Time to lighten things up a bit. As our dinner hosts this weekend would tell you, I could go on for hours about my dietary and life philosophy in general, but sometimes it’s nice to take a breather and keep things light. Enter this weeknight-worthy cabbage gratin from my new Christmas copy of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It’s taken all my willpower not to purchase this book over the holiday season. I first learned of it from 101 Cookbooks, and holding it in my hands at Barnes & Noble I was immediately enamored with the huge variety of unique vegetarian combinations in dishes from soups and salads to beautiful pastas and casseroles. The cabbage gratin demonstrates this perfectly, using a watery vegetable you may not traditionally think to bake with milk and cheese, and countering any potential for blandness with an unexpected pop of concentrated tomato flavor. Full of pantry ingredients and one very inexpensive fresh vegetable, it’s perfect to make ahead for the week to come or throw together during the week.
I’m putting my “What’s for Dinner?” posts on hold (if you haven’t noticed). Meal planning is still my jam, but in light of all the blog food I’m producing and Steve’s travel schedule, it’s way less wasteful to only plan a night or two of dinners each week, then just eat leftovers to fill the voids. I don’t want to totally drop cooking for pleasure, though, and I have a stack of new cookbooks I’m itching to use.
Flipping through the gratins in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, trying to figure out what dish of cheesy creamy goodness to make for Steve upon his arrival home from a recent work trip, I came up with a solution to address the aforementioned concerns. I’ll cook my way through every gratin in the book, in order when seasonality permits. No excuses or flinching at the ingredient list: if it’s next and I can reasonably access the ingredients, that’s the next gratin. Deborah Madison’s recipes are a breath of fresh air in today’s universe of hand-holding instructions, with some ambiguity and, from the optimistic perspective, room to play. There are also zero photos in the book, so I’ll share mine and the exact ingredients and quantities I ended up using or would advise. Such as making sure to add lots of salt when using a watery veg like green cabbage. Aside from that tweak, though, this easy, one-dish bake (no bechamel required) is quite tasty and filling. And it’s just the beginning.
Up next: Artichoke, celery root, and potato gratin
Update 1/27/15 – What to do with the rest of the cabbage.
Shred, thinly slice, or chop it, mix it with about half as much cooked barley (or any other grain or rice you have around) and a handful of thinly sliced red onion. For a dressing, whisk 3 parts olive oil, 1 part red wine vinegar, a bit of grain or dijon mustard, and a hefty amount of pepper. Toss to coat. Eat what you can. Refresh the rest with a little more vinegar the next day. I’m eating it as I type this, and it’s simple and delicious for lunch or a dinner side. Idea from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian iPhone app (Mark Bittman).
- 2 t Kosher salt
- 1 T butter
- ¼ C finely grated parmesan cheese
- ½ head green cabbage (1½ lb.), cored, cut into 2" squares
- ⅓ C all-purpose flour
- 1 C whole milk
- ¼ C heavy cream
- 2 T tomato paste
- 3 large eggs
- 3 oz. gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
- 3 T finely chopped parsley
- 1½ t sea salt
- ½ t freshly ground black pepper (or more, to your anticipated taste)
- Heat a large pot of water over high heat, adding a teaspoon or two of kosher salt just after it comes to a boil. Add cut cabbage and cook 5 minutes (it won't come back to a boil immediately). Drain and rinse under cold water. Lay cabbage on a paper towel laid over a dish towel, and press it with another layer of paper towel on top to get it as dry as possible.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F).
- Whisk flour, milk, cream, tomato paste, eggs, ⅓ of the cheese, parsley, and seasonings until well blended. Add pressed cabbage and stir to coat every piece of cabbage in the milk and flour mixture.
- Grease a 9" glass pie plate (or similar sized, shallow baking dish) with the butter, add the parmesan, and tilt to coat the bottom and sides with the cheese, as if you were flouring a cake pan. Pour cabbage mixture into prepared dish, stopping to spread it evenly if needed. Top with remaining cheese.
- Bake on a rimmed cookie sheet (for easier handling and drips) on the middle oven rack about 50 minutes. If cheese browns before gratin is bubbly and heated through, cover loosely with foil.
- Cool 5 minutes or keep warm in a 200 degree oven, then slice with a sharp serrated knife and serve.
With great results, I'm on the third day of reheating this as leftovers. The microwave is just fine--the oven would be even better. Bring to room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes before reheating, if you think of it.