"You just go on your nerve. If someone’s chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don’t turn around and shout, “Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.” That’s for the writing poems part." -Frank O’Hara, Personism: A Manifesto // It’s for the cooking part, too.
Y’all should know me by now (particularly if you follow my Instagram: cookonyournerve). Braising wedges of cabbage has been my THING, for years! So I thought it was about time I actually share a recipe doing just that. And don’t think I haven’t noticed within the last year or so a bunch of wedged cabbage recipes poppin’ up on big-name magazines, and food blogs, too! It’s about time cabbage got some major love.
This one’s got the stuff that many dig about veal or chicken piccata: lemon, butter, wine, broth, capers. Just minus the veal and chicken. And it’s got the stuff I love most: braising cabbage til a caramelized-nutty-sweetness takes over them.
1 1/2cchicken or vegetable stockplus more if needed
2leafy sprigsthyme or rosemary
salt and pepperto taste
3tbspparsleychopped, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350. Leaving the cabbage's core intact, halve the head through it's core, then cut each half into 3-4 thick wedges through the core.
Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet or braiser. Sear the wedges of cabbage cut side down for about 2 minutes, til lightly charred. Set aside to work on your sauce.
In the same pan, melt 2 tbsp butter and whisk in 2 tbsp flour to create a light golden roux, about 1-2 minutes. Continue to whisk while slowly adding in the wine and the stock.
Carefully add in the cabbage wedges, char-side down, along with your sprigs of thyme, sliced lemon, capers, and 2 tbsp butter. Bring it to a boil then shut off the stove. Spoon sauce over cabbage. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the wedges. With a cover on, let it braise in the oven for about 40 minutes, til tender. If, at this point, the sauce appears to be running dry, add more broth or water. Spoon more sauce over the cabbage, then bake another 45 minutes or longer, uncovered, til they have caramelized to your liking. Season to taste.
I’ve made this recipe before without making the roux, as pictured below. Still delicious, just not gravy-like.
While recipes tend to call for lemon juice, I find that the use of lemon slices, with rind, give it a nice burst of rich lemony flavor as well.
After a week of celebrating Dan’s birthday and graduation with beautiful Syrian, Mexican, Chinese, Ramen, Italian, and Peruvian food OMG, I severely missed a home-cooked meal. A healthy-and-grilled one please. While dipping fresh tortillas in a cast iron full of 3 cheeses and chorizo is spectacular, I have to admit, I don’t feel that spectacular afterwards.
Bring on the simple veggie platters!
This was the first thing I made when I got home, and it took all but 20 minutes to put together. The addition of feta on the slightly bitter greens with a squeeze of that grilled lemon was beautiful. But I encourage you to take a knife to the greens and cabbage, and get yourself the perfect bite of sweet apple and onion along with the salty-and-creamy feta. You won’t regret it.
-1 head of escarole, quartered lengthwise & cleaned well
-1/2 a head of red cabbage, sliced into wedges
-1 red onion (or half vidalia), wedges
-1 big apple, cored and cut into wedges
-about 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1 lemon, halved, for serving
-feta, for serving
After giving your escarole a good bath
(it seriously needs one), place them in a large bowl and drizzle some of the olive oil onto the leaves and season with salt and pepper. Massage the leaves a bit. In another bowl, add your sliced cabbage, onion, and apple, and gently toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
In a cast iron grill pan under medium-high heat, sear cabbage, apples, and onion til grill marks occur on both sides, about a minute a side. You may need to do this in 2 batches. Lay them on a platter when done and start grilling your escarole, about a minute a side as well. You’ll want to see them charred and tender but still a bit crisp. Plate them.
Serve with grilled lemon halves. Maybe a little tahini. Maybe some grilled meat if you’re into that. OR beans. I’m into that.
There have only been two cookbooks my hands have ever taken turns being attached to: Aromas of Aleppo, and Tasting India. With Ottolenghi’s Simple now being added to the list, (thank you Danny) my hands don’t even know what to do with themselves. I’ve made about 8 of his dishes within 3 weeks, and have picked up certain things from them that I can’t wait to try out in some of my own recipes. For instance,
FRIED CAPERS. Shut the front door.
On the day I came back with the first of the asparagus, purple and green, I knew I wanted to smother them with buttered, toasted almonds, fried capers, and dill. Because that’s what page 82 told me to do. Everyone at the table loved that extra touch of salt on fresh tender stalks.
The next day, I wanted to try the capers out in a cantaloupe salad, because while I crave sweetness, I tend to crave the saltier side of things a tad bit more. I’m still developing the recipe for this one but YES, it worked out pretty nicely: cantaloupe, blood oranges, green olives, sumac caramelized shallots, crispy tarragon, fried capers, feta, sorrel and radish microgreens.
ORANGE PEELS and SEAFOOD and SPICE oh my (a much-needed reminder)
My family’s favorite was this shrimp with orzo and marinated feta. It reminded me of mussels I make with orange peels and canellini beans (which is a recipe I should definitely write up!). I’ve had a similar dish, minus the peels, at MP Taverna about a year ago. It was called a seafood paella and it, too, had feta and orzo and lots of red pepper. In short, Ottolenghi had me at orange peels. And marinated feta. If you look back in the archives, I have at least 10 recipes using orange peels, and one with marinated cheese. I’m a little in love over here.
GRATED FRIGGEN CAULIFLOWER
Now on to this bright one. I adored this salad. While most of the cauliflower gets roasted (including it’s leaves, which is so very elegant and is zero-waste friendly), some of it is grated raw and tossed in with pistachios, pomegranate seeds, parsley. It added a beautiful crunch and freshness to this salad and I can’t wait to grate cauliflower into other dishes, too.
PEAS AND CILANTRO (and how it’s currently peas season so let’s play)
I took some liberties with this one by adding cumin and aleppo pepper to the green sauce, and blistered shishito peppers to the potatoes. I want to put this sauce on everything! I also want to try out other herbs and flavors, so look out for something similar by me in the near future. We are in the thick of sugar snap season!
MARINATING TWO DAYS IN ADVANCE: Chicken Marbella
When I read that this chicken can be left alone, in the fridge, with olives and capers and dates and all the things, I was happy. This meant I could spend my Thursday morning working on my blog instead of being in the kitchen, fussing over chicken, because I did all that fussing two days ago. All I had to do was pop it in the oven and go about my business, and return to a beautifully flavored meal, sticky with pomegranate molasses.
I’m not even close to spending less time with this book. My rose harissa just arrived, the very one that Ottolenghi suggests we use. There’s also tomato after tomato recipe, eggplant recipes…I’m simply waiting for the right time.
In the Garden
We just planted Black Cherry tomatoes to go along with 3 other tomato plants, and scarlet runner beans that hopefully will not find it’s way to our Sicilian eggplants’ mauve flowers. If they do, (or if the new furbaby does) well, there goes that roasted eggplant with curried yogurt my hand keeps returning to. Page 66.
Do you love sweet and sour dishes? I didn’t til I sat at my love’s Syrian-Jew-But-Also-Italian table.
Traditionally made with apricots, I noticed how Dan’s mom, Lori, would also add an equal amount of prunes to her Yebra (stuffed grape leaves), which are smothered, gently, with a tamarind sauce. It’s a beautiful, vibrant-tasting dish. When I decided to challenge myself by making these for my love (or making these at all–I didn’t want to ruin a gorgeous recipe!) a light-bulb struck. Why not use another dried fruit that I adore?
Let me tell you. Eating this made me want to buy fresh figs and roast them in this sauce–which actually might be a recipe coming soon–but I digress.
Did I eat more figs than grape leaves? Probably. But mostly because I wanted their to be enough of the leaves themselves for Lori to try. When I told her I was making Yebra, I received a stream of expected texts, “did you rinse them first? Dry them? Did you soak the rice? Make sure you lay them vein-side up.” I didn’t have much time to reply (because..yes..I was doing all those things!) I have made these a few times with her and my confidence in the kitchen that morning sang through the window on the 5th floor of my mom’s tiny UES kitchen. Upon the first bite (I swear it!) my guy teared up. All I heard was “…babe.” And he then came at me for a bear hug and a hundred kisses. Next day, I received a text from Lori that said it tastes just like Aunt Sara’s. Which, BTW, is the ultimate compliment. For as long as I’ve sat at their table, Dan has always said “Please make it taste like Aunt Sara’s.” I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting her, but here’s to you, Sara.
Stuffed Grape Leaves with Figs and Apricot in Tamarind Sauce
1 lb hashu, recipe follows
8 oz jar of grape leaves (about 30-36)
10 dried mission black figs
8 dried California apricots (do not use Turkish here)
juice of large lemon, plus more to taste
5-6 tbs tamarind concentrate
pinch of brown sugar
pinch of salt
4 cups water (plus more)
1. In a bowl, gently mix by hand all the ingredients and spices for hashu and set aside. *Set oven to 350 degrees unless you plan on cooking these babies on the stove from beginning to end.
2. Drain grape leaves, carefully taking them out of the jar. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add the grape leaves, carefully turning them with tongs, for about a minute. Then quickly get them into a big bowl of ice water. Pour them over a colander and begin to dry each one, while cutting off their stems. Make sure you lay them vein-side up when done.
3. Take a heaping teaspoon of hashu (more or less, depending on the size of the leaf), and place the spoonful at it’s center closest to the stem. Fold in the sides and roll them semi-tightly.
4. In a dutch oven or pot, drizzle a little vegetable oil on the bottom and start arranging your stuffed grape leaves and dried fruit, creating about 2 or 3 layers of them, depending on how many grape leaves you were able to stuff. (Some come torn up in the jar). My pot ended up with only two layers–about 32 grape leaves.
5. On med-high heat, cover the pot and let steam for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, make your sauce. In a medium bowl, add your lemon juice and tamarind. Whisk in about two cups of water and a pinch of brown sugar and salt. Pour over the grape leaves. Add another 2-3 cups of water so that it almost reaches the top layer of grape leaves, about 3 quarters of the way. A lot of the liquid will decrease as it cooks, and you’ll want some later. It’s the good stuff. You don’t want it soup-like, though.
6. Place a heat-friendly plate directly on top of the leaves to keep them from unraveling (or don’t. I didn’t. But if you’re making a lot it might be wise to.) Simmer up to 45 minutes on the stove or in the oven, covered. Spoon sauce over the top leaves occasionally. When some leaves have caramelized, turn them onto a platter and serve with all the things.
Syrian Menu for Two (with leftovers)
Yebra served with homemade Za’atar Flatbread.
And hummus topped with warm chickpeas that simmered in it’s own broth with toasted cumin seeds, then got tossed in an olive oil and lemon dressing, topped with za’atar and Aleppo pepper.
And a very fresh, colorful market haul salad made of very finely chopped parsley, red cabbage, scallions, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. I suppose all that’s missing is the bulgar!? (There was bulgar, guys. But since it was so fine (I bought it to make kibbeh), it turned to mush.) Kitchen fails are welcomed here. This salad was beautiful and simply wanted to be without.
On the table, which is actually the gorgeous cheeseboard my guy got me years ago sitting atop a radiator by the windowsil (because good lighting!), is a precious tea towel Tory gave me recently. It has a Syrian recipe of anise bread printed throughout. I love it so!
I sent over a grape leaf question to Kathryn from Cardamom and Tea the other day, and she responded with absolute kindness. I might have an opportunity to learn how to forage for fresh leaves and I do hope to meet this amazing woman whose food speaks to my soul. Lori already said she’s coming with! A day out with new friends and family in spring sounds like just the thing.