Cabbages. Brains. I can see the resemblance. All those folds and crenellations. The cross-section of the core looking rather spinal, the tilt of the head casting a thoughtful aspect. Appealing to our sense of kinship with all life. Romantic, even.
But sooner or later, if you are a food, you’re going to make it onto someone’s blacklist. Even the benign onion is an untouchable for Buddhists and Hare Krishnas. If you are a carrot or a potato, there are folks who will shun you simply because you live underground. Then there is the class of leafy greens with a high oxalic acid content. The substance interferes with the absorption of calcium and so, spinach, beet, chard, and a host of others can be problematic for those with ‘osteo’ issues. After rooting out other high-profile culprits like carbs, fats, meat, dairy, gluten, eggs, what does that leave us with? Twigs? I was actually hoping to say cabbage. Turns out, it has its own bad-guy profile, goes with a gang known as ‘The Goitrogens’. No joke. Plays mischief on that sorry thyroid-challenged lot of which I am a member. Who would’ve thought that cabbage could become yet another forbidden apple?
Okay, you’re not sad. No big deal, you’re thinking. Just pick up some acai juice at the Health Food Store (that must not be named) for your anti-oxidants. (Sure it’s six bucks a pop, but their ORAC values are off the charts!) So go elsewhere for your anti-inflammatories, omega-3’s, cancer fighters, and cholesterol reducers. And yet, all of these can be provided by the cabbage and its relations (kale, brussels sprouts, rapini, broccoli, et al) along with the additional perks of economy, availability, and versatility. I, for one, shall not be abstaining. In fact, I recommend upgrading its rating to A+!
Adding cabbage to a green salad will enhance it texturally and is a good way to have it raw if you’re not a fan of cole slaw. Round it out with some avocado, nuts, and seeds. Steam a wedge and top with a garlicky tomato sauce for a great side for fish, beef, or cheesey rice. And on a cold, damp day, a bowl of this Hot and Sour Soup will unleash your inner brawn. Don’t worry if you don’t have the exact ingredients. Like many soups, it’s very adaptable. If you don’t want to bother tracking down the soup paste, just add something terribly hot and a splash or two of vinegar, or lime juice. Use whatever tofu you like. I recommend these two because of the contrast between them: one is dense and spicy and the other is light and creamy. No leeks? No problem; use onions. Of course, some kind of broth is essential, whether vegetable, chicken, or beef.
Recipe: Hot and Sour Cabbage Soup
4 Tbsp oil
1 to 2 leeks, cleaned, trimmed of darker green parts, sliced
2 to 3 stalks celery, sliced
½ smallish head of cabbage, thinly sliced
½ large can of diced tomatoes
1/3 packet of Asian Home Szechuan Hot and Sour Soup paste
2 to 3 litres vegetable stock
1 pkg Ying Ying Gourmet Tofu in Black Bean Sauce
½ pkg Mori-Nu firm silken tofu, sliced into 1 x 1 in. pieces
1 large clove garlic, minced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
Fresh coriander, minced
Add oil to large pot over medium heat. Stir in leeks and celery.
After a few minutes add the cabbage and stir. Cover and cook for 5 min.
Add the tomatoes and their juice.
Whisk the soup paste in a small bowl of broth to dissolve as much as possible.
Add this and most of stock to vegetables. Bring to a near boil, turn down heat, and simmer for perhaps 40 min. to an hour. Stir in the two tofus and add more broth if it seems necessary. Stir in the scallions, garlic, and coriander. Makes a big batch, and you’ll be glad.
* Speaking of brains: get yourself to a library or bookstore for a copy of “Feynman” by Jim Ottaviani (writer) and Leland Myrick (artist). Written and illustrated in the graphic novel style, it is a biography of the renowned American physicist Richard Feynman. As brains go, his was phenomenal, and the tale of his character and interests and personal challenges is utterly engaging and wonderful. The artwork is pretty special too.
Now that you’ve sat through the cabbage portion, you can think about a cookie. Every blogger and her brother-in-law have a version of this on their site these days, so why not us?
Recipe: Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 c whole wheat flour (sifted 3 times before measuring)
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
1 and 2/3 cups brown sugar, not packed
1 and 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup powdered sugar, but you’ll have some leftover
Place the chocolate and oil in a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water on low heat. Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted. Remove from heat and cool.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
Beat together the brown sugar and the chocolate-oil mixture in a large bowl.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla with the final egg.
On low speed, add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Refrigerate for an hour at least. It’s perfectly fine to keep the dough refrigerated for another few days if you’d like to bake some or all of these later.
Turn on oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Form the dough into 1-in. balls. Roll them in the powdered sugar and place on sheets 2 inches apart.
Bake for about 15 minutes, slightly more if you want them crunchier, less for softer. Keep in mind that they do firm up as they cool. You should rotate your pans part way through baking for even-ness.
Cool on racks. Makes about 3 dozen. Store in air-tight tins: good for 3 or 4 days.