The Cooking Well Runs Dry

With all the vegetables we’re receiving lately, you’d think that I’d be posting recipes almost every day. The trouble is that I have entered a rut familiar to all cooks who have been at this game for a while. “I just cook the same old things,” my grandmother used to say. So it is with me. Tired at the end of the work day, I turn to well-worn formulas, spices, and combinations to get supper on the table. Onions and garlic are sauteed in olive oil; another vegetable or meat is added; herbs are tossed in; everything gets dumped over pasta, rolled into a burrito, or served over potatoes.

And that’s okay, because a few experiments over the last week or so revealed why it’s probably best to trudge along in your little food rut until a clear path out is revealed. Efforts to claw your way over the edge will result in injury only to yourself and others who are forced to eat the unsavory products that emerge in the process.

The baked cabbage should serve as sufficient warning. We’ve been slightly overwhelmed with cabbage lately, after buying a couple of heads just before receiving more from Britt Farms, our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Of course, it really doesn’t take much cabbage to overwhelm even an experienced cook. Not only does it increase exponentially with each cup that is used, it also conjures only a limited number of dishes to mind. Having made cole slaw, added it to soups, steamed it, eaten it raw, and even considered then quickly dispensed with the idea of making homemade sauerkraut after realizing the impracticality of storing rotting vegetable matter in a pot in the basement for a month, I was pretty well out of ideas.

Then I remembered a recent New York Times Magazine article on baked kale, which I’d tried and which had made a pleasantly crunchy snack. You took kale leaves, rolled them up, sliced the rolls into thin strips, tossed in olive oil and salt, and baked them in the oven at about 400 degrees for several minutes until they crisped up. They made a light, crunchy snack.

Cabbage doesn’t do that. It makes a heavy, chewy, oily snack. You can try cooking it until the cabbage browns, but then you will have a bitter, crispy, burned-tasting, oily snack. If you have a sweet, kind husband as I do, he will taste the results and declare them “interesting.” If you are a sweet, kind wife in return, you will take the whole mess, toss it straight into the trash, and make a nice dish of olive oil, onions, garlic, your favorite spices, vegetables, and pasta.

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