Tag Archives: napa cabbage

THE HUNT FOR KIMCHI

One Christmas gift from my spouse was a kimchi pot. It seems as though I have been fermenting things my whole life. When I was a young boy, I helped my grandmother (from a German farm family in North Dakota) shred bushels of cabbage every fall. We used a wooden slicer with a guillotine-like blade – a rustic mandoline – to shred the cabbage before salting it and placing it in very large pottery crocks lined up along the wall of an outbuilding in her back yard. The crocks were filled to the brim with cabbage, salt, and water. Then we placed a cracked dinner plate on top of each crock and weighed them down with a brick or big rock. It then became my responsibility to check the crocks each day to replenish the liquid if needed. There must have been at least a dozen crocks, and the smell of fermenting cabbage soon became overwhelming in the building, even seeping out into the backyard. For a child, the process seemed interminable although it was probably only a couple of weeks. In any event, when my grandmother decided that the process was complete, it was time to fire up the canning equipment and activate the canning crew of women and children in the family. Steam rose from several big pots on the stove as jars were sterilized, filled and processed; sweat poured from the ladies who seemed happy enough. The end product of all this effort was rows of gleaming jars filled with sauerkraut. They would get stored in the scary basement and serve the family through the winter. At least once a week the evening meal consisted of a mound of sauerkraut, mashed potatoes with no butter, and a sausage (My recollection is that it was actually a hot dog.) That menu is one I resist to this day.

Those memories inspired me to try my hand at sauerkraut making when we lived in Louisiana. I found a small crock at a potters’ in Marshal, Texas. I shredded the cabbage on a wooden shredder we had found in an “antique store” – read junk shop – in some small East Texas town. I set up my fermentation lab in a hallway between the kitchen and dining room that we had dubbed the butler’s pantry. The smell of fermenting cabbage hung in the air of the butler’s pantry.  Our children, some of them teenagers, thought that Old Dad had gone off the deep end, and they were very amused. They loved to bring their friends to inspect the crock and inhale the fragrance. The visits always ended in gales of laughter.

In Santa Fe, Susan gave me a beautiful German crock to rekindle my interest in fermentation. I have written about the sauerkraut that I made with that crock. All of the family enjoyed Reuben sandwiches made with the sauerkraut. Unfortunately, the lid of the crock was broken in our move to California. We patched it together, and we tried to buy a new one, but apparently the German manufacturer has stopped importing to the United States.  The other problem was that the crock made  a LOT of sauerkraut.

Since our move to Southern California, we have had the opportunity to eat many varieties of Asian food. Korean restaurants are especially common nearby, and there are many families of Korean background who live in our neighborhood. We have become fans of kimchi. Susan apparently thought it was time to make another effort on fermentation, so she gave me a smaller glass container specially designed so that it is automatically vented and you don’t have to worry about maintaining a water seal. Of course, you can make sauerkraut or giardiniera, but my first effort seemed like it should be kimchi. I assumed that finding the ingredients should be no problem at our local supermarket, and I headed there with shopping list in hand:

Napa cabbage. Check

Daikon radish. Check

Daikon radish

Carrots. Check

Ginger. Check

Ginger

Scallions. Check

Fish sauce. I went to the aisle labelled “Asian/Hispanic”. The only fish sauce was from Thailand!?

Rice flour. I already had some in the pantry and then U decided not to make the slurry for kimchi paste

Korean chili pepper. I looked through the shelves several times, and all I could find was Gochugang spicy miso sauce.

I totally struck out on salted, fermented shrimp so Carol drove me to the Korean market down the hill. We showed an iPhone image of what we were looking for to two young men who were stocking shelves. They averred that they had never heard of it and they didn’t have it. With persistence, Carol found a jar labelled “shrimp sauce (finely ground), Product of China” which we bought.

Having assembled all of the ingredients, I began to make my first kimchi even though I am certain that our Korean neighbors would cringe at labeling the stuff as such.  The first order of business was to cut the Daikon radish and carrots into 3 inch match sticks. For that I used a French mandoline that sits unused in its box even though it is a beautiful machine to behold.  Then the real production of kimchi began. After sitting in the jar on my desk for four days with little odor,  the kimchi was ready. I transferred it to Mason jars to be refrigerated. I also ate a good portion. If I do say, it turned out to be pretty delicious.

RECIPE

Basic Kimchi

Ingredients

  • 1  medium head napa cabbage
  • water
  • ½ cup salt
  • 2 cups Daikon radish peeled and cut into 3 inch julienne
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3 inch julienne
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 scallions, roots removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup spicy miso sauce
  • ¼ cup fish sauce
  • ¼ ginger, peeled and minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons salted, fermented shrimp sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar

Method

  1. Cut the cabbage in half, lengthwise. Cut crosswise in 2 inch pieces, discarding the core. Sprinkle the cut cabbage with salt and then place in a large bowl. Cover with water, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 4 hours.
  2. After the cabbage has soaked,  drain in a colander and rinse to remove salt, and return to the bowl.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Transfer to the fermentation crock. Seal the crock with the venting lid. Place the crock in a cool place, undisturbed, for 4 days. Then bottle or eat the finished kimchi. Bottles may be refrigerated for up to a month.

 

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COLE SLAW – MY CONTRIBUTION TO THE CRAWFISH BOIL

A week or so ago my post provided the details of a crawfish boil in Silicon Valley. For that great event, my daughter-in-law asked me to make coleslaw. I call her the “Salad Queen” because she whips up the most delicious salads on a moment’s notice, but she claimed that coleslaw was not something she liked to make. I confess that I’m not a big fan of most coleslaw, either. That’s because they often contain the core of the cabbage head, the cabbage is in big chunks with the heavy taste of cabbage, and the salad is swimming in runny mayonnaise.

Years ago I learned the first important lesson for coleslaw from my younger daughter when she was only about ten years old. She was assigned to do the cabbage chopping for a family gathering. We thought she would be finished in just a few minutes, but a half hour later she was still chopping and the cabbage was as fine as I had ever seen it. She had also removed the core of the cabbage before she started the project. Everyone loved one of her first cooking projects.

The second lesson comes from a consideration of the origins of the word, coleslaw. It is derived from the Danish word, koolsla, meaning cabbage (cole) salad ( sla, a contraction of salade). The point of all that is you can use any kind of cabbage or even cabbage relatives you want (especially shredded Brussels sprouts, but also broccoli, rabe, or cauliflower) , and you can put anything else that catches your fancy in the salad.  Apples, carrots, celery, and chopped nuts are among the most common additives.

The third lesson for me is that a little mayonnaise goes a long way – much farther than you think. In recent times, I always add less mayonnaise than I think the dish needs. That includes tuna salad, sandwiches, and coleslaw In every instance what I have learned is that less is better, and you can always add more. Of course, homemade mayonnaise is better than bottled, and it doesn’t take too much extra time to make. Another option is not to use mayonnaise at all; freshly made vinaigrette is a refreshing substitute.

For the crawfish boil, I decided to use napa (Chinese) cabbage and red cabbage along with red onion, carrot, bell pepper, and celery for the basic salad. I used vinaigrette with a shot of sesame oil for the dressing. Here is the recipe.

RECIPE

Coleslaw

Ingredients

  •  1 large head, napa cabbage, cored, sliced and chopped very finely
  • 1 small head red cabbage, cored, sliced and chopped very finely
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, grated, and chopped finely
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients

Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard, preferably Dijon
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic powder, and sugar.
  2. While whisking continuously, drizzle in the olive oil until completely incorporated.
  3. Stir in the sesame oil, and correct seasonings with salt and pepper

Dressing the Salad

  1. Pour only about half of the vinaigrette onto the coleslaw and gently stir in until the salad is completely dressed
  2. Add more dressing as needed, being especially careful not to use too much. The coleslaw should be moistened but not damp with dressing
  3. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Napa cabbage

Napa cabbage

Red cabbage

Red cabbage

Red onion

Red onion

Carrots

Carrots

Celery

Celery

Green bell pepper

Green bell pepper

Chopped vegetables

Chopped vegetables

Finished coleslaw

Finished coleslaw

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NAPA CABBAGE AND BREAD SOUP

I had some napa cabbage left over from my New Year’s Day braised cabbage, so I decided to make some soup.

Napa cabbage (also spelled nappa cabbage) is an authentic Chinese cabbage. The name comes from a Japanese word that means something like vegetable greens.  So far as I have been able to figure out, the name has nothing to do with the Napa Valley in California. I think that name is probably from the Spanish, meaning an aquifer or gas layer. The taste of the cabbage is milder than regular cabbage, and the leaves are crisper

Regular cabbage dates back to the Egyptians, but probably cabbage heads did not appear on the culinary scene until the twelfth century in Germany. For this recipe, you can use regular cabbage, but I think you will like the flavor better with Chinese cabbage.

The soup makes a simple lunch or dinner. We had the added pleasure of a slice of Srah’s new bread, Douglas fir scented levain topped with fresh butter. A perfect winter-time light lunch

RECIPE

Napa cabbage soup with Douglas fir levain-1Napa Cabbage and Bread Soup with Croutons and Parmesan Cheese

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ large head napa cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • ½ teaspoon beau monde seasoning, or to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 ½ inch slices good quality white bread cut in ½ inch cubes
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • ¼ cup minced parsley

Method

  • In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan or stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, stir, and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions are wilted and translucent. Do not allow them to brown.
  • Add the shredded cabbage to the pot, cover and continue to cook until completely wilted. Do not brown. Then add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Add the beau monde seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper.Cook for 40 minutes or until the cabbage is soft. Add more liquid if necessary.
  • In the meantime, place one of the diced slices of bread on a small baking sheet and dry in the middle of an oven preheated to 225°. Bake for 30 minutes, turning frequently, until the bread cubes are completely dry and crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  • When the cabbage is fully cooked and tender, stir in the remaining cubed slice of bread. The bread should dissolve and thicken the soup. Add more liquid if needed.
  • When ready to serve, plate the soup in 4 wide soup bowls, top with the croutons, sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese and parsley. Serve immediately.

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