One of the best parts of shopping at the farmers' markets is unpacking. That's when I plan the pasta I will make with the beautiful red, yellow and purple sweet peppers or the Yukon gold and purple potato salad with sesame oil dressing. The lush strawberries always inspire dishes from the sweet (a tart) to the savory (a salad with manchengo cheese).
And then there are the surprises. How did this head of cabbage get into my shopping bag? I remembered getting the beautiful string beans and those heirloom tomatoes. Maybe the farmer handed this cabbage to me when she gave me the mushrooms. Now this item might be the perfect solution to a dinner I had promised to the five other members of the budget committee when we meet. A soup with cabbage at its core would be a solid reflection of my Southern Jewish cooking roots.
The foundation of my training in the kitchen comes from my Jewish mother and Rosa, the housekeeper who was with my family for over 25 years. These women knew how to create tasty and interesting meals from scantily stocked kitchen shelves. As my original teachers, their economies in the kitchen inform all my adult culinary adventures. My by-words in the kitchen are ease, economy and speed.
I knew my guests and am sure they would appreciate a dinner demonstrating good Southern cooking. Now I explore my kitchen shelves with an eye toward the time and budgetary constraints I have cooking for this demanding crew. The always-dependable garlic, onions, olive oil and canned plum tomatoes are in ready supply, and the spicy chicken sausage is fresh from the butcher. I can use a couple of those Yukon gold potatoes and I even have several sprigs of fresh rosemary picked from a bush on the dog walk path.
Chicken stock is one of the staples of my freezer. I save the bones from roast chicken in the freezer, and when I have a couple of pounds of bones, I put the bones in an 8 quart pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and allow to cook for about an hour. After straining, and cooling in the fridge, I skim the fat off the surface and ladle the unsalted stock into plastic bags that I lay flat on a cookie sheet in the freezer. The cardboard containers of vegetable or chicken stock available at the market make a good substitute when I don't have any broth in the freezer.
I pass olives and dried fruit and a nice red wine while crusty French bread heats in the oven. I served the soup, and pass the fresh bread and cheese. I hope there will be leftovers. That cabbage soup is even better the next day.
For dessert I serve my sinfully delicious triple chocolate cookies and coffee. The flavors balanced each other and are a nice complement to the hearty soup.
Accidental Cabbage Soup
• 1 small head green cabbage
• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
• 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• 2 links or 1/2 pound chicken sausage (I use spicy Italian-style sausage) I usually remove the casing from the sausage. If you prefer, simply slice the links into small rounds.
• 2 large (1 pound) Yukon gold (or other) potatoes, in ½ inch dice
• 2 - 3 ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped (or 1 1/2 cups canned plum tomatoes with their liquid)
• 1 teaspoon chopped, fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried
• 6-7 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water, preferably warmed
• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
• Freshly squeezed lemon juice or rice vinegar or white wine to taste (optional).
1. Core and shred the cabbage. Place a medium sized frying pan on medium high heat, put the sausage in the pan and cook to release much of the fat. Pour off the excess fat and set the sausage aside. Using an 8-quart pot, add the oil, turn the heat to medium. When the oil is hot add the onion, garlic, and cabbage. Cook for three to five minutes, until the cabbage just begins to wilt. Add the rosemary, salt and pepper. Add the cooked sausage, stirring until cabbage and onion are tender but not brown. Turn the heat to low, continue to cook until the cabbage has lost its crispness, approximately 20 minutes.
2. Stir in the tomatoes or canned tomatoes and their liquid and the potatoes. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are just tender and the tomatoes fall apart, approximately 30 minutes. (Soup can be prepared to this point and set aside for up to 2 days. Reheat before proceeding.)
3. Add a tablespoon or two of lemon juice, then taste, adjust seasonings and serve. Pass slices of lemon and a bowl of coarsely grated Pecorino Romano to add according to taste.
Copyright © 2016 Susan T. Lindau