Monday, August 31, 2009

First blog post... adventures with cabbage

Our houseful of hungry mostly-vegetarians makes short work of most of our farm share items. This is not exactly the case with cabbage, which we accumulated to an alarming quantity during July and August. At our house meeting on The Cabbage Problem, kimchi was suggested as a solution. None of us had any idea how to make it, so we asked Mark Bittman, the New York Times food writer.

(Note: I am a total Mark Bittman fangirl.)

It turns out that Mark has written about kimchi quite a few times—one article back in 1996, then again in 2000, then again in his vegetarian cookbook (2007). He differentiates between aged, pickled "winter kimchi" and fresh "seasonal kimchi," which you can make and eat on the same day. We went for the latter. Because we cook recklessly around here—my problems with authority manifest as an inability to follow a recipe and I'm too impatient to measure—we combined elements of all the recipes.

I didn't realize this until I'd finished making it, but "seasonal kimchi" is essentially Asian slaw. If I'd known I was just making coleslaw (and not trying to recreate a particular alchemy that magically transforms cabbage to kimchi), I would have been even more fast and loose with the recipes. It is, however, a delicious Asian slaw. I made it twice, once with red cabbage and then again with green cabbage.

Our final house recipe is, approximately: One head of cabbage, coarsely chopped. Add to it one bunch of scallions and a couple cucumbers, chopped. Add lots of garlic and ginger, then some chiles (fresh or dried), then soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, and salt to taste.

A couple notes on the process and results: Mark told us to wilt the cabbage by salting it and letting it stand for a few hours before making the kimchi. In our experience, however, farm share cabbage is indestructible and does not wilt. (In fact, the last serving of our first batch of kimchi got lost in the back of the fridge for about three weeks, and though I threw it out, the cabbage was just as firm as ever.) Additionally, our kimchi was distinctly not-red (even when we used red cabbage), which lost it some authenticity votes here. (A splinter group of housemates actually lobbied for adding red food coloring.)

For the third cabbage, rather than make yet another batch of kimchi, we tried Bobby Flay's Red Cabbage Slaw. You chop up the cabbage and make a dressing in the blender; chill and it's done. I used half the cabbage to make one batch in the morning, then, by popular demand, used the second half to make another batch that night.

Any ideas for the one last head of green cabbage still hanging out in our fridge?