This week is a great time for those of us who love cabbage. In every state I have lived in, the grocery stores all feature these fat green balls of crunchiness at really low prices in honor of St Patrick's Day. Since this is a vegetable that keeps very well (for weeks!) in the refrigerator, I like to make room in the vegetable bin to buy as many heads as I can store adequately.
Thanks to that "traditional" St. Patrick's corned beef and cabbage dinner, corned beef and red potatoes are also on sale, but what if you want to take advantage of the cabbage specials but are not eating meat right now (or ever, for that matter)? Since we are also in the middle of the Lenten season, most stores are also continuing seafood specials, and cabbage and fish are more readily paired than we might sometimes think.
Fish tacos are popular in more and more places around the country, and a very common side with these is cole slaw. Slaw is also a regular feature on fried fish dinner specials as well, so you will certainly want to consider that option. However, I have another suggestion, especially good if you end up buying more cabbage than you ever thought possible to use up. At 15 to 25 cents a pound for produce with almost no waste, how can the frugal cook not snatch up some bargains?
What follows is a recipe for braised cabbage and vegetables, a great side for fish fillets but also for pork chops or, for vegetarians, served with fried rice and a fruit tray. I made it today with butternut squash as I am trying to finish up my root cellar stash, but sliced carrots would be just as good in place of the squash.
The real key here is to cook the cabbage only until just done, with a bit of crispness still part of the overall mix. I think those of you who have only had cabbage boiled to death in way too much water (even if the liquid is flavored with corned beef spices) will be surprised at the sweet fresh flavor of this dish.
Braised Cabbage and Vegetables
1 to 2 T olive oil
2 c onion, julienned--one large
2 c cubed butternut squash (8 to 10 oz)
1/2 c coarsely diced green pepper--about half a large pepper
2 T minced garlic--about 6 to 8 cloves
4 c shredded cabbage--about 2 lb
1 c spaghetti sauce (optional)
water as needed
2 c frozen peas, not thawed
1 c coarsely chopped spinach leaves (optional)
1/2 to 1 t dried basil
1/2 t marjoram
salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat oil in large skillet. Stir in onions and squash and saute over medium high heat until the onions begin to brown slightly and the squash is just beginning to soften a bit.
2. Stir in the pepper, garlic, cabbage, and basil and marjoram. Stir in the spaghetti sauce and perhaps half a cup of water (or all water) and cover pan. Allow to cook about 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is just barely softened. If the vegetables begin to stick to the pan, add a few more teaspoons of water.
3. Taste for seasonings and stir in the peas and spinach. Continue to cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, just until the peas are thoroughly heated through and the spinach is slightly wilted.
Makes 4 to 5 servings.
Substitute thickly sliced carrots for the squash.
Substitute broth for the spaghetti sauce and water.
Add more (or less) spinach or substitute chopped kale leaves for the spinach.
Now for the fish.
I used tilapia for the photos here, sprinkling filets lightly with a Cajun seasoned salt to add a dash of spice and color. It cooked quickly in the microwave while the vegetables were simmering, so this made for a really fast meal. Add some rolls or rice for a starch and maybe some applesauce for a fruit side. (Think again of all the fried fish specials and how often they include applesauce along with the crispy fish and cole slaw.)
For details on microwaving fish for really fast meals, you can check out my last post, at http://frugalfastfun.blogspot.com/2014/03/getting-more-fish-into-your-diet.html
(Thanks to the Rochester (MN) Post Bulletin for their Food section photo this week--worked perfectly for this posting!)