Curtido!

It sounds like a rallying cry, doesn’t it? “Curtido!,” I cry, waving my hat from up on the ramparts. And you are inspired! Inspired to make amazing Salvadoran cabbage slaw.

Salvadoran cabbage slaw accompanies a nutroast sandwich

I haven’t been posting much lately. I think I lost my focus when I had to put my CSA box on hiatus for financial reasons. Makes sense, since the CSA box actually is the focus of the blog, and therefore if there’s no CSA box… Well, we all see where this is going. It’s been great to have a place to plan my weekly menus and stay in touch with my GF and vegan blogger communities, but I definitely seem to be posting much less than I used to.

Today I’m going back to my roots. In My Box is a place to learn what to do with veggies, whether they come in a box or from the farmer’s market or the bargain-bin grocery store. (What up, FoodsCo, my financial salvation!) So here’s my new favorite thing to do with cabbage. It may not be strictly seasonal right now, but it’s always cheap!

One of the awesome cookbooks I got from my awesome mom this Christmas was Terry Hope Romero’s new book about vegan Latin cooking, Viva Vegan. I’ve only made a few recipes from it so far but they have all been excellent. By far my favorite, and one that I keep coming back to again and again, is her recipe for Salvadoran cabbage slaw, aka curtido. Most of the recipes in Viva Vegan range from fairly to extremely complicated. I feel like cooking from it is an investment in learning to cook authentic Latin cuisine, so it’s worth the time and effort, but they aren’t recipes I’ll put in my everyday arsenal.

Creamy corn-crusted tempeh pot pie (Pastel de Choclo) from Viva Vegan

Curtido, on the other hand, is ridiculously simple (although even tastier if you make it a day ahead). I love the silky texture, the sharpness of the vinegar, and the unexpected burst of flavor from the oregano. I’d never eaten anything before where oregano was so the predominant flavor, and it works addictively well in this salad. I just recently bought some Mexican oregano, which I’ve never cooked with before, and I’m super excited to see what that’s like in my next batch of curtido.

Curtido with an Arepa with Sexy Avocado-Tempeh Filling (from Viva Vegan)

The recipe is already floating around the internet, so I’m going to repost it here for your future cabbage-preparation enjoyment.

Curtido (Salvadoran cabbage slaw)
This recipe is from the super delicious cookbook Viva Vegan by Terry Hope Romero.
Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients
1 to 1 1/2 pounds of green or red cabbage, shredded very finely (8 to 10 cups of shredded cabbage)
1 to 2 picked or raw jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
1 large carrot, shredded (sometimes I leave this out because shredding carrots is annoying!)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilanatro or parsley, or a combination of both
1 Tb coarse salt
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup white vinegar, or more to taste

Directions
1. If you’re shredding the cabbage yourself, the best possible tool to use is a mandoline gratter. Second best is a large food processor fitted with a shredding blade, but it’s entirely possible to also thinly slice cabbage with a sharp heavy chef’s knife and a cutting board.
Slice the cabbage in half, remove and discard the core, slice the cabbage into chunks that can fit on your mandoline or into your food processor, and shred it all up. If you have any remaining odd shaped pieces, chop them into fine shreds with a knife.

2. Combine the shredded cabbage and remaining ingredients in a large bowl and toss well to coat everything with the salt and vinegar.

3. Place the slaw into a very large resealable plastic bag, at least 1 gallon or more. Press out all the air and tightly seal the bag.

4. From here you can either seal it into another bag, place on a shelf in the fridge, and place a heavy object on top. Or place the bag in a large bowl, place a few heavy cans or a big bag of rice on top of the slaw, and transfer to the refrigerator.
Chill for at least 1 hour or overnight; the longer the cabbage chills, the more tender and juicy it will become. (But it’s also delicious straight away – it just won’t have the amazing tender texture yet.)

Cabbage with Cumin Seeds

I used to make this one dish all the time – cabbage with cumin seeds. Recently I started craving it and realized it had been years since I had made it. My mouth remembered it so well, but I had no idea where the recipe or idea came from, or exactly how the dish was made.

I had a vague memory of butter, and then possibly braising, although I’ve never really managed to figure out what braising is, so maybe not. But I really, really wanted the cabbage with cumin seeds, so I knew I had to at least try to recreate it.

I’m a big recipe-follower and recipe-improviser, not so much a recipe-creator. I do that sometimes (especially for stir-fries, soups, salads, and grain dishes), but usually the dressing, the sauce, the general flavor profile will be borrowed from somewhere else. But when I googled for recipes for cabbage with cumin seeds, nothing that I found matched my mouth’s memory. There were lots of Indian stir-fries and even a beer-braised cabbage recipe, but I was looking for something very simple. Something that apparently, at least as far as Google could tell, I actually made up myself.

So I winged it (wung it? wang it?) and it came out perfectly. Exactly as I remember, so delicious, and so easy. I’ll write it down here for my future self – five years from now when I check google for “cabbage with cumin seeds” I’ll actually be able to find what I’m looking for!

Cabbage with Cumin Seeds

1 head cabbage, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 T. butter (or vegan equivalent)
1 T. cumin seeds

In a heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the butter over gentle heat. (Low or medium-low heat, depending on the quirks of your stove.) When the butter begins to sputter (but never let it get close to browning!), toss in your cumin seeds and stir them around for a while. When their aroma starts floating up out of the pot and they are getting darker in color, add in the cabbage, and toss it with the butter and the cumin seeds. Stir everything around for a while, then cover the pot and let cook. If the cabbage isn’t cooking, turn up the heat a bit. Stir occasionally to keep from burning/sticking. When cabbage is as tender as you like it, remove from heat and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Cabbage Gratin with Tempeh Bacon does the “freegan” thing

Savoy cabbage gratin with tempeh bacon

My menu plan this week included a Savoy cabbage gratin, accompanied by a photo but no recipe. I made the gratin starting with a recipe from Deborah Madison’s veggie cooking bible, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I initially didn’t post the recipe for two reasons: one, because I try not to post too many recipes from a single cookbook, to encourage people to buy the cookbooks I love; and two, because this was a strange little “in-between” recipe, not quite vegan but not quite full-blown eggs-and-dairy.

However I got a couple of requests for the recipe almost as soon as it went up, so I checked around and the original recipe for the gratin is already posted online. So the cat is out of the bag, as it were, and I’ll post my annotated version here. The recipe is just a step away from veganization, and hopefully my notes on the changes that did work will help someone take it that final step. I’m even tagging it as vegan because I feel sure that an experienced vegan cook could take this gratin to vegan-recipe paradise without a second thought.

Why not entirely vegan? Well, last week Duck and my families had a lovely Chanukah party that included sour cream for the potato latkes. Nobody wanted to take home the sour cream, so under the rules of “freegan” eating (if it’s destined for the trash we may as well eat it, at least in terms of our environmental/animal welfare/consumer impact) I brought it back with me. And when I was looking for something simple to do with one of my two Savoy cabbages I decided a gratin would be a good place to use some of the sour cream.

Nearly Vegan Cabbage Gratin with Tempeh Bacon
Below I give you the original recipe with my changes and notes in italics

Butter and freshly grated Parmesan for the dish (I used Earth Balance and nutritional yeast flakes)
1 1/2 pounds cabbage diced into 2 inch squares (I used one large Savoy cabbage)
1/3 cup flour (I used Pamela’s GF baking mix, which contains leavening and xanthan gum)
1 cup milk (I used hemp milk)
1/4 cup creme fraiche or cream (I used the sour cream)
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
3 eggs (I used Energ-G egg replacer equiv. to 3 eggs)
3 T. minced parsley
salt and pepper
4 strips of tempeh bacon
Other possible additions: mustard, other cheeses, fresh dill, caraway seeds

Preheat the oven to 375.

Butter a gratin dish and coat the sides with nutritional yeast/parmesan.

Boil cabbage for 5 minutes in salted water (or steam in a steamer basket for ~8-10 minutes to preserve nutrients).

While the cabbage is cooking, pan-fry the tempeh bacon in a pan with a little olive oil until the bacon is brown and a bit crisp. Cut bacon into small pieces.

Rinse and drain the cabbage, pressing out as much water as possible.

Whisk together flour, milk, cream, tomato paste, egg (replacer), parsley, salt, and pepper, until smooth, and then add tempeh bacon and cabbage, stirring to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared gratin dish.

Bake uncovered for 50 minutes (or 70 minutes, which is how long it took to get firm with the ingredients I was using) until firm and lightly brown. To check for doneness, use a wooden spatula to gently pull apart the top layers of cabbage. If the gratin is still runny in the middle, keep cooking until it becomes firm. Keep an eye on the top layer to ensure it doesn’t burn.

Serve hot.

Eating with the season on a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

I’ve just arrived home from a fascinating four days at the Hazon Food Conference in Pacific Grove. The conference explored all kinds of interesting intersections, between environmentalism and food systems, Judaism and food ethics, social justice and foodie culture, personal financial investment and sustainable agriculture, and many more. I learned so much, both from the sessions and panels I attended as well as all the informal conversations I had with fellow conference-goers. You can read more about my time there here and here. I feel deep gratitude to the Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation for sponsoring around 40 young adults, including me, providing full scholarships for all of us to the conference.

The Local Foods Wheel

On Sunday, right before we left for home, the conference had a big marketplace where folks could give out info and sell books they’d written or published, foods they’d made, and so on. At one of the tables I came across one of my favorite things ever, the San Francisco Bay Area Local Foods Wheel, being sold by one of the wheel’s creators. I first encountered the wheel, which is a stunning combination of gorgeous artwork and design with intriguing, well-presented information, on a refrigerator in the Spirit Rock kitchen when I was working back there during a retreat. (You’re not supposed to read anything on retreat, but who could resist those tiny, perfect line drawings with their little cursive labels?) Now it’s the most popular item on our refrigerator; every guest and visitor is magnetically drawn to it and we usually have to pull them away – they just want to stand there spinning it and spinning it and looking at every picture! The wheel shows on its top layer all the foods that are in season year-round in the Bay Area (and we’re lucky – there are so many of them!). Then you spin the top layer around to match up with the current time of year, and the bottom layer reveals the foods in season at this time.

Our CSA keeps us local and seasonal at every meal, but we’re not getting a box this week, so I turned to the wheel to help me plan this week’s menu. (My other goal for the week: use up all the lettuces from our box we’ve been keeping on life support for the past couple of weeks!)

For an assemblage of great, gluten-free menu plans, check out this week’s Gluten-Free Menu Swap over at The GF CF Cookbook. (The theme for this week’s swap is leftover ham, which, as a vegetarian, I can’t contribute to at all. I do have smoky beans and tempeh bacon this week, though, which are kind of the same flavor profile.) And, as always, for a huge round-up of menu plans from all over the web – and the world – check out the giant MPM compendium over at orgjunkie.

What’s in season:

Monday: Winter greens
Wine braised lentils over toast with Tuscan kale and pearl onions (Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers)
Red leaf salad

Wine braised lentils over gluten-free quinoa toast with Tuscan kale and pearl onions

Tuesday: Butternut squash
Vegan “mac and cheese” made with butternut squash “cheese” and Tinkyada brown rice spirals
Romaine lettuce salad with balsamic vinaigrette

Wednesday: Brussel sprouts and wild mushrooms
Brussels sprouts and mushroom ragout with herbed vegan, GF dumplings (Vegetarian Suppers)
Mixed lettuces salad

Brussels sprouts ragout with wild mushrooms and herbed gluten-free dumplings

Thursday: From Duck’s mom’s garden!
Simple oven-roasted butternut squash
Arugula salad with sauteed red onions and toasted walnuts
Tangy red lentils
Quinoa with coconut oil

Friday: Savoy cabbage
Savoy cabbage gratin with tempeh bacon
Baked sweet potato
Homemade smoky pinto beans

Savoy cabbage gratin with tempeh bacon

Saturday: Parsnips, winter radishes, rutabegas
Roasted root vegetables with home-grown rosemary
Chard and walnut yum
Impressionist cauliflower

Sunday: Meyer lemons
Roasted broccoli with meyer lemon zest and pine nuts
“Sloppy” sushi with balsamic-glazed portobello mushrooms

Seasonal extras: Turnips and pomelos
Middle Eastern-style turnip pickles

A fresh batch of turnip pickles (with beet for color)

Candied pomelo peel

Candied Pomelo Rinds Dipped in Bittersweet Chocolate

Savoy Cabbage and Bartlett Pears ~ Week of December 9th

It has been really cold here. Really cold. And it’s not just me being a thin-blooded California wimp, either. It snowed in the Berkeley Hills a couple of days ago. Snow!

I know, I know. “Boo hoo, cry me a river,” you’re probably shivering at me from the middle of a Minnesota winter. We are spoiled here – even when it’s winter, it’s summer. Or something like that.

Nothing exemplifies a Bay Area winter meal more than what we had for dinner tonight: California Minestrone and Salade Nicoise. Lots of tummy warming goodness from the soup and stick-to-your-ribs heartiness from the potatoes in the salad, but the crazy thing is that it’s December and every single element of these two veggie-intensive meals came straight out of our CSA box. (Except for a couple things in the salad: olives – left over from Thanksgiving – and tomatoes – doubtlessly hothouse.)

I’ve been wanting to make California Minestrone ever since the weather started getting nippy. The recipe is from the fantastic cookbook Spa Food by Edward J. Safdie, chef of the venerable Sonoma Mission Inn. The plating and food design are entirely 80s (the cookbook was published in 1985) but the recipes for healthy, satisfying, sophisticated food featuring California flavors are timeless. I grew up eating from this cookbook (my mom and I have made nearly every recipe in it) and this soup in particular invokes for me both the chill and the bounty of a Bay Area winter.

I was lacking only a leek and some cabbage to make the soup (I often skip the green beans and spinach for my winter version), and when I opened our box today, there they were. Here’s the complete record of what came in today’s size “small” box:

Satsuma Mandarins (2 lb)
Bartlett Pears (1.5 lb)
Savoy Cabbage (2 lb)
Collard Greens (1 bunch)
Baby Bok Choy (1.5 lb)
Broccoli (1 lb)
Red Onions (0.5 lb)
Leeks (1 lb)
Yellow Onion (0.5 lb)

California Minestrone (from Spa Food by Edward J. Safdie)
This is a light but filling soup that can be made with a variety of vegetables, but I think the leek, carrot, cabbage, and tomatoes (I used canned whole tomatoes) are essential for giving it sweetness, acid, and depth. Serve it with a crusty loaf of rustic bread if you eat bread and with a hearty sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top if you eat dairy.

1 T. unsalted butter or Earth Balance
1/2 an onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 leek (white part only), washed and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 carrot, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 garlic clove, minced
3-4 canned plum tomatoes, drained or 2 unpeeled tomatoes, seeded and chopped
6 cabbage leaves, coarsely chopped
6 oz. fresh green beans, ends trimmed and cut on a slant into 1/2 inch pieces
2 quarts stock (I used our latest batch of scrap stock)
10 spinach leaves, washed, drained, and coarsely chopped
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Salt or vegetable seasoning to taste
1 t. pesto (I usually use more like 1-3 T. vegan pesto, which is often pretty mild)
1/4 C. grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese

In a 4-quart pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, leek, carrot, celery, garlic, tomatoes, cabbage, and green beans, and saute over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring often.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

Add the spinach and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove the pot from heat and stir in the pesto. Taste the finished soup and adjust the seasonings.

Serve in large heated soup bowls and sprinkle with 1 T. grated cheese over each portion.

If you follow the recipe exactly, this will make 4 servings, at 150 calories per serving.

Summer soup

Ah, summer in San Francisco.

I arrived home last week after a long visit to New York. (My trip is one reason this blog has gotten hopelessly out of date!) After a couple of weeks of skirts and sandals and other wispy pieces of actual summer clothing, it was a shock to return to a Bay Area August, full of fog and the kind of grim cold that lingers in the corners of the apartment, even when I have the heater going full blast. It was such a nice surprise that my new flannel pajamas had arrived while I away. Flannel pajamas in August. Only in San Francisco.

But this interesting intersection of season and weather does have one terrific silver lining, and that’s Summer Soup. A nice warm bowl containing all the produce bounty of summer, and a nice chilly day to enjoy it on!

Summer Soup with Vegan Pesto

When I saw how full of produce the fridge and counter were when I got home, I defrosted my most delicious scrap stock as a base (the delicious batch IV stock that Duck couldn’t stop sipping straight), and put together some summer soup. I tend to have trouble making soup without a recipe, trouble that takes the form of lackluster flavor, but I wanted to make a soup that would use up all the veggies I had already, not the veggies a recipe wanted me to use.

I decided to wing it, using red onions, fresh corn, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, pink potatoes, green cabbage, carrots, and some roasted garlic, and the results were very good. I’m not going to post the recipe here because it was so basic and pretty much all the flavor came from the stock, so this would have been a pretty dull pot of soup if I’d been using canned broth, or even one of my milder scrap stocks. Duck also used some CSA basil and some basil he’s been growing on our front porch to make a puree of basil, garlic, olive oil, and pine nuts (basically, vegan pesto) which we swirled into the bowls of soup individually. As a final touch we served the soup over heaps of steamed quinoa, and had our protein for the day as well.

And though we sat in our chilly kitchen, wrapping our frostbitten fingers around our steaming bowls, at least we could taste the warmth of summer’s goodness on our spoons.

Scrap stock, III

Getting bored of my surely less-than-engrossing detailed account of what I put in my stock each week? Well, I’d like to keep track of it for my own purposes and something tells me there’s a short life-expectancy for the soggy little scraps of scratch paper I use to record all the components as I toss them in the pot.

This week was not as successful, I think because of technical difficulties. I left the pot alone for its simmering time (I’m usually in the kitchen with it doing kitchen things, but I was in another room this time) and I think the fire may have actually gone out. So this round of stock is very mild. However it will serve to add a bit of flavor and nutrition to something that wants a mild broth, like risotto, so perhaps it is actually a blessing to have one batch with a decidedly non-aggressive character. I was a bit let down, though, since I felt like I was being wild and throwing caution to the winds, what with all the ginger peels and lemon balm stalks.

More scrap stock fixin\'s

I googled “scrap stock” and found an interesting recipe from the civil war. Inspired by this, I added an apple core to my pot (although I forgot to save most of them this week – I need to get in the habit of putting them in the stock box and not the compost). I quite flagrantly ignored the admonition to never use cabbage scraps, however. Take what you like and leave the rest, right?

Into this week’s pot:

Leek tops
Green garlic tops
Onion skin
Garlic skin
Asparagus trim
Red cabbage trim
Apple core
Lemon balm stalks
Ginger peel
Potato peel
Portobella stems
Chard stalks
Beet green stalks
Kale stalks
Sugar snap pea trim
Carrot trim
Bok choy trim
Fennel trim
Thyme stalks