Week Twenty-One: Savoy Cabbage

image_riviera_savoy_cabbageYou know your basic green and purple cabbages right?  So why the Savoy Cabbage?  Well, the contrasting shades of green, combined with the deeply crinkled texture of the leaves, make savoy cabbages gorgeous and while some may look at these rough-looking leaves and assume that they are tough and hard, even more so than the common, green cabbage that most people are used to, but they would be wrong.  Despite this rough appearance, the leaves of the savoy cabbage are tender, even when eaten raw. This makes them an ideal choice for salads, vegetable wraps, or as a bed for rice, fish, or other dishes. This in sharp contrast to the leaves of “green”  or “purple”cabbages, that are hard and rubbery. Their only real use, in the raw state, is in making coleslaw. Even then, the texture can be too tough for many people to enjoy. On the other hand, savoy cabbage can make a tastier, and much more tender coleslaw.
While the tenderness is a huge factor in the appeal of savoy cabbages, over other forms of cabbage, its taste is another reason for its popularity. The green and red cabbages have a slightly bitter taste, which some describe as peppery. Savoy cabbage, by comparison, is milder and sweeter, making it not only a good fit in salads, but also a much preferred alternative in just about any recipe that includes cabbage.
While it’s unclear when and where the headed cabbage that we know today was developed, cultivation of cabbage spread across northern Europe into Germany, Poland and Russia, where it became a very popular vegetable in local food cultures. The Italians are credited with developing the Savoy cabbage.  Sauerkraut, a dish made from fermented cabbage, has a colorful legacy. Dutch sailors consumed it during extended exploration voyages to prevent scurvy. Early German settlers introduced cabbage and the traditional sauerkraut recipe were introduced into the United States. As a result of this affiliation, German soldiers, and people of German descent were often referred to as “krauts.”
Like the rest of the cabbage family, savoy cabbage has high nutritional value. It is very low in calories, and contains no fat or cholesterol. It is a good source of dietary fiber, and protein. It is also rich in many vitamins and minerals, such as: Thiamine (B-1), folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, manganese, calcium, copper, phosphorous, and copper. They are also an excellent source of both Vitamins K and C. Each of the different types of cabbage have high nutritional value, as well as tremendous antioxidant and disease combating properties.


PREP TIME:  Keeping cabbage cold will keep it fresh and help it retain its vitamin C content. Put the whole head in a plastic bag in the crisper of your refrigerator.  Savoy cabbage will keep for about 1 -2 weeks.  Even though the inside of cabbage is usually clean since the outer leaves protect it, you still may want to clean it. Remove the thick fibrous outer leaves and cut the cabbage into pieces and then wash under running water.  To cut cabbage into smaller pieces, first quarter it and remove the core. Cabbage can be cut into slices of varying thickness, grated by hand or shredded in a food processor.


In its simplest form, we love a big pot of sautéed cabbage with just butter, salt and pepper.  Great for those chilly nights.  If you are looking to combine your cabbage for a more exciting meal, check out the recipes below.

SAVOY CABBAGE CHIPS

1 savoy cabbage, cored, leaves separated, small leaves reserved for another use
 salt

Place oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 200°. Working in several batches, cook cabbage leaves in a large pot of boiling salted water just until translucent and bright green, about 2 minutes per batch. Using a large slotted spoon, immediately transfer leaves to a large bowl of ice water; let cool. Drain cabbage leaves well and dry thoroughly.   Set a wire rack inside each of 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Arrange cabbage leaves on racks in a single layer. Bake until completely dry and crisp, about 3 hours. Season with salt.  Cabbage chips can be made 8 hours ahead. Store chips at room temperature loosely layered between parchment paper or paper towels.

 

APPLE, WALNUT AND SAVOY CABBAGE SALAD

1 head Savoy cabbage
2 apples
½ cup walnuts
Pecorino romano cheese (or Parmesan)
⅓ cup olive oil
⅓ cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

For the dressing, whisk together ⅓ cup olive oil, ⅓ cup cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons honey, a few pinches kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper.

If desired, toast the walnuts by placing them in a dry skillet over low heat for several minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly browned and fragrant. Immediately remove from the heat into a bowl.

Thinly slice the savoy cabbage. Core the apples and chop them. (If not eating immediately, sprinkle with a bit of lemon juice.) Using a vegetable peeler, make shavings of Pecorino romano cheese, enough for around ½ cup.

To serve, place savoy cabbage on a serving plate, garnish with apples, walnuts, cheese, and dressing.


MORE SAVOY CABBAGE RECIPES:  Stir-Fried Savoy Cabbage, Savoy Cabbage with Scallions and Garlic, Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage, Colcannon (another of our favorites!), Lemony Toasted Quinoa and Cabbage Salad, Italian Peasant Soup, Spicy Cabbage and Chorizo Soup, Chicken Fajitas with Savoy Cabbage Slaw, Spaghetti with Savoy Cabbage and Bread Crumbs

 

 

CSA Week Eighteen:: Fennel

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Fennel?  Another one of those oddly shaped crops that may leave you bewildered.  But take a quick look at all the health benefits it brings and you’ll be trying to find ways to work it into your diet.  Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family and is therefore closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander.  Fennel plays an important role in the food culture of many European nations, especially in France and Italy.  Its reputation dates back to the earliest times and is reflected in its mythological traditions. Greek myths state that fennel was not only closely associated with Dionysus, the Greek god of food and wine, but that a fennel stalk carried the coal that passed down knowledge from the gods to men.  Fennels aroma and taste are unique, reminiscent of licorice and anise, so much so that fennel is often mistakenly referred to as anise in the marketplace, but don’t let an aversion to black jelly beans keep you away from fennel, whether braised, sautéed, roasted, or grilled, the bulb mellows and softens with cooking.

This strange plant  has an abundance of medicinal uses and health benefits. In fact, fennel, is a major digestive powerhouse.

Some of the components of the essential oils in fennel are stimulants and they stimulate secretion of digestive and gastric juices, while reducing inflammation of the stomach and intestines, and facilitating proper absorption of nutrients from food. It can eliminate constipation and thereby protect the body from a wide range of intestinal troubles that can stem from being “blocked up”.   Fennel is very popular as an antiflatulent, due to the carminative properties of the aspartic acid found in fennel. Its extract can be used by everyone, from infants to the elderly, as a way to reduce flatulence and to expel excess gas from the stomach.  Fennel is helpful in curing diarrhea if it is caused by bacterial infection, because some components of the essential oil in fennel such as anetol and cineole have disinfectant and antibacterial properties. Its amino acids, aid in digestion and the proper functioning of the digestive system, thereby helping to eliminate diarrhea due to indigestion. Fennel has long been used by indigenous cultures as a way to eliminate diarrhea.

The iron and histidine in fennel are also helpful in treating anemia. Whereas iron is the chief constituent of hemoglobin, histidine stimulates production of hemoglobin and also helps in the formation of various other components of the blood. Fennel is a great source of fiber, as mentioned above, but besides the advantages to digestion that fiber provides, it also helps to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol in the blood stream. This means that it can stimulate the elimination damaging LDL cholesterol, which is a major factor in heart disease and strokes.  Fennel is a rich source of potassium, which is an essential nutrient in our bodies and is vital for a number of important processes. One of the benefits of potassium is its quality as a vasodilator, which means that it relaxes the tension of blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure. High blood pressure is connected to a wide range of health issues, including heart attack and stroke.  Also, for diabetic patients, blood pressure issues can make management of their insulin and glucose levels very difficult, and can be the cause of many potentially lethal complications. A cup of fennel bulb in your daily diet will pump you full of potassium and all the benefits that come along with it.

And women, read on….fennel is also an emmenagogue, meaning that it eases and regulates menstruation by properly regulating hormonal action in the body. Fennel is used in a number of products to reduce the effects of PMS, and it is also used traditionally as a soothing pain reliever and relaxing agent for menopausal women.   Fennel also increases production and secretion of milk in lactating mothers and since this milk contains some properties of fennel, it is an anti-flatulent for the baby as well.  Fennel is an herb that has also been used for breast enlargement and to increase libido.

Fennel is useful in respiratory disorders such congestion, bronchitis, and cough due to the presence of Cineole and Anetol which are expectorant in nature, among their many other virtues. Fennel seeds and powder can help to break up phlegm and prompt loosening of the toxins and buildup of the throat and nasal passages for elimination from the body and quicker recovery from respiratory conditions.

Fennel is diuretic, which means that it increases the amount and frequency of urination, thereby helping the removal of toxic substances from the body and helping in rheumatism and swelling.

Finally, the juice of fennel leaves and the plant itself can be externally applied on the eyes to reduce irritation and eye fatigue

Wow!!


PREP TIME:  Remove the foliage by snipping an inch or two above the bulb. Place fennel in a produce bag to prevent moisture loss, and store it in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator for three or four days.  The three different parts of fennel—the base, stalks and leaves—can all be used in cooking. Cut the stalks away from the bulb at the place where they meet. If you are not going to be using the intact bulb in a recipe, then first cut it in half, remove the base, and then rinse it with water before proceeding to cut it further. Fennel can be cut in a variety of sizes and shapes, depending upon the recipe and your personal preference. The best way to slice it is to do so vertically through the bulb. If your recipe requires chunked, diced or julienned fennel, it is best to first remove the harder core that resides in the center before cutting it. The stalks of the fennel can be used for soups, stocks and stews, while the leaves can be used as an herb seasoning.


SUGGESTED USES:

Sliced crisp fennel is delicious served raw in salads.

Sautéed fennel and onions make a wonderful side dish,

Combine sliced fennel with avocados, and oranges for a delightful salad.

Braised fennel is a wonderful complement to scallops.

Top thinly sliced fennel with plain yogurt and mint leaves.

Fennel is a match made in Heaven when served with salmon.


Fennel and Celery Salad

2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, some fronds reserved
3 celery ribs, trimmed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, more to taste
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, more to taste
freshly shaved Parmesan cheese.

Cut fennel bulbs in quarters lengthwise, discarding outer layer if it is exceedingly tough. Use a mandoline or slice quarters thinly; slice celery equally thin.  Put sliced fennel and celery into a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and toss gently to combine. Top with lots of freshly shaved Parmesan and chopped fennel fronds if you like.

 

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Fennel and Garlic

6 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 fennel bulbs, fronds and stalks removed, bulbs cored and cut into eighths
2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper
pork tenderloin (about 1 pound)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat oven to 475. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss garlic, fennel, and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast 10 minutes.  Rub pork with remaining tablespoon oil; season with oregano, salt, and pepper. Remove baking sheet from oven, and push fennel and garlic to sides of sheet. Place pork in center, and roast 20 to 25 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part registers 145.  Transfer pork to a cutting board, and let rest at least 5 minutes before thinly slicing. Serve pork with fennel and garlic.


 MORE RECIPES:   Fennel in Wine and Honey, Pan Seared Scallops With Fettuccine in Bacon Fennel Cream Sauce, Roasted Chicken Sausages with Brussel Sprouts, Fennel and Potatoes, Braised Fennel and White Beans, Baked Fennel with Parmesan and Thyme, Shaved Fennel Salad, Roasted Fennel and Butternut Squash Soup, Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Fennel and Rosemary, Caramelized Fennel, Roasted Garlic and Tomato Soup, Fennel and Smoked Salmon Salad

 

 

CSA Week Sixteen: Butternut Squash

butternut-squashBUTTERNUT SQUASH:  Doesn’t the name just sound delightful?  In the history of our other crops, I’ve often talked about where we imported them from, but this week’s crop started right here.  Modern day squash developed from the wild squash that originated in an area between Guatemala and Mexico. While squash has been consumed for over 10,000 years, they were first cultivated specifically for their seeds since earlier squash did not contain much flesh, and what they did contain was very bitter and unpalatable. As time progressed, squash cultivation spread throughout the Americas, and varieties with a greater quantity of sweeter-tasting flesh were developed. Christopher Columbus brought squash back to Europe from the New World, and like many other native American foods, their cultivation was introduced throughout the world by Portuguese and Spanish explorers.  In fact, this vegetable was once such an important part of the diet of the Native Americans that they buried it along with the dead to provide them nourishment on their final journey.

However, like all members of the gourd family (which includes pumpkin, melon, and cucumber), butternut squash is another of those veggies that is technically a fruit.

Low in fat, butternut squash delivers an ample dose of dietary fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice. It provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems. The folate content adds yet another boost to its heart-healthy reputation and helps guard against brain and spinal-cord-related birth defects such as spina bifida.

The butternut squash’s beautiful color though shows it’s most noteworthy health perk. The color signals an abundance of powerhouse nutrients known as carotenoids, shown to protect against heart disease. In particular, it boasts very high levels of beta-carotene (which your body automatically converts to vitamin A), identified as a deterrent against breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration, as well as a supporter of healthy lung development in fetuses and newborns. What’s more, with only a 1-cup serving, you get nearly half the recommended daily dose of antioxidant-rich vitamin C.

As if this weren’t enough, butternut squash may have anti-inflammatory effects because of its high antioxidant content. Incorporating more of this hearty autumn/winter staple into your diet could help reduce risk of inflammation-related disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

Butternut squash is one of the healthiest vegetables for losing weight with its low calories and high levels of dietary fiber. There’s around 6 grams of primarily insoluble fiber in a cup of steamed squash and eating them is known to be especially beneficial for relieving digestive problems such as constipation.

And in spite of their rich and buttery taste, butternut squash is very low in calories. They’re only around 75 calories in one cup, which makes them one of the ‘negative calorie’ foods considered so good for weight loss.

And the best news, butternut squash store well; this hardy squash can be kept for up to three months in a cool, dry place. Do not refrigerate.  The hardest part as  you could imagine is trying to figure out how to get into your squash but here is some help for this conundrum!


Cutting Your Giant Oddly Shaped Butternut Squash:  

Halving the squash:  Start with a large, sharp knife.   Start by cutting across and removing the stem.  Turn the squash so the cut end is facing away from you, and insert the tip of your knife straight down into the center , keeping it stable with your free hand. Press the handle of the knife down until you cut through the bottom half.  Turn the squash 180 degrees and insert the knife into the center again, repeating the technique in step 2 to halve the squash, completely halving the squash so that you can scoop out the seeds.

To cut into smaller pieces:  Again, you want to start with a sharp knife. Cut off the stem and bottom ends of the squash so both ends are flat. Slice the squash in half, just where the thinner end begins to widen. Use a heavy-duty peeler to peel away the skin. If you notice green streaks remaining on the squash as you peel, peel those away as well until only orange flesh remains (they can be a little tough). Cut the larger end in half and spoon out the seeds. Cut each piece into 1-inch-thick sticks then slice into 1-inch cubes.  You can make the cubes larger if you like.

 And don’t forget the seeds!!!

How to Roast Butternut Squash Seeds: Remove pulp and  threads from seeds. Simmer seeds in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Toss seeds with olive oil and lightly season with salt. Roast in a 325 degree F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.


SPICY BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

7-8 cups, peeled chunks of peeled butternut squash
4 cups chicken broth
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp coriander
salt and pepper

Combine squash, broth, onion, curry powder, ginger and coriander in a large pot.  Bring to a boil on high heat; reduce heat to simmer and cover.  Simmer 40 minutes.  Add more broth if needed.  Puree in food processor or blender in small batches until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.


BUTTERNUT SQUASH CHIPS

1 butternut squash, about 2 pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Peel squash then cut in half. Scoop the seeds out. Cut the squash into 1/8″ slices using a mandoline slicer.  In a large bowl, toss butternut squash slices with olive oil, herbs and sea salt until evenly coated. Spread slices in a single layer over two baking sheets.  Bake in preheated oven for 3 hours, turning twice. After 3 hours turn off oven, leaving chips to cool in oven for 6 hours or overnight. Store in an airtight container.


MORE BUTTERNUT SQUASH RECIPES:   Butternut Squash Pancakes, Butternut Squash and Kale Risotto, Squash and Sage Biscuits, Maple Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash, “Better Than Pumpkin” Butternut Squash Pie, Curried Butternut Squash and Pear Soup, Butternut Squash Gratin with Blue Cheese and Sage, Squash and Ricotta Toasts, Caramelized Butternut Squash