The Cabbage Solution

post by: Debbie Fields August 12, 2010

I have always had multiple problems with Cabbage.  Sure its crispness is great in tacos, its blandness is compensated for with all the other flavors going on, particularly an acidic salsa.  In Mexico you are more likely to find shredded cabbage with tacos, shredded lettuce in tacos is largely an invention of Taco Bell.    Cabbage is a mainstay in other complex dishes such as Pad Thai, its only when Cabbage tries to play a leading role in dish when it fails.  Corn beef and cabbage is bland and boring typical of the British isles, which has the least distinctive cuisine in Europe and maybe the world.  Is it any wonder that it is mostly eaten on a holiday where your taste sense is drunkened numb.  I have never been satisfied with making Cole Slaw.  The huge amounts of mayo and other ingredients to make it taste like anything is too much for me and its precise formulation too unfathomable.  Once in awhile I would have some great coleslaw, but I realize now that it partially underwent the process I will describe later.So I have found a limited use for Cabbage, in tacos, Pad Thai or some other spicy stir fry, but one cabeza of cabbage is enough for 183 tacos, you put the leftover head in the fridge and it gets gray mold growing on it in about 2 days.  So at the end of last summer I took on the age-old preservation technique of making Sauerkraut.  I chopped up 2 heads and put them in 5 gallon food safe container layer by layer with a sprinkling of kosher salt between each layer.  I pounded it with a wine bottle to break it down and put a plate over the top weighed down by a water jug.  In a few days the the salt broke down the cabbage and liquid rose above the top.  The natural bacteria in the environment would slowly ferment the cabbage and transform it into Sauerkraut.  The process was laborious and messy.  Every day you had to pull the plate off and clean the slimy mold that grew.  Though supposedly it would keep and improve, I got tired of this routine and eventually put it in the refrigerator.  It did make Sauerkraut.  It tasted pretty good in Sandwiches, but I don’t eat that many sandwiches, it was too salty to otherwise be very palatable and a lot of it ended up going bad in the fridge.  For me Sauerkraut was an experiment that failed, I don’t think its worth doing.

The Cabbage Solution is a Solution

In the alchemy of food, The Solution transforms the lowly cabbage from lead to gold, water to wine.  The Solution improves upon every use of cabbage mentioned above and any other.  Aside from simply chopping it up, it is easier to make, its bio-availability is much greater and the only ingredients are water and a couple teaspoons something you probably have in your fridge!  I expect that it preserves for at least a few weeks, but this is probably moot as it tastes so good, it won’t last that long.
lacto-fermented cabbageThe Solution is Lacto-fermentation.  The most common lacto-fermented food is Yogurt, which is lacto-fermented Milk.  I make my own Yogurt and recommend it.  It works the same way with Cabbage.  You just add a couple teaspoons of Yogurt and the beneficial microorganisms multiply and ferment either the milk or the cabbage.  Yogurt is more complicated, you have to heat the milk to 180 degs. and let cool to around 120 before you add the culture(the yogurt).  You must also maintain the temperature of 110 to 120 for about 6 hours.  With cabbage it is simpler.  You chop it up, put in a big container, cover it with water, mix in a couple of teaspoons of yogurt and leave it on the counter for about 3 to 4 days.  If it is cold out, it will need more time.  You will know it is done by tasting it.  If it tastes like wet cabbage you are not there yet.  It is exploding in your mouth with something like a citrusy flavor, the texture has changed and the liquid is bubbling a bit, you can put it in the refrigerator…or eat it.  Grated carrot, salt, pepper can be added at the start.  There are limitless possibilities.  Now that its garlic season, I added some and it was fantastic.  Ginger, caraway seeds…  I originally tried this with Kohlrabi, which works just as well.  As I am almost making this page a Kohlrabi cookbook you can expect a post on that.   Use it in place of any use of Cabbage, in tacos, on sandwiches, as Cole Slaw.  Of course use it in Stir Fry or Pad Thai, but add after everything else is cooked because this is already “cooked”.  This is a Probiotic food where nutrients have not been destroyed by cooking with heat.   Lacto-fermentation breaks down Phytic Acid better than heat cooking does too.  Phytic Acid binds to many essential minerals in food, making them impossible to absorb.  There will probably be some juice leftover when get to the end.  Drink it, it’s delicious.

Kohlrabi Pizza?

post by: Debbie Fields June 11, 2010

Kohlrabi Pizza
fresh from the ovenNot only is Kohlrabi alien in appearance but it is alien to just about all of our food histories–We have no reference of what to do with it and its not something that fits into a category so we can just plug it in, in place of other foods.  It is unique, yet paradoxically a very versatile ingredient.Fields Farm has got them and I bagged a couple at the Farmer’s Market.  When I got home I had some Pizza dough that had risen.  Pizza could very well be the most popular food ever invented.  A few years ago I mastered the art of making my own Pizza –its not that difficult– I then asked myself what had I been doing with my life up until that point.Pizza dough is simply 3 cups of flour, a teaspoon of yeast, a tablespoon of salt and a cup of warm water.  This will make 2, 10-12 inchers.  Knead it well to break down the gluten.  Let it rise at least a hour and a half and stretch it out onto a cornmeal covered peel.  You will also need to get a Pizza stone to cook it on.  Stretching it out does not take too much practice, you do not need to be one of those showman Pizza tossers, you can just stretch it over a large bowl.  You cook it at your ovens highest temperature and it takes only 6 to 8 minutes.Kohlrabi Pizza
A couple slices with some of the
greens and a hearty redAfter the layers of tomato sauce and Mozzarella Cheese, I grated a medium small Kohlrabi and added to it 1/3 of a chopped onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, 2 good tbls. of olive oil and some fresh thyme.  I spread this over the pizza.The Kohlrabi added a subtle, slightly spicy, vegetative crunch that balanced well with the crust, sauce and cheese.  I used 2/3 whole wheat flour for the crust and this complemented it well too.  Though this was the first time ever on Earth that a Pizza like this was made, it seemed like a normal, natural Pizza.  It wasn’t as dramatic as say a Jalapeno, anchovy and pineapple Pizza, but it was wholesome and satisfying.  This was an experiment that worked and I will do it again.  If any Pizza place puts this on their menu, they must name it after me!Kohlrabi Pizza

Salad Days, Kohlrabi Pesto

post by: Debbie Fields July 25, 2009

The Kohlrabi with sage I wrote about previously, I liked so much, I realize, because it tasted so much like Thanksgiving stuffing.  You can never make enough stuffing because you are limited to what fits inside the Turkey cavity.  I never liked cooking extra in a casserole dish, it never comes out the same or as good.  This year I will experiment with Kohlrabi with sage on Thanksgiving.  I will try mixing with the stuffing or serving it alongside.  Jim will be planting a late crop of Kohlrabi to be available for Thanksgiving.  It is definitely something to incorporate into the Thanksgiving menu.

The versatility of Kohlrabi was evident when instead of using sage, I used basil.  I made pesto the way I normally do, only I pureed it with Kohlrabi and ate it sans pasta.  Just as the Kohlrabi ably replaced the breading, it did not leave me wanting pasta and it was delicous.  Jeremy, the Fields Farm intern, tells me he shreds Kohlrabi raw with carrots and it makes it a great coleslaw.

Not turning on the stove is a great idea since it has been over 90 degrees everyday.  The peak of season hitting at the Farmer’s Market and the hot weather makes for “Salad Days”.  If you need some ideas check out 101 Simple Salads for the Season.  Click the “Single Page” link and do a page search(usually ctrl + f) for the ingredients you have on hand.

Why Kohlrabi?

post by: Debbie Fields July 9, 2009

Since I did this website for Fields Farm, Jim and Debbie are nice enough to kick me down some of the Fields Farm cornucopia.  When they offered me some Kohlrabi, I confessed that I had never tried it before.  Kohlrabi seems only to be introduced to the US food supply by the Farmer’s Market/Organic Foods movement, Mom didn’t cook it when I was growing up unless it was in one of those Hamburger Helper packages.

I was struck by the appearance of the phosphorescent purple orb with symmetrical tentacles coming out of it from all directions.  It looked like something that you would find on the cover of a Yes album.  Debbie told me you cut it up and cook it like any other vegetable.  Kohlrabi has been compared to broccoli stems in that it absorbs the flavors of what you cook it with, turnips in that it is a bulbous shape and you can eat the greens and to eggplant in that its purple on the outside, white on the inside, roundish and you have to cook it to soften it up.  But those comparisons are not even as close as saying a mango is like a peach or any exotic meat tastes like chicken, Kohlrabi is pretty unique.

At the Farmer’s Market yesterday I asked Jim why he does Kohlrabi.  He said it is beautiful and that it loves the cold.  It can grow in the spring and in the fall here and won’t suffer with our inevitable frosts.  I got a couple of more Kohlrabi to stuff in my panniers and take home with me.  Meanwhile going on simultaneously and coincidentally Debbie puts a Kohlrabi recipe up on the site.  I discover it when I get home and try it out for dinner.

It is probably obvious that I have been searching Kohlrabi, and one thing I found went on ecstatically about pureed Kohlrabi.  Debbie’s recipe didn’t mention that, but it was the same basic idea.  So I diced up a Kohlrabi, fried it up with a head of the young garlic that I recently got from Fields Farm, in a good amount of olive oil and some salt and pepper.  I had some fresh sage that I got from the Farmer’s Market.  I love sage, but sometimes it is hard to figure out what to cook with it–I think I had a match here.  I grabbed a bunch of leaves, threw it in and pureed it.  I was too lazy to bake like the recipe said, so I just grated some cheese on top of it.  That was fine and it was steamy enough to melt the cheese.  Wow.  It was incredible.  I finished eating it all up before I touched anything else on my plate!

In the impetus these days for local food, I think maybe Kohlrabi can be something significant in the Northwest cuisine.   For instance a basic technique in cooking is using a mirepoix.  Mirepoix is a finely diced mixture of onions, carrots and celery that is a base for sauces and other foods.  It is a french technique but is also a part of elemental foods such as Bolognese Pasta Sauce.  Celery takes 5 months to grow and is very sensative to frost.  Guess what? that means you cannot grow it here.  I hereby propose that for the Northwest Mirepoix we replace the celery with Kohlrabi!  I will be eager to try this variant of Mirepoix out as well as other ways to cook up some Kohlrabi.

Kohlrabi Recipe

post by: Debbie Fields July 8, 2009

Delicious Kohlrabi and easy too!
Grate or chop finely 2 Kohlrabis.  Saute with 2 gloves of minced garlic in your favorite oil until tender.  Cover with 2 to 3 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese.
Pop in the oven at 350 til cheese is brown.  Makes 2 large servings or 4 small.