As my trip to the Farmers’ Market on Saturday was winding down, my attempt to avoid making any more purchases was thwarted when a glistening pile of baby savoy cabbages caught my eye. You should have seen these things, they were absolutely adorable. Most were no bigger than a lemon, and they have such bright green, crinkly leaves they look as though they could blossom into one of those Cabbage Patch dolls I had as a child. I bought five or six of the small heads and have been thinking about what to do with them ever since.
Tonight I decided I would try braising them. I’ve never braised anything, and part of me wonders if I really know what braising is. Luckily for us all, Wikipedia knows everything.
Normally cabbage is shredded into strips before braising, but I wanted to try and maintain the beautiful appearance of this vegetable so I opted to cut them in half instead. In a hot pan with shimmering olive oil I threw in one diced leek, added the cabbage halves face down and salted liberally with fresh ground sea salt.
I seared the faces of the cabbage for a few minutes until they were slightly browned. I then added mirin (a sweet Japanese cooking wine), about 3/4 cup of water and a sprinkle of shichimi (a Japanese 7-spice chili mixture I found this weekend at Rainbow Grocery). I read about these two exotic ingredients when I was learning about how to make udon in my favorite soup book, so I was excited that I found them and curious how they would taste. The mirin is very thick and sweet, great for cooking; the shichimi is savory, has a slight sesame taste and not too spicy.
I also wanted to add the crimini mushrooms I bought this weekend at Rainbow, but they were already moldy. So sad, last time I make that mistake. But I still needed something with a creamy texture to counteract the soft, sweet cabbage. I decided to add a few of the garbanzo beans I made the night before in the pressure cooker (I made Indian food yesterday, curried okra and chickpeas). Eureka!
I simmered the veggies 20 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally. I had to add more liquid after about 10 minutes. In the mean time I boiled some soba noodles, sticking with the Japanese theme. Soba noodles are made of buckwheat, so they are much healthier than most other kinds of noodles. Of course I only made a tiny amount to give the dish substance.
I stirred my creations together for a delicious, healthy dinner!