Thursday, December 10, 2015

Why Is Cabbage One of the Most Hated Foods on the Planet?

Asian Chicken Slaw

The stuffed cabbage I grew up with was loathsome, although I now realize it was the fatty ground beef stuffing that made it so. My kids still talk about the dinner ladies and the smell of overcooked cabbage at their London elementary school.

Fish Taco with Cabbage and Salsa
So what prompted me to buy a cabbage the other day?  I was making fish tacos, and raw shredded cabbage is a perfect accompaniment.  But cabbages are big and they’re dense.  After making the tacos, I had about three-quarters of the cabbage left.  What was I going to do with it?

I make a good Russian Vegetable Borscht, but I didn’t have any beets handy.  Instead I decided to try a Cabbage Soup recipe from a popular cookbook. It called for 4 cups of grated cabbage.  

Big mistake.  The cooked cabbage itself tasted fine, but the blue cheese the recipe recommended (“a garnish of Roquefort adds just the right finish,” the headnote said) brought the memorable comment from my cookbook collaborator/son Kevin, “It smells like armpits.”  Unfortunately he was onto something.  Forget that recipe.

Cabbage Soup with Blue Cheese
To use up the rest of the cabbage, I put together my version of Asian Chicken Slaw.  The next day I discovered that the leftovers made a great tortilla filling.  Cabbage is staying on my shopping list.
Asian Chicken Slaw – serves 3-4 
For the chicken (recipe below or leftover roast chicken):
2 boneless chicken breasts (totaling about 1 lb.)
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil + more for stir-frying
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 
Slice the chicken into 1/2-inch wide slices.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and stir well.  Add the chicken slices and set aside, covered, in the refrigerator.

For the slaw:
5-6 cups shredded cabbage
3 scallions, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried mint
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
Put the cabbage and scallions in a large serving bowl.  Combine the vinegar, sugar, fresh ginger, sesame oil, basil, mint and cayenne pepper in a small bowl, stir thoroughly and pour over the cabbage mixture.  Toss to coat the cabbage.  Cover and refrigerate until needed.
To stir-fry the chicken, add 1 tablespoon oil to a wok or large frying pan and begin heating over high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the chicken and any marinade left in the bowl and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked.  When you cut a slice in half, the middle should be white, not pink.  Turn off the heat and transfer the chicken to a cutting board.  Cut the strips into bite-size pieces and add to the cabbage slaw.  Toss again and serve. 
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