Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sweet, Sour and a Little Bit Hot: Stir-Fry Cabbage and Greens with Sesame Seeds

In an attempt to get my refrigerator cleared out, in preparation for stuff I'm acquiring, cooking or baking for Thanksgiving, I considered the head of red cabbage and a bag of pea greens in my crisper. Generally, I use cabbage in the fall and winter versions of Spoon Salad and I like to finely chop up pea greens as an add-in, but I knew I was not going to get to that in the next few days.

I also had some, garlic and ginger. Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, agave nectar (alternately use honey), chili garlic sauce, sesame seeds and a little sesame oil and you can make a slightly sweet, sour and a little bit hot stir-fry. I also had some previously baked, marinated tofu cubes that I sliced up to add as a protein. For a prep-junkie like me, all the slicing, dicing and mincing is a rush but for those of you who don't get happy goosebumps at the thought of that, your pay-off is that the dish cooks in about 15 minutes.

This isn't so much a recipe as an example of really using the pantry, the spice cupboard and the crisper and winding up with something good. All sorts of substitutions can be made - from the type of cabbage or greens to the basic seasoning and liquids to the nuts. I really wish I'd had some cilantro, or chives and green onions, and I absolutely recommend those additions.
Pea greens, not to be confused with pea shoots which are more like micro-greens
I used pea greens - because that's what I had - but would recommend using another type of greens in this dish. When you quick cook pea greens, the vertical fibers of the (essentially hollow) stems, while pretty tender raw, do not break down. I occasionally buy pea greens and have always used them raw in salad, removing the tendrils and then chopping them up. If I did use them again in a dish like this, I'd pre-steam them in the microwave (sprinkled with a little water in the covered bowl) until they were wilted, but not completely cooked, and then chop them up very fine. De-stemming pea greens is kind of a pain and unlike chard or kale, the stem is not less fibrous as you move up to the top of the stalk.

Fortunately there are pages and pages of types of greens you can use, or you can leave them out. For the greens that have a slightly longer cooking time, you may wish to steam them in the microwave so that they are half-cooked and ready to finish off in the stir-fry.

If you're working by hand, it's easiest to thinly shred cabbage by separating some of the outer leaves
from the inner fold-y leaves. Flattening the outer leaves, placing them curved-side up
makes them easier to cut in long, crosswise strips.
I'm not including the recipe for the baked, marinated tofu (yet) but just about any protein would do whether vegan or omnivore: left-overs from your home-cooked, or a good purchased roast chicken, or pork, thin-sliced steak, etc - you get the message, yes? After the high-heat stir-fry and short braise in the liquids, the cabbage doesn't taste at all cabbage-y. It's tender but with a little residual crunch. It could be served on its own, or over rice or noodles.

Sesame seeds: from raw and white to toasted and caramel-colored, in the microwave. If you want to burn sesame seeds, it's dead easy to do so cooking them on the stove-top. You have to work harder to ruin them in the oven, but it can be done. I found that toasting them in the microwave removes the agony of defeat and acrid smell of burned seeds when cooked on the stove-top, but is the easiest (for me) if I actually want a tasty batch of toasted sesame seeds. You still have to pay attention to them but the whole process takes 5 or less minutes, depending on your  microwave's power and the transition from "almost toasted" to "perfect" is a little easier to control. On the other hand, if you've never had a problem toasting them in the oven or on the stove-top, I salute you!


Serves: 4 (generously) as part of a main dish or 6-8 as a side.
Accompaniments: If desired: rice or grains or noodles, previously prepared protein (tofu, chicken, pork, beef, etc.) if you wish to make it a main dish.
Equipment: 1 heavy 12" skillet with a lid (or a wok, or dutch oven with a heavy bottom), preferably without a non-stick coating. I like to preheat the pan without any oil in it. 1 microwave-safe glass or stoneware bowl (like a cereal bowl) to toast the sesame seeds in the microwave. The glass bowl in which you toast the seeds ends up getting pretty hot and I do not recommend using plastic - even BPA-free plastic - in any cooking situation where heat is applied.  

Sauce Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar or 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons chile paste (as hot as you want it) or a sauce like Sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine or apple cider vinegar
Garnish Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro (recommended)
Stir-fry Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil, divided. I used refined grape seed oil. Canola oil is another choice.
  • 4 garlic cloves sliced very thin
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes or small, sliced fresh or dried red peppers
  • 6 cups cored and quartered red cabbage, outer leaves separated from inner leaves and each slices thinly crosswise (1/8" to 1/4")
  • 4 cups greens (like kale or chard), stems removed and sliced crosswise (1/8" to 1/4") or baby spinach leaves (whole)

Preparation (Sauce):
  1. Combine all ingredients  in a bowl, whisk together and set aside.
Preparation (Garnish):
  1. Place 1/4 cup raw sesame seeds in a microwave-safe glass or stoneware bowl (like a cereal bowl). Do not use plastic.
  2. Place in the microwave and cook on full power for 2 minutes.
  3. Open the door and using a spoon, stir the seeds for about 10 seconds, making sure to bring up the seeds from the bottom.
  4. Continue to cook in increments of 20 or 30 seconds, including stirring each time, until the seeds are just short of a medium caramel brown color.
  5. Using oven mitts or a folded kitchen towel, remove the bowl and stir the seeds then pour them into another bowl or on to a plate to bring down the heat as they will continue to cook a little.
  6. Set aside.
Preparation: Stir Fry, Assembly and Serving
  1. Gather all of your prepared stir-fry ingredients, the sauce and the previously toasted sesame seeds as well as anything else - like prepared noodles, rice or proteins as close to the stove as possible. This dish cooks fast.
  2. Pre-heat your skillet on medium heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan, swirling the pan so that the oil covers the entire pan surface and when it shimmers, add the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for 30 seconds.
  4. Add 2 additional tablespoons of oil to the pan and turn the heat up to medium high. After about 30 seconds, add half of the thin-sliced cabbage to the pan, tossing it to coat. Stir-fry for about a minute, move the first batch to the outside of the pan and add the remainder of the cabbage. Stir-fry this batch for about a minute and then combine all of the cabbage. The cabbage should be just a little wilted looking.
  5. Add the sauce mixture to the pan and combine with the cabbage. Cover and cook over high heat for one minute.
  6. Add the greens and any protein to the pan and toss with the cabbage mixture. Cover and cook on high for two minutes or until the greens are just tender.. Remove the lid and if the mixture is too saucy, cook on high, uncovered for about 30 seconds to a minute.
  7. Add all but 2 teaspoons of the toasted sesame seeds and, if using, the chopped cilantro and combine with the cabbage-greens mixture thoroughly.
  8. Serve immediately over rice or noodles (optional) and sprinkle the remainder of the sesame seeds over top.

1 comment:

tsada kay said...

I love cabbage and it's so affordable, but I get bored cooking it the same old ways over and over. Cannot wait to make this. Thank you for the idea!