I've always had a soft spot for characters in movies or books deemed the underdog or pathetic types. Also, as a kid, I had a thing for stuffed animals that were raggy or strange looking. I felt compelled to love them because no one else probably would. Truth be told, even my dog is probably a bit funny looking to others, and perhaps this is why I love her so much and find her impossibly cute. This same principle applies somewhat to food. I seem to adore some of those things that the majority of people find unappealing. A couple that come immediately to mind are cabbage and lima beans. Who else can admit sincerely that they thoroughly enjoy, and even crave either of these lesser chosen items? I don't seem to be finding cabbage or lima beans highlighted on the menu in any restaurants that I know of. The one exception of course, is cole slaw, and while I do enjoy a well made cole slaw, cabbage has been pigeon-holed as the main ingredient to this side salad when it has so many other uses.
I learned this one summer when my CSA farm had an abundance of cabbage, and we were told we could take as much as we wanted. It's known to keep pretty well, so I helped myself to a bunch. Then, what to do with these heads of cabbage? Since I seemed to be lacking an underground storage area where I could bury the rations for the winter, I realized I did need to use it up somewhat quickly as it was taking up most of my apartment-sized fridge.
I experimented with several kinds of slaw - from traditional to more hip, modern versions with cashews and cilantro with no hint of mayonnaise. But, then I learned that cooked cabbage can be very tasty. I hadn't realized this was the case because the only way I had ever had it cooked was when my grandmother cooked the bejeezus out of it to make the traditional St. Patty's day dish: corn beef and cabbage. Truth be told, I actually even kind of enjoyed it cooked beyond recognition. So, my love for cabbage isn't just a whim or a new phase I am going through. This love is one that lasts.
During this cabbage experimentation period, I found a few dishes I liked quite a bit. I went to a farmers market yesterday where there were some beautiful heads of cabbage. I was reminded of these dishes I found and made one tonight.
Cabbage and Lentil Pilaf
There's two parts to this. You braise the cabbage in one pan and make the rice lentil pilaf in another, then mix them together.
1 tblsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 onion, chopped
4 cups shredded cabbage
salt and pepper
2 cups water
2/3 cup of white wine or veggie broth
1 1/3 cup rice (white basmati)
1/2 cup dried brown lentils
1/2 tspn dried tarragon, more if using fresh
salt and pepper
cherry tomatoes (optional)
1. Sautee onion in olive oil until soft, 5 minutes. Add cabbage and garlic. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick. Then take the cover off and cook for another 20 minutes.
2. Bring water, broth and 1/2 tspn salt to a boil. Add lentils and rice and tarragon, cover and cook on low for 20-25 minutes, until the water is absorbed.
3. Mix the cabbage into the pilaf. Add cherry tomatoes cut in half if using. Serve.