Chat Leftovers: Purple Cabbage, Cheesy Grits and Meatless Meal Planning
There's never enough time to answer all of the questions that arrive in my What's Cooking queue each week; below, a few leftovers worth chewing on. Feel free to add your thoughts and kitchen insight in the comments area below.
Alexandria, Va: My husband and I have decided to try and go meatless a little bit more and are attempting to make two dinners a week meat-free. We love beans and lentils, but don't want to make the foray into meat substitutes. This week's line-up includes a chickpea curry and your Syrian-style lentils. I'm thinking that eggplant parmesan and ratatouille are in our future. Other than those, I'm at a bit of a loss. What would you suggest to increase our menu horizons?
You're off to a good start, Alexandria, but you're right, it's a good idea to have a stable of menu ideas to keep the meatless lineup diverse and interesting. I highly recommend checking out a few vegetarian-focused cookbooks, including Peter Berley's "Fresh Food Fast," a collection of meatless meals organized by season. For autumn, he offers, among other choices, red lentil and sweet potato curry and wild mushroom fricassee over faro, all of which include a "menu game plan" helpful for weeknight preparation.
You're a good candidate for Heidi Swanson's books as well; her focus is on more on "whole and natural ingredients" which happen to be meatless. She offers lots of creative ways to prepare grains, legumes and natural sweeteners and has a way with color and texture.
And then, of course, you must join the merry band of meatless veterans and wannabes who gather 'round the virtual table for What's Cooking Vegetarian, which I host the last Thursday of (mostly) every month at 1 ET. You'll get so many ideas you won't know where to start!
Purple cabbage: I have three heads of purple cabbage from the CSA, and am looking for ideas. The constraints are -- my wife won't eat mayo based slaws or sugary sweet (as many of the Asian dressing based slaws tend to be) slaws. Any ideas?
Well, when it comes to mayo-free slaws, you've come to the right place; in my opinion, mayo is never an option. Shred that slaw and mix it with other crunchy stuff, like a handful of chopped walnuts, julienned red bell pepper, a grated apple.
Dressing need not be sweet at all, particularly if you use mild, slightly sweet vinegars, such as apple cider or rice wine. Sesame oil is nice here, but olive oil is equally fine. You can make up your very own slaw along the way; don't worry what the recipes say.
Another fun cabbage-y idea to consider is grilling one of those purple heads. Slice head in half or quarters, pull out some of the heart, and lather it up good with butter and/or olive oil, fill cavity with onions, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and wrap in foil. Cook on grill at least 45 minutes, maybe an hour. Check on it every 20 minutes.
Washington, D.C.: I had some great cheese grits while on vacation in North Carolina recently. They were so creamy and cheesy I'm sure they were 500 calories per spoonful, but they were worth every bite. I'd like to try this at home. Any ideas on how to do it? I saw grits near the oatmeal at the store, but the tube offered no suggestions.
Washington, have I got a treat for you. While volunteering in New Orleans this June, my CulinaryCorps colleagues and I had the pleasure of meeting chef Frank Brigtsen, of Brigtsen's Restaurant, a must-do if you're ever in New Orleans. Brigtsen led a demo of a few classic New Orleanian dishes, including one for cheese grits, which he served with grillades (cutlets of veal or pork), and a tomato-based creole sauce. The grits were absolutely divine, creamy and luscious.
I don't know much about grits coming in a tube as you mentioned, but may I suggest exploring the world of stone-ground grits? You won't believe the difference in flavor. You can buy online from South Carolina artisan mill Anson Mills.
You'll notice too, that Brigtsen cooks his grits in milk, a technique I've noticed among many southern chefs. For further reading on grits, consider the "Shrimp and Grits Cookbook" by Charleston-based food writer Nathalie Dupree.
Frank Brigtsen's Fontina Cheese Grits
7 cups milk
4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups stone ground grits
1/2 pound Fontina cheese, diced into 1-inch pieces
In a pot over medium heat, add milk, salt, white pepper and butter. Scald milk, but do not boil.
Slowly add grits, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking occasionally, until grits are tender and mixture is relatively thick, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat.
Add cheese and whisk vigorously until cheese is melted and grits are creamy.
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