I don’t normally build a meal around cabbage. A side dish, yes, but entree? No way. Can you imagine what my friends would say if I told them I was making a cabbage-heavy entree and couldn’t wait to have them over? Actually, I can imagine it. They’d say, “Thanks but no thanks. We’ve got plans that night.”
In my grandmother’s times, cabbage had a different reputation. Cabbage wasn’t something to be frowned on or embarrassed by. I think my grandmother was actually proud of her cabbage. Why not? It was grown in her backyard, and it served as the wrapper for the meanest stuffed cabbage in town.
But this is 2010. If you’re making cabbage, it’s better to disguise it and tell your guests you’re having something else. That’s what I did last week and it worked beautifully. All I did was make a simple sate sauce — essentially peanut butter tricked out with ginger, dark sesame oil and soy sauce — and toss it with shredded chicken, red peppers, carrots and yes, cabbage. The leaves were so coated with flavor that no one bothered to wonder what the green crunch was coming from. One tip: if you can, use Napa cabbage which has milder leaves and grows in more of an upright than round shape.
To round out our meal, I made quick-cooking Japanese soba noodles with a sprinkling of dark sesame oil and rice vinegar, plus marinated cucumbers with rice vinegar, sugar, dark sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. Dinner was such a hit that everyone — my oldest daughter, me, even my dinner guest (a prominent Denver citizen, no less!) — was picking food out of the serving bowls with our fingertips by the end!
Click here for the recipe for Sate Chicken Salad from the May 2009 issue of Gourmet. P.S. If you make it, I advise bumping up the ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar and dark sesame oil.