I need a break from rich food. It isn’t that I’ve consumed a lot, but I’ve just been around so much of it non-stop for the last month. In fact, there were many nights during party season when I felt fortunate upon arriving home to muster the energy to scramble a couple of eggs and slice up a tomato before stumbling off to bed. I’m craving decent dinners. And greens. I’m desperate for anything green. Extra points if there is some crunch involved.
A couple of days ago, I came across the most perfect petite head of savoy cabbage. It was so beautiful – like a little piece of agricultural art – that I had to have it.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, just that it must come home with me. I thought it over for a couple of days, and here is what I came up with.
SESAME-ORANGE BRAISED CABBAGE
3 tablespoons sesame oil
2 pieces of ginger, 1/4″ thick
2 big, fat cloves of garlic (or 3 or 4 small), smashed and peeled
1 head savoy cabbage, quartered, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon Sambal Olek (or Sriracha)
Juice of 2 clementines and their zest (lightly zest them before squeezing)
Fruit of 1 clementine, separated into segments (after peeling it, of course)
1. Quarter the head of cabbage and remove the core from each section. Slice each one 1/4″ thick. If it looks like a veritable mountain of cabbage, not to worry. It is going to cook down a lot. Still, you’re going to be thrilled if you have leftovers.
2. Warm a large skillet (12 inches or so) over medium heat. Add the sesame oil. When it is hot (it will shimmer), add the ginger, garlic, and and zest. Let them cook for a minute to begin to flavor the oil.
Add the cabbage, followed by the fish sauce, sambal olek, and clementine juice. Bring everything to an active simmer, then cover the pan (my skillet doesn’t have its own lid, so I use a baking sheet) and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Use tongs to stir everything around every couple of minutes. Simmer for 8 minutes, until the cabbage begins to wilt. Stir in the clementine segments and simmer for 2 minutes more, until they are warmed through. The cabbage should retain a tender crunch.
3. Taste it. The fish sauce should provide adequate saltiness; if not, add some salt as well as more Sambal Olek (oh yeah!). Discard the garlic and ginger.
How to serve it?
It would be wonderful over quinoa cakes. Or under a piece of fish. Even all by itself as a side dish.
I decided to steam some of my favorite rice from Lundberg Farms: Black Japonica. My sister recently sent me a bag of it, and I am hopelessly addicted. If you think yeah, whatever, rice is rice, you’ll be amazed by this one.
Cook it as you would any rice: 1 part rice to 2 parts water. Bring the water to a boil, add the rice and a teaspoon of sea or kosher salt, cover the pot, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until done. This rice takes a while, about 40 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, leave the lid on, and allow rice to steam for another 10 minutes. Perfect timing would be to start braising the cabbage when you lift the rice off the stove for its 10 minutes’ steaming.
The toothsome texture and complex flavors, a blend of black and mahogany rices, are unlike any rice I’ve ever tasted. It’s a perfect accompaniment to the sweet-salty-hot flavors in the cabbage. Spoon some rice into a shallow bowl. Use tongs to toss the cabbage with its lovely sauce, and lift some onto the rice.
And the colors! Well, see for yourself.
I’m starting to feel more human again already.