Cabbage Patch Kid

I’m a European mutt. I’m pretty sure our dog Jack has a less mixed background than I do. I am Irish, English, German, and Belgian in varying amounts. And that’s what I know. Imagine if I took one of those DNA oral swabs. There could be more. I could have some Italian, Portuguese, and maybe even some Scandanavian.

Muttdom has it’s benefits. Fewer genetically inherited diseases, less likely to marry your cousin, and so on, but being a mutt dilutes your food heritage. For example, my husband Dan is first generation Ukrainian American. For the Eastern Orthodox Christmas, celebrated in January, we have a ethnically proscribed meal of 12 vegetarian dishes that we prepare from scratch using Dan’s mother’s recipes. Cabbage plays a pivotal role in this vegetarian meal of twelve dishes to represent the twelve apostles. We stuff the vareniki with cooked cabbage and dress the boiled sauerkraut dumplings with caramelized onions. We stuff cabbage with rice and mushrooms and kasha and drown it in a mushroom sauce.


During Ukrainian Christmas last year, I learned that variance from the family recipes was not tolerated. Last year, I tried to sneak an Honey Cake recipe in substitution for the Ukrainian one. The epicurious recipe had aromatic coffee to deepen the flavor and was based on an Israeli recipe. The substitution was noticed by my mother-in-law and complimented, but noted to be inconsistent with our effort. Israel is thousands of miles from the Ukraine. No fusion cooking allowed.

As the non-Ukrainian, the least favorable job-boiling the cabbage-falls in my lap year after year. I call it the Cabbage Boil Anti-facial. You hover over a vat of boiling water with a cabbage head floating in it for hours, pealing off cabbage leaves to wrap around the savory stuffing. You need 2-3 heads to feed twenty people leading to a blotchy, sweating complexion. After you are done, you still have to stuffs the rolls, bake them, and make the sauce to cover up the stench of kasha.

Several months ago, a woman cut my hair. During the shampoo, she told me she was Ukrainian. The conversation twisted and turned and eventually she bragged to me that she makes cabbage rolls for her family during the week. During the week, I asked. Impossible. Without the cabbage facial? Her secret–the microwave. “Ten minutes,” she flipped up her hands with a shrug, “It’s done and I stuff them–then I have dinner, and leftovers for lunch for my husband, my children and me.” I was jealous for the first time in my entire cooking life that we did not have a microwave.

Being an ethnic mutt, there is no food that I claim as my own. We claim Irish as our predominant ethnic heritage, and therefore, we have corned beef and cabbage. This may account for the delay in my acceptance of the Brassica family. My mother is a mix of German settlers and Belgians by way of Canada. I always felt a special kinship with the horses on the Budweiser commercials due to this. Despite the central European descent, we never ate sauerkraut or Brussel sprouts while growing up. I didn’t discover my love for Brussies (as they are called in our household) until I was in my 30’s. My adoration from sauerkraut came around the same time, after reading Salt by Mark Kurlansky and discovering Dante’s Dogs outside the Tractor Tavern in my wild days. When I met Dan, he woo’d me with a friend’s Bear Sausage over cooked red cabbage. After that, me and the entire Brassica family were pretty much friends for life.

I’m thinking of cabbage these days because Dan and I just returned from a two week trip to Munich and the Bavarian Alps made possible by his job. alps in sunset

After two weeks, I thought I had reached my fill of cabbage or kohl as they call it. Fresh sauerkraut, aged sauerkraut, cabbage cooked in pig drippings, raw cabbage on a salad bar, coleslaw, etc. I was starved for a solid green vegetable. Or even broccoli. Or a carrot. Or a meal without pork.

Returning home, our garden was adorned with sungold tomatoes and cherry tomatoes and the first night home, we picked our tomatoes and had a salad with fresh tomatoes and mozarella. But, our second night, I craved…cabbage. It was odd. I would close my eyes and all I could think of was cabbage. Initially, I thought of sauerkraut, but that would takes too long. I needed cabbage and I needed it now.

I bought a cabbage from our local farmer’s market. Initially, I was going to make fresh sauerkraut. But, then, I thought of the freedom of mid-August cabbage rolls. No rules, just filling a leaf full of delectable, in season veggies, without the mindful eye of ethnicity.

Summer Farmer’s Market Cabbage Rolls

1 cabbage head, cored
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 fresh red onion, diced
3 carrots, dices
1 bunch (8 leaves) basil, chopped
2 cups kale, chopped
1 1/2 cups, mixture of Israeli couscous and red quinoa (sold at Trader’s Joe)
1 teaspoon Better than Boullion, beef
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 ounces chevre
olive oil or bottle mushroom or tomato sauce

1. Bring large stockpot filled with about 10 inches of water to a boil. Once boiling submerge cabbage and cook until leaves begin separating. Alternatively, it you have a microwave and are part of the 21st century, consider this technique:

While cabbage is cooking, peel off each leaf as it dissociates. Do you see why this is the cabbage facial? This part takes forever; I’d try the microwave. Cut out small amount of each ridge–about 2-3 cm to aid with folding the filling in. Lay on a plate until ready to fill. If they break, line 9 x 13 pan with incomplete cabbage leaves. Preheat oven to 340 degrees.

cabbage boiling

2. Heat oil in a pan. Cook diced onions until translucent. Add a dash of salt.

3. Add carrots and stir. Cover and stir intermittently over 5-10minutes until carrots softened and add chopped kale or chopped greens. Add basil.


4. Add Israeli couscous mixture and 2 1/4 cups water. If you have Better than Boullion Beef, add one tablespoon. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Uncover and cook until most of the water is gone.

cabbage rolls

5. Add chevre and stir. Stuff cabbage like you would a burrito. Lay unused cabbage leaves along the bottom of a 9/12 inch pan. Cook for 30 min at 350 degrees. Can bake with cherry tomatoes and olive oil with salt, or serve with any sauce you like (mushroom, Marinara, salsa.)

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Walla Walla Wonderful

We spent a Walla Walla wonderful weekend with our friends and family in Eastern Washington last weekend. When the car was finally unloaded on our return, I found myself the proud new owner of three Walla Walla Onions. We went for wine and the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival.

walla walla sweets

So, tonight I was thinking, what to do with the sweet onions? As wonderful as the sweet onions are, they don’t hold up to much cooking. They would be a sloppy mess for Caramelized Onion Pasta which I will have to post later.  Plus, it’s 80 degrees in Seattle.  Who wants to cook onions for two hours?

The fact that we are even discussing the merits of onions shows my vegetable maturity. I hesitate to even bring this up, being a food blog of sorts, but I once vomited at the mere suggestion of diced raw onions.chopped onions

One might say I was spoiled. Until the ripe age of five, my mother removed any raw onions that might dirty my dish.  She was a working mother, my father was traveling, and sometimes, she sat us down around the kitchen table with McDonalds. The night in question, I remember, was a tough one for her. She was overwhelmed and tired from her day as a nurse. She scraped the raw onions off one side of my burger and flipped it back on my plate. I was in my usual chair across from Amy, my sister, in her regimental pigtails. I took a bite. “Mommy, there are still onions.” I whined, offering the burger back to her.

“Just eat it, okay.” Her bangs fell around her face as she bit into her burger.

I looked across the table at Amy in her pigtails and halter top, then to Jenny, my older sister, who nodded at me threateningly. I tucked my head in and took a large bite, hoping to make them all proud.

The sulfur of raw onions filled the roof of my mouth, then diffused into my nose. I stared hard at Amy as my tongue seemed to swell, and the saliva evaporated from my mouth. “Ummm, Mommy?” I said. “I think, I’m going to…”

Then, I did it. I blew a McDonalds hamburger across the kitchen table and onto Amy, triggered by the smell and taste of raw onions.

Fast forward thirty five years (the glory of growing up, there is a fast forward button), I overcame my onion issues.

Three onions and I have to make dinner for tonight as well as a dish for meeting up with friends tomorrow for burgers. Here are two recipes worthy of something as wonderful as a Walla Walla Sweet.

scallops, tomatoes, walla wallas

Scallops with Walla Walla Sweet Onion and Cherry Tomato Salsa.
1/2 Walla Walla Onion, diced
1 cup halved Sun Golds or whatever Cherry Tomato you have
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried dill or 3 teaspoons fresh dill minced
10 scallops
Couscous, rice, quinoa or whatever prepared grain you like

Combine first 5 ingredients and let macerate for 1/2 hour. If you like spice, can add 1/4 diced jalapeño. Heat grill and sear each side of the scallops for 1-2 minutes. Serve scallops over grain with salsa on top. Serves 2.

pickled onions

Fresh Pickled Walla Walla Onions

2 1/2 Walla Walla Onions halved, then sliced thinly
6 mini peppers, mandolined
1 1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 star anise
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon mustard seed
2 bay leaves.

Heat vinegar, honey, allspice, mustard, and star anise over high heat. Once boiling, add sliced onions and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add thinly sliced mini peppers when the onions begin to soften. Pour mixture evenly into 2 pint jars. Serve in the next 2-7 days.

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Fava Bean Puree


1 1/2 cup shelled favas (about 3 pounds whole)
juice of 1/2 lime
olive oil

Remove favas from pods.  Blanch for about 1-2 minutes in boiling water.  Place in ice bath.  Shell favas into the bowl of a food processor.  Add lime juice, salt, espellete.  Puree while drizzling oil olive in food processor.  The mixture should have a light bright green color.  Serve with crudite, radishes, and pita chips.

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Radish Me!

Radishes are spicy, refreshing and a little unapproachable for the new vegetable explorer.  Thankfully, salt and butter forgive a million sins!  Dan and I became radish lovers after a visit to the Dundee Hills and a since closed restaurant called Farm to Fork at the Inn at Red Hills. I’d show you a picture of the radishes we grew, but we ate them all!!!

The radishes were served with butter and sea salt with their greens tossed in a mustard vinaigrette.

Beautiful pictures available at The Little Things blog. Please follow their link. I was very pleased when I did!

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Truckbed of Tomatoes in San Pancho, Mexico


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broccolini Continue reading

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Sugar Snap Peas and White Bean Hummus

Sugar SnappiesIMG_0833

Our dog Jack is what our vet calls a “grazer.”  Most dogs eat grass as an emetic–Jack eats it because he likes it.  He’s a big vegetable lover.  He begs for asparagus and adores broccolini.

Last summer, I planted extra sugar snap peas around some potatoes that I had just thrown in the dirt when they started to sprout.  I ignored the the sugar snappies; unloved and untrellised, they grew haphazardly and spindly along the ground.   One evening, sitting in the gloaming light, Dan and I heard a strange repetitive noise.  “Click…tug, tug, tug, snap, chomp, chomp, chomp.”  Jack was systematically snipping off each sugar snap pea with his teeth, then eating them.  He cleaned off 10 clusters of snap peas.

I’ve learned my lesson and have potted this years snappies.  I served them the other night with this white bean hummus.

1-2 cups white dried canneloni beans
1 head garlic
2 bay leaves
1 spring of rosemary
10 peppercorns
olive oil
espellete powder (if available-they sell it at the spanish table)

Soak beans overnight in water. Drain.

Head all of the ingredients in a saucepan with about 8 cups water. If you have a tea infuser or a bag for spices it is easier to remove the herbs/spices after cooking. If not, you will have to pick them out after cooking. Bring to boil and then lower to a simmer until beans are cooked. (?40min)

Drain and cool. Remove herbs and head of garlic, but retain the head of garlic.  Puree the cooked beans, salt, olive oil, espellete powder, and some of the cooked garlic (will have to squeeze out of the clove). I usually squeeze out about 4-6 cloves. If you want to limit the olive oil, you can use some pot water from the cooking and less olive oil. I use a food processor because it works better than a blender, though I’ve never tried an immersion blender.

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Cream of Whatever’s about to go bad Soup

I loathe supermarket grocery shopping. I hate the 4 minutes it takes me to drive to my supermarket. You know what type of supermarket–the kind with the loyalty card and aisles of sodas and cardboard boxes that will rescue you from whatever cooking malaise ails you. The kind with 8 billion choices of cake mix, but never the actual thing that you left your cute, neighborhood grocer and got in your car to come purchase. We bought a house next to an overpriced, tiny grocer with only the fresh produce, only a copy cuts of meat and fish, and I happily wander over after work to pick up yogurt. But the supermarket…Hate…It.

So my folks are coming to visit and they require a very specific brand of unflavored, nonfat, low calorie, nondairy coffee creamer. My cute little grocer does not carry this un-everything creamer, so I get in the car, drive 4 minutes, slowly creep through the parking lot of the Safeway looking for a spot, any spot for my car.

I buy 10x more things for only 4 times more money than my usual grocery visit, but it takes me an hour and guess what? They have every flavor of the nonfat, low cal brand specific creamer except for what? Unflavored. I hate the supermarket. I drive the deflating 4 minutes home.

Then, I get the pleasure of dragging in the 6 bags of crap I bought and didn’t need. Really, didn’t need, as I discover that I already had a gigantic head of cauliflower.

There must be a way to rescue such an abyssmal grocery experience.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

2 leeks
1 head of cauliflower chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 teaspoon cardamon
2 T water
2 T butter
1 3/4 cup 1% or whole milk
2 cups chicken broth
toasted pine nuts

Melt butter in Dutch over. Add leeks and cauliflower and then water and cardamon. Cook cauliflower until soft, but not browned. Add broth and milk and heat. Do not boil. Puree soup and serve with toasted pine nuts.

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Vegetable of the Year 2012

I was mired in indecision for this year’s VOY.  Unlike the 2011 winner, the sexy, blushing, bulbous radish, this year lacked the superstar vegetable that knocked our socks off.  I couldn’t decide so I made a list of prior winners to stimulate some thought.

2004 Fava Beans

2005 Delicata squash

2006 Cauliflower

2007 Brussel Sprouts

2008 Fennel

2009  Kale

2010  Sugar snap peas

2011 Radish

Ms. Orme’s 3rd period class recommended the sturdy potato, but despite my Irish roots, I could only recall one potato dish from the summer.  It was wonderful; we roasted potatoes from our garden on the grill.  I’d grown them from a bag of sprouting fingerlings I discovered one morning in the cabinet.

But that got me thinking of another vegetable that grew despite the odds.  Maybe vegetable of the year doesn’t have to be the hot, sexy now vegetable.  Maybe, VOY can be the girl next door who suddenly blossoms overnight.  That’s it!  The 2012 Vegetable of the Year is…

Teardrop Yellow Tomatoes

We had bought some expired seeds for teardrop tomatoes and planted them on a whim.  They grew like gangbusters thanks to Dan’s drip irrigation system.  I can’t provide a recipe because they can do anything.  We halve them into our salad, make caprese with basil and mozarella, roast them with cauliflower, and add them to green bean salad (blanched and chilled green beans tossed with tomatoes, feta, red onion, and red wine vinaigrette.)  Or, you can make a mean simple pasta like my Sicilian friend Morena, blistering the tomatoes with 4-5 cloves of garlic and oil until they spill their guts into a juicy sauce.  Enjoy!


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Fava Watermelon Salad

Favas get a bad name.  Ever since Anthony Hopkins uttered that line from Silence of the Lambs, it’s not hard to shutter and wish to not have any with chianti.

All of which is a shame because favas were my first vegetable of the year.  The rules on this award are a bit sketchy, but I’m pretty certain that a vegetable can’t win twice.  But if they could, favas would win again.

Today, I harvested a giant bowl of favas and there are still more in my front yard to harvest.  I shelled them before picking Dan up at the airport, planning to do an asparaguas/fava/arugula + feta + ?quinoa mixup of some sort.  Then, when I finally got to the grocery store, sans list, as I’m apt to do, I purchased a 6 pack of Clausthaler, 1 lemon, 2 limes, 1 pound of coffee, radishes, blueberries, 1/4 of a watermelon, and arugula.  Hmmm…

What to do?  No greek yogurt for my usual fava plan.  No asparagus for my clever mixup plan.

Never fear, crisis averted by the beauty of blanched favas.

2 pounds favas, shelled, blanched x 2minutes, then ice bath and peel

1/2 cup diced feta

4 cups arugula

1/8 watermelon cubed or balled

Lemon vinagrette  (Dan:  1/2 of a lemon juiced, olive oil, espelette (dash), bit (1t ish) of red wine vinegar, 2 t-ish dijon mustard, bit of brown sugar)

Salt/pepper to taste.

Toss above.  Eat.  Happy, green yum, yum.




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