My favorite thing to cook for others is vegetables. Lots of people don’t like vegetables because lots of people have no idea what they’re doing with vegetables (you just roast them, right?).
Because we're shopping less often, these recipes focus on storage vegetables—the ones that can sit in your fridge for a month or so.
While everyone was roasting beets, they ignored cabbage. I like braised cabbage. But I love it burnt. Cooked cabbage is actually pretty sweet, and the char offsets that. This dish is 98 percent vegetables, but has as much flavor as a slice of pizza, due mostly to the sauce, which you can make a lot of (the chili will get preserved in the vinegar) and use on most any vegetable: broccoli, cauliflower, roasted carrots.
- 1 head of cabbage (green, red, or savoy)
- neutral oil (like canola, grapeseed, or avocado)
- optional: toasted bread crumbs, cilantro
- 2–3 fresh chiles, whatever you can find that’s spicy (you can also use things like rehydrated dried chiles, jarred Calabrian chiles, a simple sambal, or—in a pinch—some cayenne or red pepper flakes)
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 6 tablespoons vinegar (apple cider, sherry, rice, red or white wine—whatever you have, but avoid highly sweetened ones like balsamic)
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- Heat the oven to 375 or so (all ovens temps are different—you’ll need to experiment with yours a bit). Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise. Rub both halves with oil on every surface. Wrap them loosely in foil, put on a sheet pan, and roast until cooked through. Depending on the size of the cabbage and heat of the oven, this can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
- While the cabbage cooks, in a blender or food processor, puree the chiles, vinegar, fish sauce, and honey with a big pinch of salt.
- When cooked, cut the cabbage into quarters. The wedges should have the stem still attached, so the leaves stay on. (You can save extra cooked wedges for the next day or two. Continue when ready to eat.)
- Turn on a kitchen fan if you have one. Heat a large saute pan on medium-high. Add a little oil and, when hot, sear the cabbage wedges along the cut side. You’ll likely need to do this in batches. You can go as dark as you like—from caramelized to burnt. Flip the pieces and sear the other cut side.
- Let the pan cool down a bit and add a good chunk of butter (2–3 tablespoons). Add some chile sauce and a big pinch of salt. You'll likely have extra chile sauce; put it in a jar—it keeps. With a large metal spoon, baste the wedges until the sauce forms a glaze on the cabbage. Be sure to tip them onto the round side, so you can pour sauce between the leaves. When done cooking, cut away a cabbage leaf and taste. You can add more chile sauce or salt as necessary.
- Put on a plate and garnish with cilantro and breadcrumbs.
For some reason beets have fallen under the roasted vegetable fetish that cropped up in the U.S. Roasted beets are nice. But braised beets are easier and, I think, better. This recipe is very simple and all its parts keep for quite some time.
- 2 pounds beets
- 1 quart orange juice (you can also use unsweetened cranberry juice, or red wine)
- chile flakes
- 2 cloves garlic
- a few thyme sprigs
- whole fennel and coriander seeds
- vinegar, whatever you have around should work (I like sherry)
- fresh herbs: mint, parsley, dill, tarragon
- lemon zest (1–2 lemons worth)
- black pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- hazelnuts or walnuts, crushed
- flake salt
- feta or creme fraiche
- Roughly pick the herbs. You can use any mix you like. Keep the stems. With a sharp knife, chop the leaves and fronds to the consistency of pesto. Put in a jar. Add the lemon zest and black pepper. Add olive oil until the herbs are completely covered. So long as they’re covered in oil, this mixture will keep in the fridge for weeks.
- Cut any larger beets in half so that all the pieces are similar sizes. Smaller beets you can leave whole. Put them in a large pot or dutch oven and add enough orange juice to mostly cover the beets. Add a few big pinches of salt, chile flakes, garlic cloves, coriander, fennel, and the herb stems. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until you can easily stab to the center of a beet with a paring knife (maybe 40 minutes).
- Turn off the heat and let cool until you can handle the beets easily. With a clean kitchen towel that you don’t mind dying pink, take the beets and rub off the rough outer skin. Trim away the stemy top part. Cut the cleaned beets into any shape you like.
- When all the beets are out of the cooking liquid, strain the liquid through a fine sieve, and throw away the solids. Taste the liquid—it should be a little tarter and saltier than you want the beets to taste. Adjust the acidity with the vinegar and salt to taste.
- Marinate the cut beets in the liquid for at least a few hours—overnight is best. They’ll keep like this for 5–6 days.
- When ready to prepare, put the beets on a plate and garnish with creme fraiche or feta, the herbs in oil, the nuts, and flake salt.
Daikon and Carrots in Dashi
Cooking root vegetables in dashi is the easiest way to feel like you’re not only eating vegetables. As it stands, this makes a great side dish. If you want something heartier, add tofu, or cabbage rolls stuffed with ground pork. If you don’t want to make dashi, use another type of broth—chicken, beef, fish.
- 1 pound daikon radish
- ½ pound carrots
- dashi (one piece kombu, a few dried shiitake mushrooms, a few handfuls of katsobushi)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 3 tablespoons sake
- togarashi or red pepper flakes
- Make the dashi. In a saucepan, soak the kombu and mushrooms in five or so cups of cold water for at least a half an hour. Gently raise to a simmer, but as soon as bubbles reach the surface, cut the heat. Add the katsobushi and let sit for 10–15 minutes. Strain through the finest sieve you have. (You can find a more in-depth explanations of how to make dashi here.)
- Cut the daikon and carrots into large rounds. You can peel them if you want, but I don’t unless the outsides look bad.
- In a large pot combine the dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and sake. Bring to a boil. Add salt until it’s a little saltier than is pleasant—it needs to balance with the unsalted vegetables.
- Add the daikon. Simmer for five minutes. Add the carrots. Cook until all are tender.
- Put in bowls with the broth. Garnish with togarashi.