Cabbage: a Winner for the Winter! (I)

Cabbage: a Winner for the Winter! (I)
Brassica capitata alba
“Brassica capitata alba”

The culinary & healing possibilities of cabbage are endless, and they are not a new trend!
The Greeks and Romans were using cabbage mainly as medicine rather than food. Greek doctors like Hippocrates (who lived circa 460 BC. and is considered the father of medicine ), and Roman doctors like Pliny the Elder praised cabbage very highly. Hippocrates recommended cabbage for kidney diseases, dysentery as well as increasing the amount of milk in nursing mothers. Pliny, who lived in the first century AD and wrote a 37-volume Natural History mentions cabbage as an ingredient in 87 remedies.

The ancestor of our cabbage is believed to be what is called today sea kale (crambe maritima) also called “wild cabbage” or “sea cabbage.” It resembles a loose-leafed cabbage with an extensive core bearing very small leaves. This theory can be supported by the findings of Judith Hiatt in her book Cabbage: Cures To Cuisine; she suggests that cabbage didn’t form a head until after the time of Charlemagne, i.e. the 9th century AD. Until then it was more like kale and collards. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, kohlrabi belong to the same specie, Brassica oleracea. The different plants evolved by encouraging the development of elements already present in the original plant.

“Medicinal workings of cabbage rely on the balance of all its nutrients and the way they interact with each other in the body,” says Judith Hiatt. Cabbage contains vitamins A, B-1, 2, 6, C, K, U and very valuable minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium. One cup of raw shredded cabbage contains 43 mg of vitamin C, or 100% of the RDA for children. In the 80s the virtues of cabbage and its family were finally being rediscovered by the medical scientists. An article published in 1982 analyzes the result of studies which show that cabbage and its related family could prevent certain kinds of cancer:

“The committee believes that there is sufficient epidemiological evidence to suggest that consumption of certain vegetables, especially carotene-rich (i.e., dark green and deep yellow) vegetables and cruciferous vegetables (e.g., cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts), is associated with a reduction in the incidence of cancer at several sites in humans. A number of non nutritive compounds that are present in these vegetables also inhibit carcinogenesis in laboratory animals.” (extract of a study compiled by the National Academy of Sciences entitled Diet, Nutrition and Cancer. 1982. National Academy Press, Washington DC)

I personally do use cabbage as a medicine often. For burns, I immediately slightly crush a leaf of cabbage take the core off and roll the leaf around the burnt area, attach it with kitchen string if possible. It relieves the pain and heals the burn really fast. At the beginning change the leaf often, you will notice that the leaf does absorbs the heat. I have wrapped cabbage leaves around my neck when I had sore throat or around limbs for rashes. Now, that might become trendy to walk into your office or job with cabbage around your neck!

The benefits of cabbage can most of all be experienced through our every day diet & there is so many different ways of eating cabbage and related members of its family.
As the first of a series of cabbage recipe I choose an American favorite: Cole slaw . Cole slaw came into the New World with the Dutch settlers and was then known as Kool Sla, meaning cabbage salad in Dutch. It is important to note that for maximum health benefits, cabbage should be eaten raw as vitamins C and U do not survive the heat. So voilà for today and stay tuned for my incredible Cabbage Roll with Ginkgo nuts recipe!

Ni-Cole Slaw
4 servings
1/2 Cabbage or the heart of a small cabbage
1 Carrot
1 small white Onion or 2 or 3 Scallions
1 tender Celery rib
1 small tart Apple
1/4 cup of Walnuts
1/4 cup Raisins
1/4 cup Fresh minced Parsley

1/2 cup Olive Oil
2 Tbs Apple Cider vinegar

1/2 tsp Sesame Oil
salt, pepper


Purple Dragon Carrots

Purple Dragon Carrots
Purple dragon carrots from Nesenkeag Farm
Mange des carottes, ça rend aimable! Eat carrots and you will be kind! or, eat carrots and they’ll make you a pleasant person!
How many times did I, like any French person, hear that saying? Countless times. As a kid, I can’t say I disliked carrots, but the moral value that supposedly came with them infuriated me. What did that imply? Was I not a sweet little girl? I do, and still do, take sayings (too) seriously!
At the family restaurant carrotes rapées were always on the crudités cart, dressed with vinaigrette and garnished with parsley. Another carrot dish that appeared regularly on the menu, and that I liked very much, is carrotes Vichy. These sweet glazed carrots would be flanked by a slice of beautiful veal loin roast drenched in flavorsome intense jus. My grand father’s recipe was simple and looks like the same recorded on his (now mine!) Escoffier cookbook:
Carottes à la Vichy:
Place the (sliced) carrots in a skillet with enough water to almost cover them, add 30 grammes of salt, 30 grammes of sugar and 60 grammes of butter per 1/2 litre of water. Set up “en timbale” (in this case it means to fill up a greased individual ramekins with the cooked carrots and turn them out on the serving dish or plate).
The carrots I took pictures of are Purple Dragon carrots. They were the last veggies left over from my wonderful trip to Nesenkeag Farm a few weeks ago. I never had these carrots before, I usually stay away from “trendy” foods, but Liana & Eero generously send me home with 2 lbs of them and I got curious.
One anecdote before I get into carrot history:
I brought a few to Alime at Aunt Halime’s Halal Meat, as she always shares Turkish delicacies. I though it was going to be a hit, but Alime looked at the purple carrots made a very disapproving face and said something like “beurk! chemicals, you can’t trust supermarket!”. I am not sure she trusted me about the carrots exquisite provenance, but it got me even more curious and I decided to look closer at the history of the carrot. Have carrots always been orange?
This summer I got a French book (thank you Pierre!) called “La Fabuleuse Histoire des Légumes” or “The Fabulous History of Vegetables” by Evelyne Bloch-Dano. Yes, I have translated “légumes” by “vegetables” because that is what the word means in the French sense of it. The book tells stories about leguminous plants, such as beans and peas, but also artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke and others. About carrots she writes:
In the 1930’s Vavilov, the Russian biologist and his team were doing research in the context of the improvement of cultivated plants in the service of Soviet Agriculture. They discovered spieces of volunteer and hybrid carrots in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Their appearance differs from wild carrots under our climate : their roots are meatier, bear little ramifications and most of all their colour ranges from purple and pink to orangy yellow…
Then Evelyne Bloch-Dano mentions Ibn al-‘Awwam, the 12th century agriculturist from Seville, who in turns reports on a 4th century book on Nabatean Agriculture and the fact thatred and yellow carrots were known to Palestinians. Ibn al-‘Awwam also speaks of red carrots in Spain at that time. In Spanish carrot is Zanahoria, and the origin of the word is quite controversial and interesting.
It is common to find entries giving an Arabic origin: safunariyat, isfranija. But the word may also possibly have a Berber origin, asfenaria . Mais encore, a Basque origin is not excluded: zain and horia which means “yellow root”, and carrots where more often red and yellow than orange. Others again posit as Aramean origin…Well, I am letting you sort it out and if you are germanophiles look at the entry below by the distinguished German linguist Hugo Schuchart:
Bloch-Dano reports that Apicius mentions a white “carota”, eaten fried or en salade, and that white carrots were mistaken for parsnips. But when did the carrot became orange? She notes that we can follow the appearance of orange carrots through Dutch paintings like Pieter Aertsen’s (1508–1575) ” Market Woman with Vegetable Stall “. She argues that Dutch painters recorded orange carrots about 200 years before any agriculture treatise; 1721 would be the first mention of the orange carrots from Holland. We don’t find any record in France until 1770.
Market Woman with Vegetable Stall 1567
Oil on wood, 11 x 110 cm – Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Voilà! I was just going spend a couple hours writing a quick blog about carrots; and here I am, eight hours later and sore from kneeling on my computer chair (told you I was brought up catholic!). After traveling virtually through continents, countries, languages I can now answer confidently:
No! carrots have not always been orange! Looks like they are a Dutch invention to celebrate the Orangist movement.
Yes! I ate my Purple Dragon carrots. I sautéed them with cabbage, ginger and garlic topped this with a steak haché (hamburger, with no bun, I don’t do sandwiches for dinner). Purple Dragon carrots are good, though I must say they have a far more interesting look that taste. The juxtaposition of purple and orange is stunning. For taste I prefer the orange ones. I ate some of the Purple Dragon carrots raw tand they do taste nuttier and stronger it is no doubt a hardier vegetable.

One more thing before I go stretch and breathe some fresh air: there is a great article and photo montage on the Christian Monitor website about Nesenkeag Farm: An organic farm grows all the peas and pods

Nicole’s Thursday night quick dinner:
Simple pan fried Hamburger with
Sautéed Purple Dragon carrots & Nappa cabbage with garlic & fresh ginger

Quick Sujuk Black Bean Soup with Homemade Quesadillas

Quick Sujuk Black Bean Soup with Homemade Quesadillas

Tomorrow is Election Day and I am restless. I will get up really early to go out to vote. I come from a political family, my father was a French senator for 18 years, so voting was never something I thought was optional. I became a American Citizen to be able to vote. My theory was that if I was paying taxes I needed to vote. In the USA since 1987, a citizen since 1995, this is the fourth presidential election I am able to participate in and by far the most exciting!

As we are hopefully heading to a new era I decided that it was appropriate to clean up my freezer of a few things that had been in there for too long. I found a container of plain cooked back beans and four pieces of Sujuk, a fragrant Turkish sausage. In the back of the fridge there was a bag of Masa Harina that I have been ignoring for to long, a piece of mozzarella that needed to be eaten and a simple salad. Voilà! my menu tonight:

Quick Sujuk Black Bean Soup
All Home Made Cheese Quesadillas
Simple Salad

Quick Sujuk Black Bean Soup
(for 2)
1 small onion diced
5 thick slices of Sujuk sausage
2 cups of cooked beans
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
salt, pepper or hot sauce to taste.

In a skillet sauté the onion and the Sujuk. Add the cooked beans & the cumin.
Add 1 1/2 cup of water -more or less depending how thick you like your soup
Stir well, taste and spice to taste.

All Home Made Cheese Quesadillas

Making your own tortillas is very satisfying and easy. Something really fun to make with your kids or grand kids. Usually the instructions on the package are pretty good, but see pictures above for the process without tortilla maker or comal.

For 8 tortillas
1 cup of instant yellow corn masa flour
3/4 cup of water
a pinch of salt
a few slices of mozzarella cheese

Mix all ingredients thoroughly, except the cheese, for about 2 minutes to form a soft dough. If dough is too dry add a little water , if too soft a little flour.
Divide dough into 8 pieces and form balls. Place dough between two sheets of plastic and flatten it with a spatula if like me you don’t have a tortilla maker. Carefully peel off from plastic. I actually use only one sheet of plastic on top and let the bottom be on the (clean) kitchen counter. I prefer to keep my tortillas at about 2/8 of an inch, which is thicker than the commercial one, but more hearty and rustic.
Warm up a cast iron skillet to medium heat cook tortilla about 50 seconds, turn and cook the other side.
Save the cooked tortillas in a cloth napkin to keep them soft and warm. You can eat them that way or make quesadillas to accompany your soup.
Return tortilla to the skillet place mozzarella in the center cover with another tortilla until the cheese is melted.

Serve the tortillas with the Sujuk black bean soup. Optional garnish of thinly cut scallions or a few leaves of cilantro can go on top of your soup. Serve with my simple salad!
Please Vote & Bon Appetit!

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