Posted on August 12, 2011
Tucked among the endless rows of late summer melon, onions, peppers, zucchini, I found these. For a moment I thought they might start talking to me like the little flowers in Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.
If you find French Radishes, also called breakfast radishes– eat them. And their greens are tasty too. Traditionally eaten with salt and butter, these crunchy little roots are great sliced and sprinkled on a salty sopressa sandwich, or with any kind of salty cheese. Not as spicy as the standard radish, they are mild and refreshing.
Last week we partook of the German heritage at the Beethoven Maennerchor. This place is a cultural preservation society, which throws biergarten parties every weekend, exactly two blocks from our house. Presently they are working on raising money to restore the apparently distinctly German-Texan nine pin bowling alley in the building in back of the main house. Sometimes, during Octoberfest especially, they have a full orchestra in the yard. Sometimes it is local bands. Clogging, square dancing… it seems everything goes with German food and beer. In this case, a tasty Warsteiner.
I always feel a little like I am crashing some totally awesome wedding when we come here. There are kids, old people smoking cigars, young people looking for other young people, pretty much everyone is here. Dancing, drinking, sitting at 100 foot long tables together.
We shared a braut with sauerkraut, braised cabbage with bacon, fried potatoes, schnitzel. The schnitzel was so flavorful and tender, and not too heavy on the breading.
We stumbled home, realizing the summer heat makes a beer buzz quick. A few days later, I was happily greeted by Texas grown Savoy cabbage in the market. Usually this time of year, we have slim pickins in the stores when it comes to local greens. The cabbage is seasonless in Texas, thanks to irrigation I assume. But the savoy and red cabbage account for only 5% of this major crop, so these were a nice surprise. I snatched it up with haste.
We ate it with some local made kasewurst filled with emmentaler cheese. But first, I turned it into a savoy gratin.
This gratin is a stand alone dish– rich, but hearty with cabbage enough to eat as a nice vegetarian meal. So, if you cannot get a good savoy cabbage right now wherever you are, file this away for the winter months when they are everywhere.
Savoy Cabbage Gratin
This is a two part recipe– cabbage, and bechamel sauce. Then it all comes together with some breadcrumbs and a little parmesan. The word gratin comes from the French “gratter” which means “to scrape” as in the scrapings of bread and cheese. If you want to try a vegan bechamel sauce, this is the best one I have found. I think it is key not to use a soy milk, but something creamier like oat milk.
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 head savoy cabbage (this is the kind with little bumps all over the leaves)
5-6 shallots, sliced
3/4 cup water or vegetable stock
salt to taste
3 slices of your favorite bread
1/4 cup grated parmesan reggiano or other favorite cheese
Sauce Bechamel (white sauce)
adapted from the New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 small onion, peeled and scored but left whole
1 sprig parsley
3 tablespoons half and half or cream
salt and pepper to taste
dash of fresh nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In an oven proof pot or extra large deep frying pan (with an oven-proof handle), heat the oil on medium heat. Cut the cabbage into quarters, remove the core, and slice into 1 inch strips. Saute in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add the shallots and keep stirring (some tongs worked best for this). When the cabbage starts to brown (after about 5 more minutes) add the water or stock, and season with salt. Cover the pot with a lid or foil, and put in the oven for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and let it cook about 10 more minutes, until some of the liquid is cooked off. Put the slices of bread in the oven alongside the pot of cabbage. Allow the bread to toast about 5 minutes, until crisp. Set aside.
Make a roux by melting the butter on medium heat and then adding the flour. Whisk frequently, and allow it to cook, without burning, for about 5 minutes. It is a light roux, just cooked enough to get the flour flavor out. When it has bubbled and cooked for about 5 minutes, add the milk and whisk until the roux is dissolved in the milk. Add the whole onion and parsley, and keep cooking, stirring frequently, until it thickens. When it is thick, add the cream or half and half, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
When the cabbage is done remove it from the oven and raise the temperature to 350 degrees. Chop the toasted bread as course or as fine as you like it. Mix it with a splash olive oil and the parmesan cheese in a bowl. Add the bechamel sauce to the cabbage, gently mix. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top. Cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes until the edges are browned. It should sizzle quietly.