Sunday, December 31, 2017

Recipe of the Month: Buttered cabbage

After getting back from our Indiana trip late Thursday night, Brian and I knew we'd have to hurry to squeeze in a Recipe of the Month for December before it was time to ring in the new year. And with the thermometer stuck well below the freezing point, we weren't too eager to run out and buy any new produce for it.

Fortunately, I was prepared for this possibility. Before we left, I'd noted that we had a half head of cabbage left in the veggie drawer, so I'd hunted through our big green cookbook (How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman) to find something we could make with it. The first recipe that jumped out at me in the index was "Buttered Cabbage," which could hardly have been simpler: boil some cabbage leaves until they're tender, then toss them with melted butter (browned, if you can manage it). Bittman's description said, "For a two-ingredient vegetable dish, this is pretty great," and it wouldn't require us to run out and buy anything. I figured if this dish turned out to be as good as Bittman claimed, it would be an incredibly useful addition to our veggie repertoire; since we tend to have both these ingredients in our fridge at all times, we could whip it up any time we happened to need a green vegetable to round out a meal, rather than just relying on frozen peas. And even if we didn't love it, it would still serve the useful purpose of finishing out our Recipe of the Month selections for 2017. Sold.

So on Friday night, we made this simple cabbage recipe as an accompaniment to some baked potatoes and roasted free-range chicken legs, spiced with Forward! seasoning from Penzey's (part of one of our Christmas presents). And it was...okay. I wouldn't call it great, or even "pretty great," but it was edible.  Cooked for just a few minutes, the cabbage was tender but not mushy, and the brown butter added a little fullness to the flavor, but it was still pretty bland.

As an experiment, we tried sprinkling the cabbage with a blend Brian mixed up of salt and a little more of the Forward! seasoning. As it turned out, this actually perked up the flavor quite a bit. Penzey's describes this blend as an "all-purpose seasoning," blended from pepper, onion, paprika, garlic, and an array of other spices, none of them overpowering; it's a bit like a mild chili powder without the oregano. With a dash of this seasoning layered over top of the browned butter, the cabbage was reasonably flavorful—but it's still not something we'd go out of our way to make. It might serve as an acceptable emergency veggie for those nights when there's not much else available, but I don't think it will become a staple.

And that wraps up our Recipes of the Month for 2017. Fortunately, I've got plenty of new ones to try out in 2018; on our regular annual trip to Half Price Books in Indianapolis, I picked up a copy (for just $7) of the Fix-It and Forget-It Vegetarian Cookbook, which promises "565 Delicious Slow-Cooker, Stove-Top, Oven, and Salad Recipes." The "Vegetables and Fruits" chapter alone contains 92 recipes, so we should have no trouble coming up with new dishes to try in the coming year.

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