Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Quest Continues

After a weekend of eating processed and fatty (albeit delicious) food while out of town, it was clear that I needed to do my best to return to my usual eating habits. Since springtime brings out the best in me (spring vegetables + bacon = the best in me) I figured the time had come to make some more spring veggies as a sort of cleanse. I generally run screaming from anything that even sounds like a cleanse, but in this case I actually felt like my body needed it, and that almost never happens. I figured I'd start with something like cabbage, which in my never ending quest to convince the world to try unpopular foods, needs all the support it can get.

Like brussels sprouts and other green things from our childhood, cabbage has long been massacred by mothers across America. For years the culinary heads of our households were braising cabbage for up to an hour, breaking down its every fiber and creating a stench so foul that even the dog pretended not to be hungry. But it's not their fault. As I mentioned in my brussels sprouts post, it had long been held true that certain veggies were to be cooked in in bitter liquids for upwards of 30 minutes. The fact is that not only do most vegetables lose the majority of their nutrients in that kind of preparation, but their flavor is transformed into a smelly mess, and the texture becomes a disaster the likes of which FEMA couldn't fix. So it's no surprise that you rarely hear people say that there's nothing they'd love more than a big bowl of cabbage.

But that could all change if we give this delicious veggie a chance. Whether in a salad preparation, pickled or stir-fried, cabbage is quick to cook up, good for you, and actually really tasty. And like anything in my repertoire, it's great when paired with bacon or other pork products. This time I paired a mild napa cabbage (also known as Chinese cabbage) with some sweet and plump spring peas (which I prefer frozen because they're picked and frozen at their peak), spring onions and honey ham. For a bit of zing and a bit of freshness I added a good helping of lemon zest and the juice of half a lemon to brighten up the flavor. The dish takes only about 15 minutes to prepares and makes an excellent side dish. Here's the recipe:

Napa Cabbage with Peas and Ham

1/2 a large Napa cabbage, shredded
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 cup honey ham, cut into strips
1 cup frozen peas
6 Tbsp olive oil
Juice and zest of half a lemon
Grated Parmesan cheese

1.Heat oil, garlic and spring onion in a large skillet. Cook until just before garlic starts to brown and add cabbage, ham and lemon zest.

2. When the cabbage starts to wilt (about 5 minutes), add the peas and cook until cabbage is done, about 1-2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add lemon juice. Toss to coat and serve topped with Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!


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