This morning on CBC Edmonton AM, we talked about three in-season Brassicas: cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. I’ll post a link to that segment as soon as the audio file becomes available.
It took me years to warm up to these characters, especially cabbage and Brussels sprouts which can be boring and taste like sulphur sometimes. They key of course, is in preparation and cooking. Once you know what to do with these vegetables, you’ll be rewarded with a lot of wow for little investment or effort. Brassicas are super affordable and very versatile: use them in soups, casseroles, as condiments, or as the main feature. Fermented cabbage, like Korean kimchi, or German sauerkraut is fantastic in sandwiches—case in point, the Reuben I had at Continental Treat last week. Delicious.
Maybe it was the visuals that inspired them, but people gave cabbage and Brussels sprouts a ton of love on that Facebook post. Chef Paul Shufelt reminded us about the incredible cabbage dish offered by Pigeonhole in Calgary. He said he would get in his car and drive 300 kilometres to eat it and never regret it. Ask anyone who’s eaten this particular dish, and you’ll probably get the same answer. That cabbage dish was crazy good.
Roasting or stir-frying is a wonderful way to cook cabbage. The picture below shows the caramelization that results when you drizzle a little olive oil on cabbage and roast it at 400F for about 35 minutes. Spice it any way you like (salt and pepper, or chili flakes with garlic, etc). So easy.
If you want to make a good coleslaw—one that has actual flavour and nice texture—take a lesson from chef Allan Suddaby. His blogsite buttonsoup.ca is full of good tips. On the right hand side of the page is a green search box. Just enter cabbage or coleslaw and you’ll find all the info you need. You can listen to Allan and chef Chael MacDonald dish about all sort of food tips, tricks, history and technique mystery on their podcast FoodCourt, available on several podcast platforms.
Brussels sprouts are like mini-cabbages, so roasting them is a great way to go. They love bacon fat but you can just roast them in olive or canola oil, too. To prepare them, cut off any browned bits of the stem, cut the sprout in half, drizzle with oil or rendered fat, salt and pepper and roast them cut side down. You’ll have no trouble finding a recipe; there are a million of them out there. If you want to try some from a restaurant, head to Workshop or Woodshed Burgers. The deep fried variety on those menus, created by Chef Shufelt, are pretty delicious.
I mentioned the Brussels sprouts that chef Alexei Boldireff had on the menu at Baijiu when he was head chef there. He deep fried them and tossed them in a gochujang barbecue sauce, a squirt of lime and then topped them with roasted cashews. The trick to a good sprout, he told me, was to not overcook them. Nobody wants mushy sprouts.
You can clean Brussels sprouts, cut them in half and steam them, too, but I like to eat them either raw (shredded in salad), or roasted so that they caramelize.
And lastly, kale. Yes, kale. Still here, still popular, still on every juice bar menu, and for good reason: it’s wickedly nutritious and easy to incorporate into recipes like ribollita, a Tuscan soup that also contains white beans, aromatics and is thickened with stale/old bread. Bon Appetit has a very simple recipe, but again, there are many out there.
Also, kale chips are fun, tasty and easy to make, too, and you don’t feel quite as guilty eating them as you might after a half a bag of regular potato chips. Find a good recipe on my blog for kale chips here.
if you use kale in salads, cut the leaves from the spine, add a few drops of olive oil and massage each leaf to break up the fibres inside, otherwise they’re going to be tough, and that’s not fun.
if you’re inspired to cook with brassicas this week, please support our local producers and pick up the produce at a farmers market. The banner photo for this post is of the selection of cabbages offered by Kuhlmann’s at the Downtown Farmers’ Market. The flavour and quality of what’s in season right now is outstanding.
Let me know what your favourite recipes are for brassicas. Thanksgiving dinner is coming up and I’d love to find something new to try.