Sunday, March 11, 2007

Cooking Cabbage

Last night, I made something called "Savory Cabbage Strudel". I found the recipe because we had two heads of cabbage in the refrigerator, both delivered in the bushel of organic vegetables that's delivered to our house every week, and I was determined to use them, rather than give them away (or worse, dump them directly into our compost bin). The recipe involved saute-ing a bunch of veggies and fresh herbs, rolling the mixture up in phyllo dough and baking the resulting 'strudels' for about a half hour. In retrospect, I'd pump up the onion, add garlic and a few more herbs to the mix, but overall, the strudels turned out to be quite tasty. Whew! No more guilt about wasted cabbage!

So here's the thing. I'm not really just writing about my Culinary Success With Cabbage, but more about how important it is to push myself to try new things these days. I mean, I have dozens and dozens of tried-and-true recipes, some that I've been making for three decades by now, and it's often so much easier to pull one of them out of the file rather than attempt something new.

This whole tey-something-new-in-cooking thing happened when we first got involved in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and subscribed with Full Belly Farm, a truly wonderful CSA that serves the Bay Area. I had no trouble with the contents of the summer and fall veggie boxes; after all, I'd been making stuff with tomatoes and zucchini and stuff like that for a long time. But as we moved into winter vegetables, and I found myself gazing at four or five leeks (yep, I'd never cooked leeks before) or celery root or Jerusalem artichokes, I suddenly realized that I'd either have to learn some new tricks or give away half of what had turned up in the box every week. As it is, I do have to gift someone with the kale and chard that comes every winter, because David, whose mother had a huge vegetable garden when he was a kid, has eaten enough of those greens for several lifetimes, and refuses to eat them anymore. But I really wanted to figure out how to use some of the ingredients I'd never used before, so I pulled out three or four of my vegetarian cookbooks and, among other things, discovered a killer recipe for potato-leek soup that has become a new 'old favorite' around here.

But every recipe I found for cabbage either bored the hell out of me, or sounded ghastly, or was too boring for words - until I found the Savory Cabbage Strudel somewhere online. We both agreed that this was a keeper, and I think we'll be adding cabbage to the list of veggies we eat at least semi-regularly.

Which doesn't sound like much of a step into Doing New Things, I know, but the experience was a reminder that I really do need to seize every opportunity that presents itself for new and interesting stuff to try. Hell, even if the new thing doesn't end up being all that interesting, at least I'll be open to possibilities. Once that happens, the likelihood of stuff being fun and interesting increases, I think. And heaven knows, I need as much fun and interesting-stuff in my life as possible these days.

So. A new mantra of sorts has arrived in my life. Whenever I find myself reluctant to try something new, I will repeat the phrase 'cooking cabbage' in my head - a reminder to be open to the possibility that something very tasty might be waiting out there to be experienced!


katherine said...

I am thinking about this a lot myself right now,so I loved this post. May borrow cooking cabbage as a mantra!


Libbi said...

Hey, Katecat! Good to see you here!

Feel free to use it any time.

Revalani said...

Funny, I have to push myself (or did, when I was head chef in this household), to try something OLD! You might've heard Jer say that, when we were first together, I'd cook something delicious and he'd think "Oh boy; I get to have this all the time." Wrong-o. I hardly EVER repeated a recipe.

That said, I sure do get your point about trying something new now and then. We're all such creatures of habit. I started a blog post on that very subject a couple of months ago. It's been sitting as a draft, with nothing more than a clever (to me) title -- "The Things We Do The Way We Do." Oy, do we have ruts, routines and rituals in THIS family...