It had to try that recipe.
So I took the idea and made this Roasted Napa cabbage with tomato sauce.
I was intrigued.
It reminded of a dish I had to make in culinary school. We had to blanch an entire bunch of escarole, wrap parts of it in bacon and braise the rolls.
Not that the classic didn’t taste good. I mean, bacon! But at school we had other criteria to judge a dish.
Blanching is a technique that chefs use when preparing their food before service starts, during the day. During the mise-en-place; the put everything in its place-moment every professional kitchen has. Every single ingredient is prepared. Cleaned, cut, parcooked or whatever needs to be done with it. So the moment you order a dish, the chef and his staff can prep it in minutes.
Let me explain blanching.
step 1] In a large pot of water you boil the veggies. Spinach leaves for merely a few seconds, whole escaroles a few minutes. The rule of thumb: the denser/bigger the vegetable, the longer. Always use a large pot, not to cool down the water too much after your ingredients enter. And use salt. Heavily. That’s okay. That’s flavor. And most of it you’ll throw out anyways.
step 2] Have a big bowl of ice water ready. Just a big bowl with cold water and at least one tray of ice cubes. Drain the veggies and immediately (!) transfer them to cool. Feel after a minute if the water is still cold enough to really chill your veggies, if not, add some more ice cubes.
Why do we blanch?
Well, chefs do it to prepare their food. Whatever you do afterwards with it, it takes less time. But with greens there’s an extra reason, either if you talk green beans, lettuce, escarole, chard, spinach and the likes. It’s to keep ’em green.
And that’s where I didn’t nail it. Either my boiling water temperature dropped or I didn’t cool the escarole well enough. In doing so, the enzymes that change the green into dull grey-ish got at their critical temperature (150-170 F | 66-77 C degrees). My escarole bunches colored too much to my teacher’s taste. It should have been fresh, bright green. My taste buts only focused on the flavor. That was good.
Are we going to blanch today?
This escarole fiasco just came to mind.
I want to take it easier.
Let’s roast. Real roasting.
The basic idea for this recipe I read in a Dutch national newspaper (for subscribers only), in which Yvette van Boven described roasted Napa cabbage as “juicy, slightly bitter-sweet and almost meaty”. Needless to say I needed to try it. Only made it a little bit more fancy.
If you’ve never roasted a cabbage – and hey, I never had before I tried it this week – just go for it. It simple, it’s easy and it tastes great. Just cut a Napa cabbage in half, likewise with tomatoes and an onion. Shove it all in the oven and after 30 minutes miraculously you have a great side. Easy does it.
Great with some pasta or rice!
You need for 2:
1 Napa cabbage
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 gloves of garlic
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper
150 gr pasta, like penne – or serve it with rice
50 gr Parmesan
Preheat the oven at 400 F | 200 C degrees.
Pepare the cabbage. Cut the Napa cabbage lengthwise in half. Massage 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the halves. Put flat-side down on a baking tray with a rim.
Prep the tomato sauce. Cut the tomatoes in bite size pieces. Peel onion and cut also in small, but not too small pieces (about 1/2 inch or so). Peel and chop the garlic. Mix all with rest of olive oil, balsamic, honey, salt and pepper. Spread over the baking tray.
Roast Napa cabbage and tomatoes in the oven for approx. 20-30 minutes. Or until the tomatoes are soft, juicy and caramalized and the cabbage is done as well. Test it by sticking a sharp knife in it. If you don’t feel any resistance, it’s done.
Boil the pasta (or rice) in heavily salted water. Make sure it’s done the moment your veggies are ready too. Cut shaves of the Parmesan.
Mix pasta with tomatoes, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with long parts of the cabbage and the Parmesan shaves.