Only in New Orleans. We say that about so many of our habits here, meaning they’re quirky, unique or at least different. I like the one about catching cabbages off trucks at St. Patrick’s Day parades.
I had to show this to my friend from New York for her to believe it. There are a lot of St. Pat’s parades in New York, too, but they don’t catch things like cabbages, bell peppers and carrots. Why, I’ve come home many a time with sacks of cabbages and all the trimmings.
When my older daughter was no more than six months old, we dressed her up in green and strolled her up to the Irish Channel for the big parade, and filled her stroller basket and all the empty grocery sacks we could find with cabbages. It never occurred to me that she could have been knocked in the head by one. I think we have special guardians up above who protect our children from parade throws and the huge trucks that carry our throws and riders.
I got to thinking out of the box on what to do with all of this cabbage. I usually cook it with corned beef or braise it to eat with cornbread. Or make cabbage rolls or Cole slaw. But cabbage is almost universal, grown before Christ, and can be pickled, fermented, steamed, sautéed and eaten raw.
It is consumed every day in south Korea in the form of kimchi, and most European countries have their special twist on the ancient and healthful vegetable.
For starters, I tried Korean, Italian and Irish recipes, and my taster (my husband) and I loved every one of them.
* a condiment or side dish that can be served with many Asian dishes
4 pounds Napa cabbage
½ cup kosher or coarse sea salt (not iodized)
1 bunch green onions, roughly chopped
3 Tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
3 Tablespoons finely minced garlic
2 Tablespoons coarsely ground dried red chili peppers
4 teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
Cut cabbage into fourths and rinse well. Drain and slice into 2-inch chunks. In a large bowl (stainless steel or glass) toss cabbage with salt. Add water just to cover the cabbage, and leave to soak overnight at room temperature.
Next day, drain cabbage but don’t rinse. In a clean mixing bowl, mix cabbage with all other ingredients, and pack into a sterilized 1-quart canning jar and a 1-pint jar. Store at room temperature for about 3 days, opening to allow gas to escape daily. Stir slightly with wooden spoon or chopsticks when opening. Continue doing this until the taste is as you like it. Then store in refrigerator for up to a month.
Makes 1 ½ quarts
Irish Cabbage-Potato Soup
1 head green cabbage
4 Tablespoons butter
1 bunch green onions, chopped, white and green parts divided
1 large onion, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
2 large potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Cut cabbage into fourths, removing any damaged outside leaves, rinse and drain. Chop into smaller pieces. Remove and discard tough dark green parts of leek, rinse thoroughly and chop white and light green parts.
Melt butter in large pot. Sauté leek and white onions (both) over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, potatoes, cabbage and seasonings, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf. Using a hand blender, purée about half of the soup, or remove half from pot and purée in a food processor or blender and return to pot.
Adjust seasonings and stir in the heavy cream, parsley and green onion tops and heat to serve.
Italian-style Cabbage and Pork
1 green or Savoy cabbage
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds grounds pork
1 14.5-ounce can plum tomatoes, chopped, with juices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 ½ cups milk
4 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
Discard any damaged leaves of the cabbage. Carve out the center core, and gently remove outer leaves, rinsing to clean. Heat a large pot of boiling water, add salt and boil the outer, tougher leaves of the cabbage for 5 minutes. Remove from pot and drain. Boil the smaller inside leaves for 3 minutes and drain.
Empty and dry the pot. Add olive oil and sauté onion and garlic until transparent. Heat a skillet and brown the pork until crumbly. Drain the pork of fat, discard fat, and add pork to onions and garlic. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and Italian seasoning. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Next, make a béchamel sauce in a small sauce pan. Melt butter and remove pot from heat. Stir in flour until smooth. Add milk gradually and stir until smooth. Set over medium heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened. Set aside.
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with butter and line with a layer of cabbage leaves. Spread a layer of meat mixture over the cabbage, followed by a layer of béchamel sauce. Repeat twice until meat and sauce are used up. You may have leftover cabbage for another use. Top with Parmesan, then the 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter cut into half-inch cubes.
Place in the upper portion of oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until bubbly and browning on top. Let the dish set for 10 minutes before serving. If water from the cabbage is excessive, pour off some of it, if desired.