Using Up Many Vegetables at Once

I made this for dinner last night, and it was yummy.  I managed to use up my red cabbage and beets, plus onions, carrots, and garlic from the garden, and thyme and dill from my backyard herb garden.  This is from the newish Cooks Illustrated Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.

Beet and Wheat Berry Soup with Dill Cream

Serves 6


2/3 cup wheat berries (not the quick cooking or precooked kind), rinsed

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 onions, chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

8 cups vegetable broth

3 cups water

1 1/2 cups shredded red cabbage

1 pound beets, trimmed, peeled, and shredded

1 small carrot, peeled and shredded

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Dill Cream

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup minced fresh dill

1/2 teaspoon salt

1.  For the Soup:  Toast wheat berries in dutch oven over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant and beginning to darken, about 5 minutes; transfer to bowl.

2.  Heat oil in now-empty pot over medium heat until shimmering.  Stir in onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in tomato paste and cayenne and cook until darkened slightly, about 2 minutes.

3.  Stir in broth and water, scraping up any browned bits.  Stir in toasted wheat berries, cabbage, beets, carrot, bay leaf and 3/4 teaspoon pepper, and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until wheat berries are tender but still chewy and vegetables are tender, 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours.

4.  For the Dill Cream:  Meanwhile, combine all ingredients in bowl.

5.  Off heat, discard bay leaf, and stir in vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Top individual portions with dill cream and serve.

2013 Brassicas (end of season notes)

Cold spring weather a problem for all early crop. Late crop started in garden and transplanted.
Broccoli: sprouting type was a bust, possibly weather stress. Late crop did better in potato bed
 – try heat tolerant variety next spring?
Brussels Sprouts: starting seedlings indoors produced more viable plants – plant further apart?
Cabbage: early green & red did well. Late green did well, red did not, savoy took a little too long.
Cauliflower: most early season produced tiny heads, a few heads produced normally & a few others took twice the time, late crop all produced well.
Romanesco Cauliflower: started indoors, plants produced tiny heads (like early broccoli & cauliflower) –give up or grow only late season

More on fermenting

Just like my Sue, my sister of the soil, I've just made my first-ever batch of sauerkraut, which spent four days on the counter before moving to the well-known "cool, dry place," which in my house is the fridge. Its base was Napa cabbage from the garden, and the secondary ingredients included both carrot and parsnip from the same source.

Honestly, I don't really like sauerkraut — it's "sauer!" — but I had my reasons to try it. First, is the locavore reason — what good is a bumper crop if your only choices are to give it to the neighbors or put it into the compost? 

Secondly, I was writing a story about natural fermentation, the centuries-old method of food preservation, for the Boston Globe, and wanted to have a feel for what I was talking about. It's one of the privileges of journalism, to learn and experience more than I would if I didn't have a need to know.

Anyway, the story was published this morning. Though it didn't make the print version, the online presentation includes a tips box from Dan Rosenberg, founder and co-owner of Real Pickles, a Greenfield, Mass., company makes about a dozen products using only local produce and natural fermentation.

If remember to, I'm going to bring my kraut to the garden Saturday morning for a tasting. C'mon by!

My experiments with fermented foods: the cabbage isn't "going bad", it's getting better and better

I was intrigued by a recent Terry Gross interview with Sandor Ellix Katz about his book "The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World".  Katz explains that fermented foods and beverages have been prepared by humans for over 8000 years.  Fermentation is the process whereby cultures of micro-organisms (usually bacteria or yeast), often microbes already naturally present in the food or surrounding environment, are allowed to establish and grow in the food, enhancing flavor and, Katz believes, providing numerous health benefits.  (Our own bodies normally contain vast -- VAST -- numbers of living bacteria and other microorganisms, known as our "microbiome", though this fascinating topic is way beyond the scope of this post.)  As they grow in the fermenting foods, the microorganisms digest carbohydrates and produce byproducts that impart characteristic flavors.  (See "glycolysis" in your biochemistry texts.)  For example, both wine and beer are fermented beverages, with sugars converted by yeast to alcohol (and carbon dioxide).  In the case of some other fermented foods, lactic acid is the product contributing to the characteristic flavor and texture.  Lactic acid gives pickles and sauerkraut their sharp sourness, and the extent of acidity can be controlled, for example, by moving the product to the refrigerator to slow bacterial growth. 


In his book, Katz cites an estimate that up to one third of all foods eaten by people worldwide is fermented!  Some of the most obvious are the foods and beverages mentioned above, and yogurt.  Less obvious are cheese, coffee and bread.  Think of those beautiful, strong-flavored ("tres fort") French cheeses laced with colorful, happily metabolizing molds.  In bread, the yeast also generate ethanol and carbon dioxide, and the carbon dioxide bubbles help the dough to rise.  Katz's interview made me realize that I already use fermentation routinely in some of my cooking, for example, in sourdough bread.  I knew already that the sourdough starter that's been brewing in my refrigerator for well over a year is a living culture  -- one that seems to rebel by giving me misshapen bread loaves if I ignore it for too many weeks.  But, I hadn't quite appreciated its connection to beer, wine or sauerkraut.

Yeast breads are good examples of fermented foods, since the carbon dioxide, produced as the yeast metabolize carbohydrates in the mixture, causes the dough to rise.  Sourdough breads, like this one, rely even more on fermentation, since the sourdough starter itself is a simmering culture.  



So, I decided to try making other fermented foods, inspired by vegetables growing in our Robbins Farm garden.  Katz told Terry Gross that sauerkraut is the simplest fermented food for the beginner.  Plus, beautiful fresh cabbage is available in our garden and in local farms right now.  I followed the basic procedure suggested by Katz in the radio piece.  Essentially, veggies of choice are salted to extract their juices, these juices are squeezed from the vegetables and they are allowed to ferment in their own juices in a sealed jar.  Katz advises not adding more water unless it is needed to cover the vegetables, because this will dilute the flavor.  I did need to add a little water (he said the vegetables should be covered with liquid) but it did taste pretty good, seasoned only with salt and black pepper.  I used fresh green cabbage, scallions and carrots.  (Because of availability, only the scallions were from our Garden, while the other vegetables were from Busa Farm.)  As Katz had promised, it was a simple dish to make.


My first (only, so far) attempt at sauerkraut, using locally grown green cabbage, scallions, and carrots, and the guidelines described by Katz in his radio interview.  


Emboldened by my relative success, I decided to next try making kimchee (or kimchi), the Korean staple that happens to be one of my favorite foods.  There are probably as many different kimchee recipes as there are for wines and cheeses.  Katz didn't offer a kimchee recipe in his book but I found a recipe online for "Basic Nappa Cabbage Kimchi (Kimchee)" that looked about right.  This time, I was able to use nappa cabbage from our Garden.  I followed the recipe closely, but used half of all ingredients since it was written for 2 lbs of nappa cabbage.  Consult the recipe for further details, but essentially, I began by washing and cutting the cabbage and soaking it in salted water for about 24 hrs, then rinsing and draining it, squeezing out the excess liquid.  This leaves it somewhat wilted in appearance.  Regarding the other ingredients, I first searched a few Asian markets in the Chinatown area (near where I work) but was concerned that the ingredients, especially the fish sauce and red pepper powder, were not necessarily the Korean style.  So, I headed to the amazing, though somewhat overwhelming, H. Mart in Burlington.  Here the selection is great, with separate sections for Korean sauces and other items.  (And, as it happens, H. Mart carries many types of prepared kimchee, sold in jars in the refrigeration cases, or in bulk by the pound.)  To my surprise, even the daikon radish was available in both Chinese and Korean variations, so I took the Korean one.  Both are plump and white, but the Korean had a greenish color at the base.  Again, the red pepper powder selection was huge, with coarse and fine options and many different brands.  I took the one that said "For Kimchi" on it, a coarse grind.  While it was produced in China, it was packaged in Korea and, of course, the "For Kimchi" label gave me comfort that it was the right kind. 



Shown here are several of the ingredients I used for kimchee.  Clockwise from front:  Daikon radish ("Korean" according to H. Mart), wild salted shrimp, Korean style fish sauce, Napa cabbage from the Garden (after soaking in salt, draining and squeezing out excess liquid), Coarse ground red pepper powder (marked "For Kimchi"), ginger root.  Not shown:  scallions


Preparation in progress, prior to adding cabbage and fish sauce to pack into jars.




As I write this, my 1 qt jar of kimchee, after brewing in the basement (a cool, dark place) for a little over 24 hrs, is now fermenting in the refrigerator. Before transferring it to the refrigerator, I opened the lid to release the gases; and, there were gases so we're on the right track!.  To be continued......







Additional tips from my friends who have experience making kimchee: Val Hays has used, and recommends, another Kimchee recipe by David Lebovitz. While similar to the one I used, it does not have the salted shrimp, making it a good vegetarian option. MJ Keeler suggests letting the kimchee ferment in the refrigerator for at least a week, rather than the three days (minimum) suggested by the recipe. As I post this, it's been in the refrigerator for three days and we haven't tasted it yet.


Update:  We have eaten some of this.  It is okay, but I am not thrilled with it.  The cabbage is a little tough, and the taste a little bitter.  Today (August 11) I got another half cabbage, shared with Dick.  I am going to try the other kimchee recipe in this post (David Lebovitz).  However, I am slightly concerned that it is our nappa cabbage that is bitter or tough.  We will see.....

p.s. Gardeners:  I have plenty of the red pepper powder and salted shrimp, as well as extra 1 qt canning jars.  Let me know if you want some to try this on your own.


 2 years ago, we planted cabbages and they were essentially a failure, attacked by insects and really poor performers.  Last year the yield was better- we were able to harvest several cabbages and we tried a successful experiment where we left the cabbage plant after we harvested a cabbage and benefited when it produced more cabbages.

This year- cabbage nirvana.  We have both green and red cabbages that are doing really well.  On Saturday, June 23 we harvested our first monster cabbage.

November Harvests: Brussels Sprouts and other Cold-Hardy Crops

If it's November, it's time to harvest the Brussels Sprouts. They're one of the slowest crops in the garden -- but worth the wait. They're exceptionally cold hardy. In fact, they were growing so vigorously in late October that the snow didn't even stick to them!


The last of the Scallions, Leeks, Collard Greens and Tatsoi were harvested this week. (Sadly, the Leeks never fully matured.) We're still picking small Broccoli florets (amazingly, from the seedlings we planted in April) and some of the sweetest Kale I've ever tasted. The Arugula and Broccoli Rabe also continue to produce. A few tiny Lettuce and Spinach seedlings remain, along with our marginal late-season Cabbages.  

Alan harvests Brussels sprouts

Mike, Melanie and Sophia prep the sprouts

October weather Surprise

garden before and after snow


After Saturday's work session, the garden was neat and clean and green. The following day, it was white! The fluke October snow was perfectly timed to weigh down the fresh compost of basil, bean, eggplant, okra, pepper, tomato and tomatillo plants.

The cabbage was snug in its white blanket, awaiting more warm weather and the Brussels sprouts were standing tall.

Kabocha squash and tomatillos take me back

Today my colleagues at the Garden were kind enough to let me take home one of the two kabocha squash that we harvested. I regret that I didn't photograph it, but my colleague Elisabeth provided this photo of another of our beautiful kabochas (surrounded by tomatillos). Wikepedia informed me, with its usual degree of authority, that Kabocha squash is also called "Japanese pumpkin". Indeed, as you see, it is very pumpkin-like. We also harvested two sugar pumpkins from our "Three Sisters" plot today, and our kabocha looked like they could easily have been their unripe cousins.

Elisabeth reminded me about an amazing soup that uses kabocha, along with tomatillos.  I recalled the recipe, too, the minute she mentioned it yet, inexplicably, it's been over 10 years since I last prepared it.  It's "Tomatillo and Squash Soup" from Anna Thomas' "The New Vegetarian Epicure".  It is probably the best soup I've ever made, or eaten.  How on earth have I lived without it, let alone forgotten about it, for all these years?! I'm quite sure that the last time I made it was in the late 90's.  Kabocha squash and tomatillos were relatively hard to come by back then.  As we reminisced in the Garden today, you had to search for tomatillos at "Bread and Checkbook", and they cost a lot, and even the 12 required by the recipe were not necessarily in stock when you needed them.  Kabocha squash, with its firm very deep orange flesh and unique flavor (and tough'd better have a good knife!), was not particularly easy to find either.

In our Garden, a tomatillo shortage is NOT an issue.  Our two tomatillo plants are thriving, and we have more tomatillos than we know what to do with!  (Until today, I've just been skewering and grilling them...delicious, yes, but so is anything that's skewered and grilled, no?). 

So, arriving home with my tomatillos (about twice as many as specified in the recipe;  this is my standard practice...I double up on the components I love the most) and my kabocha (deceptively small in appearance, as it turns weighed in at just about the 2 lbs suggested by the recipe), I dug out my copy of Anna Thomas' classic book and got to it. This soup is somewhat labor intensive, and heats up your kitchen, but it is so, so worth it!  I roasted the tomatillos, along with our own Garden tomatoes and about a dozen garlic cloves* until lightly charred in the oven, cooled them a bit, and then blasted them in the food processor.  Meanwhile, I simmered the peeled and diced squash to extreme tenderness in Trader Joe's organic vegetable broth, skipping the additional water the recipe suggests.  Once these components were all cooked, I left them sitting and ran out to buy onions.  (Unfortunately, onions from our Garden are not large enough; they're mainly bunching onions -- yummy in their own right, but not for this recipe).  I was able to find organic sweet onions at Trader Joes.  I then carmelized the onions, along with one mashed garlic clove and a bit of salt, in EVOO.  At this point, it was time to toast, according to the book, "2 dried red serrano or other hot peppers" on the stovetop, chop them, and add them to the soup.  Instead of dried peppers, I first selected two fresh hot red peppers from the Garden. But, when I charred them and processed them (in my mini-food prep Cuisinart), they, despite my having removed the seeds, gave off such strong hot pepper fumes that, honestly, I was afraid to put them in the soup -- in fact I could barely breathe without coughing (guys, what ARE those peppers we're growing??).  I love this soup so much and, while I appreciate hot peppers, they can so easily overwhelm.  So, I discarded most of the hot pepper into my compost pile (sorry!).  I then went to the cupboard and selected a half dried Guajillo pepper from Penzey's, which describes it as as "not hot but rich, smoky and complex".  If I'd planned enough in advance I would have soaked it a bit but, instead, I just ground it up in the mini-prep (along with a small bit of the juice and pulp from our Garden hot peppers).  This is what went into the soup, along with some of our Garden cilantro and sea salt.  That's all.  Heated it through and, yes, it was still, after all these years, wonderful!  Still is, in fact..we have enough for lunch tomorrow. Elisabeth, thank-you for reminding me about this soup that I used to love so much! It's extraordinary!


Along with our Tomatillo and Squash soup for dinner tonight, John and I had a little cole slaw that I made, also inspired by a suggestion of Elisabeth's. I prepared the cole slaw with a tiny little cabbage, the result of a Garden experiment (see Lisa's post "The Great Cabbage Experiment", 08/01/2011).  I sliced it and combined it with one of our yellow carrots (coarse grated), our bunching onions (sliced thin) and a dressing of:  mayonnaise (Trader Joe's organic), cider vinegar, sea salt, black pepper and celery salt.  After mixing it all together, I decided to also add a bit of minced pineapple to temper the vinegar taste a bit.  Came out pretty good, if I say so myself.  Elisabeth, thanks for suggesting the cole slaw and, also, especially, for suggesting the original experiment that led to these sweet baby "2nd gen" cabbages!

Well that was our dinner tonight, along with some fresh, still sweet corn from Busa's, our beloved neighborhood farm.  The ingredients were mostly from the Garden, with some help from Busa's and TJ's.  Oh, yeah, and the perfect wine to accompany this feast was something crispy and cold from Enzed.  We bought it from either:  Menotomy Beer and Wine, TJs in Cambridge or Busa's Liquor..we don't quite recall where we got this one, but it was just right tonight.



* Garlic cloves are not yet available from the Garden, but stay tuned!  Now that we have been granted permission to keep the garden open through the winter, we will be planting some.  In the meantime, I used organic garlic from Trader Joe's.

The Great Cabbage Experiment

Normally, when cabbage is ready to harvest we just pull the whole plant out of the ground and lop off the roots.  However, we were told by someone that it is possible to have multiple crops of cabbages on the same plant if we don't pull the entire plant.  We are trying this experiment with several of our cabbage plants- both the plain green cabbage and the Savoy.   This plant seems to have as many at 7 new cabbages growing from the original plant.  Supposedly the cabbages will be quite a bit smaller, but hopefully they will taste as good.



Fall Crop Update

The peak of the harvest is past, and yet we tried second plantings of some crops because we had the space, to see what would happen.  With about a month to go, here's their progress.

Cabbage & Cauliflower:  large leaves, producing well, but no sign of heads yet.

Carrots:  leafy fronds are doing well; no sign of poking out of the ground.

Beets:  alive but struggling.

Spinach:  mostly eaten by Something.

Peas:  half-height, base leaves yellowing, no sign of peas.

Lettuce:  looking good!  Might harvest some next week.

Also, here's an update on some first plantings:

Eggplant:  *continues* to produce, though more slowly.

Beans:  the bush beans produced another handful; the pole beans have disappointed.

Potatoes:  we pulled a single plant to obtain some potatoes for display at Town Day.  The number amidst the roots was extensive, and while mostly small-to-tiny, there was at least one big red one.  From just one plant!

Squash:  the tiny zucchini was accidently harvested; there's still a medium yellow squash; and the pattipan has several small fruits (not to mention flowers) which it thinks it has time to make bigger -- we'll see.

The mildew is back to some extent on the squash, and worse, has jumped to the other side of the garden and covered the collard leaves.

The rest of the greens (kale, chard, arugula and other herbs) still doing well.

Cabbage Splits!

So maybe we waited a -little- too long.  All three cabbage were pulled today, and the green one was beginning to split.  Some claim that such splitting indicates over-watering, or perhaps watering more than usual (extra rains).  However, I think cabbages just do that when they've decided they're big enough.  Perhaps both are true; quoting one web source:  "Splitting is caused by the pressure of excessive water taken up after the heads are solid."  One of the red cabbages looked a bit bigger than last week, but the other did not.  It was time to harvest.

Cabbage and Cauliflower Update

Three small cabbage remain in the garden.  Some questioned whether they would grow any larger.  It was said that cabbages can be unpredictable as to how big they get.  It was also said that these three wouldn't get any bigger.  But since it was pointed out that having different colored cabbage would be nice for the schoolchildren to observe, we decided to wait-and-see another week.

The cauliflower (and cabbage?) seeds planted two and three weeks ago were unsuccessful.  Last week (in my absence) more were planted, but this time under shade cloth, and they sprouted.

Watch out for the little spines

I opened the garden for a couple of hours Tuesday.

Again, we had several Asian-Americans coming to visit, including one a couple who had just arrived from Beijing! The man practiced his English on me. They have different gardening customs, which I can't quite repeat. For instance they do not plant cabbages in the spring.

A little later, after Michael had come by with baby Joe, an Indian family visited — a dad and three kids who were very enthusiastic. They asked about several of the crops, including which ones were being grown for what was underground, and the elder girl (9 or 10, maybe?) warned that when we harvest the zucchini, we should be wary of the little spines that could hurt.

Their dad liked our garden and wanted to be in touch with us. He said he is psyched that we are adding to the town's culture, which he, himself, was also doing: He told us about a townwide Scrabble tournament at the library on Wednesday. Unfortunately for us, he said it was closed to those who had graduated high school. 

[Michael P. contributed to Oakes' report.]


Subscribe to RSS - Cabbage