Saturday, October 1, 2011
Right around this time of year, the first of the winter vegetables comes trawling in. The Brussels sprout, the beets, the winterpeen (carrots you can build houses out of), the first pompoen (don't be fooled--pompoen are not pumpkins). It's always a bit sad, to taste the last of the tomatoes--they never taste quite as lovely as they do at the height of summer, and are fit only for sauce. And nothing reminds you of how dreary the winter can be like boiled cabbage.
The spitskool is an early cabbage, and despite its phenomenally pointy shape, it tastes much the same as any other cabbage, although the pointy end does allow you to get more tender leaf per plant than you'd typically get out of their normal, round counterpart. Needless to say, this is a favorite of the Dutch for precisely that reason.
Whatever possessed me to put a spitskool on the shopping list this week, though, is a mystery. The C1000 flyer has 10 produce items on sale for €1 per unit every week, so there was no reason to fixate on getting cabbage. Given what horrors my mother used to visit upon me in the form of cooked cabbage, it's a wonder that I ventured to tackle it at all. At any rate, it went on my list and Karel, who did the shopping this week, dutifully bought it and put it away in the fridge, where it proceeded to loom at me and laugh at my naivete for two days: who did I think I was, to try to make a cabbage taste--well, like anything?
Unlike my mackerel fiasco, I had looked up a few recipes for spitskool before this weekend, and even picked out a recipe to follow. Still, as the hour drew near for cooking it, I began to entertain grave doubts about the palatability of the recipe. It was, at its essence, fried cabbage, flavored with curry. And as much as I love simple foods, it just seemed a bit too simple for Karel.
So I set about complicating the recipe: I made a roux flavored with a few spices, chopped some onions, and cooked them in the roux until they were translucent. Added the chopped cabbage, and poured in some vegetable broth (I cheat, and use bouillon cubes). Returned it to a boil, let the cabbage cook until just-tender, and then took out my portion. To Karel's, I added ham cubes. It was a very homey dish, in the end--the liquid ended up being almost like a gravy, which was just as well since I'd also made mashed potatoes. Not particularly daring in any way, but neither did it bring back the terrible cabbage-memories of my youth.