My Not So Secret Food Obsession (Cabbage?!)

When I was growing up, I remember listening to conversations back and forth with school friends about how much they hated cabbage. They would tell horror stories of it cooking on the stove for hours and stinking up the entire house. If you even mentioned cabbage to one, she would claim to have fallen dramatically ill and would be unable to eat anything for the rest of the day (did I mention we were in elementary school). Well, I used to sit there listening to these conversations, completely and utterly confused. My dad made cabbage all the time and I never smelled anything. Instead of the boil all day cabbage that my friends would discuss with such disgust, I was treated to Stir-Fried Cabbage.

There are a few foods that I am oddly obsessed with and Stir Fry Cabbage is so high on that list, it may be embarrassing. When my dad made cabbage, my uncle and I would end up standing at the stove some nights and eating it straight out of the pot when I was supposed to be putting it away in the fridge. We both had infuriated stories of times when we went into the fridge for leftovers and either he or I had eaten the last of the cabbage leaving my dad no other option than to make more to avoid a war.

Now, I understand that for most people cabbage is an all day undertaking and ends up tasting horrific. If you’re willing to give it another try… try this version. Jamaican Stir-Fried Cabbage is crunchy and flavorful. You cook it just long enough to wilt the cabbage and it’s flavored with red pepper and garlic. It’s sweet and a little salty and pairs beautifully with any number of dishes. Fish, Corned Beef…. wow I could go on all day about this…

 

 

Stir Fried Cabbage

 

Stir Fry Cabbage

 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 red pepper, sliced thinly

1-3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

!/2 head of cabbage, sliced thinly

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

NOTE: Everything has to be cut and ready to go before the oil is hot in the pan

Set a dutch oven or 4 quart soup pot over medium-high heat. When droplets of water curl into balls and skate over the surface of the pan, add the olive oil and red pepper. Move the red pepper around the pan until it is coated in the oil, then drop in the garlic. Put all the cabbage in the pot at once with the salt and pepper. Move the cabbage around the pan until all the cabbage is coated in oil. Keep moving the cabbage around. So all the cabbage gets heated evenly. The cabbage will shrink in volume as you cook it. When all the cabbage is coated in oil, test a small bite. It should be crunchy. Move the cabbage to your serving dish. Keep in mind the cabbage will keep cooking in the serving dish so leave it open to maintain the crunch and serve as soon as you can.

Hot Soup on a Cool Fall Day

I’m on a soup kick. I know. I can’t stop. Every year when the cool air starts creeping in I have that moment where I crave putting on a thick cozy sweater and wrapping my hands around a steaming soup mug. I tend to like my soups a bit spicy since it adds to the warming effect. If you’re not a heat fan, feel free to skip it.  I started thinking about this soup in the summer when all the fresh corn was available. But somehow I just couldn’t get into making soup when it was hot out. So, when I went into the produce spot and saw whole corn and poblano peppers on a cold day I knew what I was going to do. Of course, I wasn’t thinking it through and completely forgot to pick up the potatoes. Thankfully I picked up a Jamaican yam (also sold as Name) which I roasted (in 425F oven for two hours) so I used that instead of potato, but potato works just as well in the recipe. If you’re feeling adventurous give the Jamaican yam (yes I know its not only Jamaican) a try… Why not try something new? The swiss chard also wasn’t part of my original idea, but it’s the end of the season and there was a ton of swiss chard at my parents place, so I’ve been using the stems like celery in my soups. It’s easier than letting them go to waste.  On a side note, if you decide to add the jalapeño (or whatever good hot pepper you have) roast a few extra potatoes just in case.  The potatoes and half and half really help calm down some of the heat in the soup.  If you don’t use all the potatoes for this recipe, then we can come up with some other way to use them.

 

Corn Poblano Chowder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 poblano peppers
4 ears corn
5 cloves garlic
2 Spanish yellow onions, cut in large pieces
1 stalk celery, cut in large pieces
15 stalks Swiss chard, remove leaves and cut in large pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 jalapeño peppers, chopped, seeds & stems removed (optional)
8 cups water or vegetable/chicken stock
1.5 cups beans
1/2 medium size roasted yam (or 2 baked russet potatoes), cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 cup half and half

Roasting the poblanos:

Move the oven rack to the top. Turn on the broiler. Roast the poblanos on a metal baking sheet for 8 minutes per side or until the skin is black and blistered.  Put the roasted poblanos in a glass dish and cover with cling wrap.  After about 10 minutes, the steam should have helped separate the skin from the poblanos and you can peel and remove the seeds.  Chop the poblanos into 1/2 inch or smaller pieces and set aside.

Soup:

While the poblanos are roasting, cut the corn kernels off the ears. With food processor running add garlic cloves. When the garlic is minced, stop the food processor, add onions, celery, and Swiss chard stems. In a soup pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and sauté the vegetable mixture. Add the corn cobs, salt and pepper and sauté with the vegetables. Add the jalapeño peppers. After about 8 minutes add 8 cups of water or stock. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Take the corn cobs out of the pot and purée the vegetables in a blender. Put the cobs back in and add the corn kernels. Turn the heat to high until the mixture is boiling. Add beans. Add poblano. Add yam. Turn the heat back down to medium-low and simmer for 15-30 minutes.  Add half and half and adjust salt and pepper to taste while it warms through and serve.

Note: Add some crushed tortilla chips on top!!

Coconut Water… The good old days

When I spent summers in Jamaica as a kid, my cousins and I would start our mornings by filling our little bowls with fruit we picked off the trees in the yard. We would each present our bowls to my aunt and she would peel and cut the fruit as needed and that would be our weekday breakfast. So, the other day I was eating my fruit salad drizzled with local honey (Yes I know it’s overkill to put sweet on fruit, but if I’m going to have a spoonful of honey at some point in the day then why not.) Anyways, I was thinking back to some of the other great things about those summers in Jamaica and I started to think about coconut water. There is absolutely nothing quite like quenching your thirst on a hot day with coconut water. We would play in the hot humid sun all day long riding big wheels, crashing big wheels, chasing each other, playing tag, walking on fields of Shame-Old-Lady Plants (we’ll discuss this awesome plant shortly) and any other game we could make up and all agree on the rules. (Most of the time establishing the game rules would dissolve into an argument, but it was all in fun.)

When it was super hot, there was nothing like going to the guy who sold coconuts in an iced cart and getting a “water coconut.” Water coconuts are mostly water inside. There are also Jelly Coconuts that have more meat (the white part you see when you crack open a coconut) than water. If you were hoping for a water coconut and crack it open and there’s mostly meat you got a dud.  Nuff said.

There is a fine art to cutting coconut and if you’ve gone on vacation or lived in the Caribbean, you’ve seen it done. There is a way to cut the coconut with a machete so there is one fine point at the top that is cut off so it’s just small enough to either put a straw into it (if you’re wearing clothes you’re not supposed to get covered in coconut water) or just put straight to your head to drink from the “spout”. I say it’s a fine art because if you don’t know what you are doing, you can either chop off your entire hand or mangle the coconut and lose all the water.  It was just the biggest treat to get a coconut water (ice cold makes a difference) because nothing quenched thirst like it.  When you’re finished with drinking the coconut, you hand the coconut back to “the guy” and he cuts it in half and makes a spoon out of a piece of the coconut shell and you eat the meat.  The “meat” can fall on a continuum of softness and different people like different consistencies so my cousins and I would often check each other’s coconuts and trade for the one we wanted if possible.

So, in a return to my youth, my new favorite summer drink is coconut water. Thankfully I can get it in easily in cartons without the danger to life and limbs associated with the machete. I know there is a debate of sorts going on about whether it’s appropriate as a replacement for sports drinks since it has a lot of electrolytes and it’s high in potassium. The sports drink people point out it’s not high in sodium so it shouldn’t qualify as an electrolyte replacement. But none of that matters to me. Maybe it’s the countless number of “Water Coconuts” that I consumed as a kid, but there is nothing more refreshing than an ice cold coconut water on a super hot summer day.