made an appearance at the dinner table, as they had on Friday when I made shrimp carbonara, using Antonio's recipe: bacon, 2 eggs, a little cream, black pepper, and Parmesan in the sauce; caramelized onions were added to the shrimp as well:
This was meh, OK...I don't make non-red-sauced Italian things very often, and this was further evidence that I should just leave that to Mara, she's much better at it, which she potently demonstrated last night with a downright exemplary shrimp and sage risotto.
Really great, difficult to stop eating, and done using a "no-stir" risotto technique that we've been using for years and yet we're still amazed that it seems to come out awesome every time. The other double secret moment in Mara's recipe was halving the shrimp and marinating them for an hour or so in garlic and olive oil. Oh, another secret? Next time you're making fantastic food, just keep announcing "I don't know if this will be any good...I don't know what I'm doing," etc. Sneaky, that. Whatever, I'll get the recipe up here whenever I get in a recipe-typing mood again....
BTW, I would never have put shrimp and sage together in a million years. I have sage filed under "herbs that go with meat" in my 10-prawn-sized brain, and it seems to be filed there for good. But apparently (at least according to Food and Wine) shrimp and sage are a "popular Italian combination," so I guess that just shows you how full of diddley my 10 prawns are, doesn't it. Doesn't it?
UPDATE: This recipe has now been added to this site, here.
Got some practicing going on at the moment, and if I'm practicing, I'm really just eating for fuel and not research, so the products of the Practicing Kitchen are highly unphotogenic generally speaking, and are also more likely to involve ingredients from a jar or tin. For example, last night's dinner and today's lunch were generic-looking piles of virtually identical turmeric-colored "grain". Their menu descriptions read a trifle more attractively: last night was mackerel in ras-el-hanout; tomato-harissa sauce; bulgur with green olives, carrots, and walnuts. Today was the same thing with sardines.
Comparatively speaking, the mackerel is the easy winner in this North African showdown, its more resilient texture makes you feel like you're actually eating something with distinct components rather than an undifferentiated mass of vaguely Moroccan origin. But there are no pictures, because...it just doesn't look good. Mr. Jamie Oliver, when talking about cooking with tinned fish, recommends that you reserve some of the filets to garnish each plate with, but...I'm not so sure.
I'm catsitting at the moment, though so differently from the way I was catsitting back in August that one of the two should be called something different (the latter, I'm guessing). One of my charges this time around is Loki the Destroyer, and she plies her trade with truly exceptional craft. Things I wouldn't have guessed were movable at all have been strewn around the apartment as if by high winds. I no longer remember what the apartment looked like when I showed up, it's been madeover in the style of a feline monkey launching pad.
One of the books littering the floor this morning was Sri Owen's Indonesian Regional Cooking (in Dutch). It would've been downright cinematic if my stumbling across this "randomly" placed object would then lead me on a series of unexpected and (of course) humorous adventures having to do with Sri Owen, Indonesian cooking, catsitting, monkey launching, etc.
But instead I just took the book down to our apartment, put on my miner's hat (is there really not another word for these?) and tried to learn something from an Indonesian about Indonesian cooking. It's a good easy read for my Dutch, but who knows what it really sounds like to someone who speaks the language.
The first thing that my carbide lamp revealed was a rich seam of duck dishes, which was completely unexpected and great news: we do love us some duck (speaking of which, maybe someday I'll get around to writing about this lovely specimen [the duck]).
I'll come back to finish this entry with a duck recipe, but until then, Ms. Owen has an informative piece on rijsttafel here, complaining (justifiably) about advertisements for "traditional Indonesian rijsttafels" by restaurants in Indonesia (rijsttafel being a completely Dutch fabrication and not traditionally Indonesian at all).
gulai itik (sumatran duck with green chiles).
4 duck breasts, thinly sliced 3/4 cup hot water
2 large green chiles, de-seeded and chopped 5 shallots, chopped 4 cloves garlic, chopped 4 candlenuts, chopped 2 tsp chopped ginger 1/2 tsp ground turmeric 1 tsp chopped galangal or 1/2 tsp laos powder 2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded 1-inch stem of lemongrass, outer leaves discarded, chopped 4 whole black peppercorns 4 tbsp thinned tamarind concentrate 2 tbsp peanut oil salt to taste
Blend paste ingredients until smooth. Transfer the paste into a saucepan and simmer, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Then add the slices of duck, and continue cooking, stirring often, for 5 more minutes. Add the hot water, and bring the sauce to a boil. Continue cooking on high heat for 5 minutes. Salt to taste, and serve at once with rice.
Had an important educational moment at dinner Tuesday night. We were having dinner with a certain disk jockey mentioned in the previous post whose name I'm not mentioning again for reasons which will become clear in a moment, I asked him if he'd enjoyed the music the other night, and he said: oh yeah, I read your blog about it. And I was like what? No one knows about this blog. How is that possible (this last sentence I screamed clench-fisted into the heavens)?
And he said: Google Alerts. He gets an email any time Google finds a new mention of his name on the public internets. Blimey (I screamed this into the heavens as well)!
Man, I just emerged slack-jawed from one of those Googholes where you really have no idea how you've ended up where you have, and need to consult your history to detangle the thread. The last thing I remember is "none more black", then the blackest manufacturable color pictured above, then...then...45 minutes of absence.
Made something excellent last night: tempeh rendang. Based on a RecipeZaar recipe, but tweaked for nutrition. It's basically a simple, quickish vegetarian Malaysian-ish curry. I feel OK calling it a rendang now (vs. the original version) because the sauce is actually being reduced for a while.
1 stalk lemongrass 3 shallots, quartered 3 garlic cloves 2 long fresh red chiles
1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut 2 tablespoons peanut oil 200g tempeh, cubed 1 teaspoon ground star anise 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 1 white sweet potato, cut into cubes 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk 1 cup water salt 'n' pepa 2 scallions, greens chopped
Cut off bulbous bottom third of lemongrass. Remove and discard the tough outer leaves and chop remainder into thin rounds. Transfer to blender and process. Add the rest of the paste ingredients and puree to thick consistency, adding a tablespoon of water or two if you need to.
Elsewhere: In large skillet, toast coconut over medium heat, shaking pan and stirring constantly until uniformly golden brown, then remove from skillet a reserve. In the same skillet add oil and fry tempeh until dark golden brown, salting as you flip the tempeh over. Add the ingredients from the star anise to the cloves and the paste and cook for 2 minutes more.
Add the potato, coconut milk and water. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer for 10-20 min or until potato is tender and sauce is reduced. Remove from heat and add toasted coconut. Salt and pepper to taste (this will probably require quite a bit of salt. I used 1 tbsp each of ketjap manis and sambal trassi instead). Add the scallions just before serving with something like rice.
Shoep! Welcome back to Vegetarian Duck, my name is Mark and I'll be your host for the next 5 days or so until I disappear from view again due to real-world commitments!
Bah. "Real world," my ass. Whatever kind of world it is, it involved an emergency DJ gig opening for the lovely and talented dj/rupture (Wikipedia entry here). As soon as I found out about it I was highly psyched (mr. rupture's Gold Teeth Thiefwas the first CD we ever purchased for our now-defunct CD shop, disc number 000001), but the reality ended up being that I played for 3 hours, about 3 times longer than I normally like to play, and I became unshakably bored with myself after the first 90 minutes or so. It's like listening to yourself talk uninterruptedly for 3 hours, you just get tired of the sound of your own voice. I was also doing the laptop/sampler version of myself, and it's just not interactive enough to be entertaining for that long. I wished I'd brought some vinyl and borrowed someone's turntable skillz.
Consumption summary: lots of sandwiches, as tends to happen during "the crunch". Mara unleashed her Sjako's Speciaal: egg, mayonnaise, and sambal badjak:
We (I, actually) bought some TVP cheeseburgers (Tivali's Kaasburgers to be precise), and dressed them up in standard Americano fashion: mustard, ketchup, mayo on a bed of onion and tomato, lettuce on the side waiting to also be dressed:
And the gooey photo at the top of the page is evidence of the completed gross cheesiness of this sandwich. Much better than it looks.
In addition to the standards featured above, I also discovered some especially complementary taste pairs: two ingredients that just seem separated at birth, meant for each other, filling in each others' blanks and walking hand-in-hand down the beach in the sunset of your mouth (nurse? administer a urine test, stat).
One: toast with fig jam and mascarpone cheese. I'm sure this combo would be fine with non-fig jams simply because what doesn't taste good with mascarpone cheese (don't answer that). But anyway, do this soon, it's decadent and luscious and completely removes any urge you might have to go get some pastries from the mediocre bakery down the street. Nothing they can sell you will be as good as fig/mascarpone toast.
Two: papaya and ketjap manis. I'm really enjoying papaya these days, which I'm still surprised by, because I've never liked it before. So, ja...I've been eating it in my cereal mostly, but then this week I made some bulgur with ketjap manis for a quick breakfast, and threw some papaya chunks in there, and....kablooey! Good thing I was wearing my safety goggles. Or googles, which I also typed. Very very good. Now I need to find a delivery mechanism for serving this to people...maybe beef? Shrimp? Spoon?
OK, up next: I joined the rat race. Less of a race, actually...more of a love-in. Basically I just joined the rats, no race whatsoever. But you never hear about the positive rat stories, do you? Well, you will.
Habits can sneak up on you can't they. Unless you're me right now and you've lately been going through a period of rigorous self-analysis, tehn nothing sneaks up on no one. The closest I get to a new habit these days is undoing an old bad habit into its opposite, not really the same thing. But I say all that to say this: I didn't realize how often I checked on Klary's blog until she went on vacation in Italy for a couple of weeks. The good news is, she's back and hopefully there will be gazillions of Italian photos to follow.
When we lived in Italy quite a few years back, way before we knew a single thing about anything, one of our main evening beer-drinking and pizza-eating hangouts was this place with a then-mysterious name, Kroeg.
We literally stumbled across it, tucked away behind a busy street, and the name mystified us...until we took our Dutch friend Birre there and she became even more excited than normal at the prospect of drinking beer.
Not known for being a regular squealer, she nonetheless squealed, "I can't believe this, it's a Dutch bar!" It was actually Belgian, but that didn't matter...it was dark inside (the top photo above, taken from their website, is approximately 18 times more well-lit than it was when we were there) they had all of Birre's favorite beers, and they made decent caipirinhas and mojitos, so this became a bit of a Plan A destination for the rest of the semester.
The beers were nice, but the bigger draw was the awesomely amazing pizzas and cicaccini they served. I'm reasonably certain that these were consistently the best pizzas we'd ever had up to this point in our tiny lives. Here's the menu, circa 2001, taken from their website, which was probably last updated in 2001:
These prices are all in Italian lire, I'd wager that when the Euro showed up, the bar owners just changed the lire sign to a Euro sign and kept the numbers the same.
Anyway, after a couple of beers, our ciaccini selections were invariably variable, but we usually tried to save room for the apple (or sometimes pear), arugula, and gorgonzola version. Seriously great, and costing us about 5 U.S. dollars apiece when we were there. Oh, Europe.
In other news, I've finally upgraded this site to the newish Blogger templates and now a whole pile of stuff is amiss: the text formatting now looks even more random than usual, and and I've lost all of my sidebar links. For starters. And my cell phone is missing. I shouldn'ta done it.
I’m a crazy man. I’m a nutjob. I’m a freakball. You know? I break through all boundaries. If I see a boundary, I eat a boundary. And wash it down with a cup of hot steaming rules. Eh?
More time. Cassoulet is one of those dishes that doesn't respond especially well to 21st-century quickifying. It tasted almost twice as good this morning as it did last night.
More fat. I went light on the duck fat because some eG reports I'd read said that merguez gave off a bunch of fat (not duck fat of course that would be weird) when used in cassoulet. That didn't seem to be the case.
More salt. I was somehow afraid that my various salty meats would render things, eh...too salty. They didn't. We were still salting at the table, which I dislike doing.
More meat. The duck pretty much disintegrated, this was the one thing that Dean & DeLuca's recipe got right (they favor the Carcassone version over the Toulouse version), basically that duck is kind of wasted here: go with a lamb ragout instead as the other meat. Next time I will. If I did put some quackery in there, I'd leave it on the bone. More juice. Yeah...the beans + meat had all this extra liquid until I took a nap before dinner and then they sucked it all up while I slept. Slept through my alarm, in fact, and woke up 15 minutes before guests and Mara arrived. Lucky for me I'd done almost everything before closing The Eye. But in its just-awoken state The Eye didn't realize the crucial liquid loss, did it. Bad Eye. Better juice. Yes, my quick lamb stock didn't do the trick. Looks like I'll be making the real thing next time. This time I had to resort to the Secret Ingredients (my dad works there), which worked out fine. Better beans. I just used "white beans", which were fine, but I'd like to see what difference is made by upgrading to Corona or Tarbais. Bread crumbs=good. This was something that Dean & DeLuca got totally wrong...they said to skip the breadcrumbs. I didn't, I made my own and buttered them, they were one of the highlights from a taste, texture, and contrast perspective. Green salad=good. The only accompaniment was a Caesar-ish salad, red wine, and crusty bread, and that was perfect. Camembert with Calvados for dessert. Pre-dinner munch. I'd love to find something light that people could put their tooth on beforehand that won't fill them up. Olives are obvious...anything clean-tasting and vegetable-oriented would work fine...I'll keep an eye (but not The Eye) out. I think that's it. No pictures this time after all...we'll call this a fact-finding mission. I learned a lot, and I'm glad to have gotten my first one out of the way. I think by doing the quick 'n' lazy version first, I really understand what elements would benefit most from a slower approach. By taking the more traditional route, cooking everything in one pot (vs. cooking all meats separately, separate stocks, etc.), what you end up with is essentially "just beans 'n' meat." Rarely a bad thing, but yes I can see how this could become more excellent.
As one's obsessive food mind tends to do, mine has been ruminating over the details of cassoulet, specifically the selection of meats that will strut and fret their shit upon the stage of my slow cooker.
Right. So, I've been weighing the pros and cons of different carnivorous options, and, I know what you're thinking. Mark, please tell me you didn't go ahead and make a quick experimental cassoulet this afternoon for Phil's 2nd birthday party dinner (uh, it's his 2nd dinner...he's well into his middle years).
I wish I could tell you that, pal, but I can't. I thought Phil and Kathelijn would really enjoy it. So I whizzed downstairs and picked up some white beans, merguez, and bacon to go with the duck confit I already in the fridge. The meats were amazingly inexpensive: I don't buy merguez or any other sausage very often I guess, but I couldn't believe it...I somehow thought this was going to be a costly adventure. But cassoulet was peasant food, right? And damn peasants ain't got no dough. Excellent work, peasants!
So, I didn't make my own stocks, confit, or sausage. I browned all of the meats, made a very quick lamb and duck stock with my confit bones and a lamb cutlet I bought, added the beans, carrots, onions, and garlic, and a mess o' thyme and other assorted Frenchish herbs. A slug of vermouth, tablespoon of Calvados, lots of black pepper, and put the lid on the massive thing for 3 hours: since sausage is my main protein, I don't think I have to worry about overcooking the meats.
The picture above is of my steaming pot after an hour. It's got a ways to go, I may turn to the Secret Ingredient Shelf if my quickie stock doesn't cut it. More on this sham eventually, and real cassoulet pictures as well.
It was a rather perfect weekend for soup, overcast and drizzly. My ingredients were giving me Italian directions again for soup #2, the loudest of these voices coming from a head of green cabbage that was starting to go limp on me (goleeeemp was Mary Quinones' advice to me back in 1994 when I complained that her friend Don't propositioned me and wouldn't take no for answer. Mary's sage advice refers to the childhood defense technique that I've only previously heard referred to as Noodle Boy/Girl: basically acting boneless so no one can physically make you do anything. Try it, it works! Though it didn't work on Don't, come to think of it).
I've been searching for new ways to eat cabbage for a couple of years now. You know why: cabbage is supposed to be very good for you in the anti-cancer department. Apparently it's because cabbage contains something that your body metabolizes into something else called indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which has been shown in clinical studies to prevent or even reverse the growth of pre-cancerous cells.
Do note that if you're just choking down some cabbage exclusively for its anti-cancer properties, don't boil it. Here's an excerpt from the study:
"Past studies have shown that consumption of Brassica vegetables decreases the risk of cancer. This is because of the high concentration in Brassicas of substances known as glucosinolates which are metabolized to cancer preventive substances known as isothiocyanates. However before this research it was not known how the glucosinolates and isothiocyanates were influenced by storage and cooking of Brassica vegetables.
The researchers, Prof Paul Thornalley from Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick and Dr Lijiang Song from the University of Warwick’s Department of Chemistry bought Brassica vegetables, (broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and green cabbage) from a local store and transported them to the laboratory within 30 minutes of purchasing.
The effect of cooking on the glucosinolate content of vegetables was then studied by investigating the effects of cooking by boiling, steaming, microwave cooking and stir-fry.Boiling appeared to have a serious impact on the retention of those important glucosinolate within the vegetables.
The loss of total glucosinolate content after boiling for 30 minutes was: broccoli 77%, Brussel sprouts 58%, cauliflower 75% and green cabbage 65%.The effects of other cooking methods were investigated: steaming for 0–20 min, microwave cooking for 0–3 min and stir-fry cooking for 0–5 min. All three methods gave no significant loss of total glucosinolate analyte contents over these cooking periods."
Right, so where does roasting/braising fit in here? I imagine that it's OK.
The best cabbage dish we've ever made at home happened during one of our Mara's-thyroid-initiated cooking experiments. I can't remember the exact sequence of trial and error that led us to cabbage and cheese, but one evening we found ourselves making a noodle-less "lasagna": subbing cabbage leaves for the noodles, and keeping every thing else pretty much the same (red sauce, etc). I remember it being pretty surprisingly delicious, but I can't justify that kind of cheese consumption at the moment (lots of mozzarella and ricotta).
So I've been looking for healthy, interesting baked cabbage recipes for a while now, and then what do I spy in Signore Carluccio's book: something called zuppa di cavolo alla Canavesana. It's a cabbage soup, but one that's even more like a ribollita than the zuppa di pesce was, as you can see from the photo above. In fact, this is barely a soup at all..."it eats like a meal," as the Campbell's Chunky Soup commercials used to say.
Although if I recall correctly, back in my college days sometimes the Campbell's Chunky didn't really eat quite enough like a meal, especially after 18 beers and a pile of Kenny's weed. So at about 4am we would start making soup sandwiches using one of those electric sandwich toasters, you know? Nature's Own multigrain bread and Campbell's Sirloin Burger soup was the most common combo (because these were the sole contents of the pantry), maybe with a slice of Kraft American cheese in there as well. The results were...not quite right, as far as food goes, but I believe that what we achieved in that toaster was ultimately more edible than the constituent elements would have been if consumed separately.
Antonio says that this is his sister's recipe, from an area in the Piemonte called the Canavese, near Torino. It looks like this recipe might also be called simply zuppa del Canavese. I didn't have fontina in the house (why not?) so I used a bit of leftover Reblochon, but a fraction of the quantity specified. We are trying to gently steer our way back to healthy eating, right. I probably used 100g of cheese total between the Parmesan and the Reblochon. In any event, the end result was very good and I'll be making it again. The buttered bread is an excellent idea. And long-cooked cabbage really does share some textural characteristics with baked pasta, for me at least, if I'm craving the latter sometimes the former will do just fine....plus there's cancer-fightin' enzymes 'n' shit in there!
zuppa di cavolo alla Canavesana.
1 head of cabbage, shredded 2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly 1 quart chicken broth 6 slices good bread 100g butter 50-100g parmiginano-reggiano, grated 50-100g fontina, sliced 5 oil-packed anchovies, chopped salt pepper
Add the garlic to the chicken broth and gently steam the cabbage over the chicken broth for 20-30 minutes or until softish. I actually did a mix of simmering and steaming, but steaming is healthier...just want to make sure that not all of the broth evaporates.
Meanwhile, toast each slice of bread and butter it as if you don't care how much butter you're eating. Line a baking dish with half the buttered toast slices.
When the cabbage is soft, pour half the cabbage and broth over the toast in the baking pan. Add a good grating of black pepper here. Top with half the anchovies, half the fontina (if using), and half the parmesan. Then ad another layer of the remaining toast, cabbage, anchovies, and cheese on top.