"Frugality, creativity and mindfulness - mindfulness - of perfectly imperfect produce" Tara Wrigley /OTK Shelf Love
The heading is a question posed on Reddit and it's the question I am asking myself today.
Not an appetising group of ingredients is it? Though I have to say they perfectly encapsulate the quote from the first OTK book - Shelf Love.
What I have is a quarter cabbage, which I suspect dates from Christmas and is mouldering at the edges, some mushrooms a tiny bit past their best - and as you can see they were when I bought them - about a week ago. Plus Odd Bunch - i.e. second rate - carrots. Not that there is anything wrong with the carrots at all. Well frugality is definitely to the fore there. Creativity? to come, and Mindfulness - a bit more difficult to define I think, but definitely imperfect product. Not an obvious combination of ingredients either. But this is my challenge for today, and as I begin this post I am not at all sure what I shall be doing, although I have found a number of options.
As a generalisation when you feed in those three ingredients to the net, the majority of options that pop up are various stir fries. And that is precisely what happened in response to the Reddit question. Now I am not a massive fan of stir fries, mostly because I'm not very good at them, so I'm discarding this option. In fact it was interesting to see how many of those Reddit suggestions were for Asian things - Okonomiyaki and stuffed dumplings/ pot stickers came up a lot too.
I'm also not into the coleslaw type salads, because - well they are more useful as a side dish, not as the main event. And the main event is what I am looking for here. I don't mind the idea of boosting my three basics with a meat or fish option, but would like to keep it vegetarian if possible, just to tick off my vegetarian dish for the week.
So in no particular order, here are the dishes I am pondering on.
Tom Hunt's Vegetarian golubtsy. Now golubtsy is a Ukrainian dish and deserves a post all to itself, and I will also say that this version is not your typical version.
Basically what we have here is a layer of blanched cabbage leaves, a filling and then another layer of cabbage leaves, which is then cooked with a plate on top to compress it. In this case it ticks all the ingredient boxes as the filling is basically mushrooms and carrots but it also requires some leftover rice (which I don't have) and some dill, which I also don't have, although I do have fennel in the garden. Obviously this is a really interesting template for any variation you like to think of in the filling. But I don't think this one's for me today. Another time perhaps.
An aside - the majority of the recipes I found went for Savoy cabbage maybe because it's prettier. Mine is just a very ordinary white cabbage. It's not one of those trendy hispi, pointed cabbages either, but I'm guessing that it doesn't really matter which kind of cabbage you have. Well only if it's red cabbage which is really rather different and ignored by me today.
Next we have a trio of suggestions - variations on stuffed cabbage. On the left Alice Zaslavsky's One-pot 'unrolled' cabbage rolls; in the middle Yotam Ottolenghi's Cabbage rolls with walnuts and sour cream, the recipe for which is on the New York Times website, which sometimes erects a firewall (today) or a variation of the recipe from Cuisine Field called Cabbage and walnut casserole which I guess you could say is a deconstructed version. I think the walnut thing is also another Eastern European dish that I should also look into some time. And finally Sophie Grigson presents a very simple stuffed cabbage recipe - sausage meat sandwiched between cabbage leaves - just three ingredients - cabbage, sausages, butter - so no mushrooms or carrots but I guess you could add them.
In fact none of this lot used all three of my ingredients. So I shan't be using any of them, tempting though the Ottolenghi one sounds. But they do offer templates for constructing something of my own. Indeed I had already pondered on stuffed cabbage of some kind in my head.
Then we come to two Ottolenghi oven dishes. Roast cabbage with channa dal and sauerkraut - alas no carrots or mushrooms; and Herby cabbage and potato gratin with Gruyère and ricotta.
I have to say they both look gorgeous. However, the lack of carrots and mushrooms in the first, is a bit of a problem because I don't think they would be easily sneaked in. And I would have to substitute beans for the channa dal - but that's OK. As to the second one, which is from Shelf Love, I have actually made this already and confess that we were somewhat disappointed. We only gave it 2 1/2 stars and I commented: "has potential, but too bland as is - Just cheddar might be better (there is ricotta in the mix) and the cabbage should be blanched or shredded." Maybe I could use my fromage fort that I made yesterday. It tasted alright - the Brie was just runny and a bit strong inside. Also no mushrooms or carrots, although both could be added with the potatoes I think.
Next comes Chorizo and cabbage stew on the BBC Good Food website from someone called Sara Buenfeld. No carrots or mushrooms again, but I have to say the idea is tempting - mostly because it's really easy, and when we were at the shops I picked up some chorizo just in case. You could easily add mushrooms and carrots to the mix too. It's a stew. You can add all sorts of things to a stew. Beans?
Nigel Slater offers Cabbage, Taleggio and pancetta - simple, tempting, and somewhat different but again no carrots and mushrooms and I don't see a really easy way of adding them to this one.
Because I have presented my options more or less in the order that I found them, I see that I strayed further and further away from my original premise of cabbage, mushrooms and carrot. That's what happens when you start browsing the internet. You get sidelined. Surely I don't have to go stir fry!
I have one last option - Cavilo strascicato - braised cabbage with sausages - which comes from a website called Juls' Kitchen. It's from the town of Livorno in Tuscany. Shredded cabbage, sausage meat, tomatoes, garlic and chilli. A sort of Italian stir fry really. No mushrooms or carrots though.
What am I to do? Obviously I am not going to be following an actual recipe here, although I could go for one of them as a template and improvise. Or I could wing it - stuffed cabbage rolls are definitely an option. In a tomato sauce - or maybe even a mushroom sauce, with some of that fromage fort. Carrots and zucchini with some cheese and chorizo perhaps in the stuffing ...
But wait - I have maybe just found the answer. This is Pasta with Savoy cabbage, mushrooms, garlic and chilli pepper from a website called Arcis Food Blog. Apparently it's a variation on a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe - the mushrooms being added to the mix. No carrots though, and now that I look at it not a lot of cabbage. And really the cabbage is the main problem for me.
Hmm. I think I'll go the cabbage rolls route, somehow, with perhaps a mushroom sauce. Then again ... I do like the look of Ottolenghi's roasted cabbage dish. And adding beans is very tempting. Or that stew. Decisions, decisions ... I'm still not at all sure what I shall be doing. Problem not yet solved.