- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2006

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, some cooks pull out their recipes for corned beef and cabbage. If you’re much more interested in cabbage than in corned beef, don’t despair. I have a recipe that is perfect for the holiday.

Cooked cabbage is truly delicious, not to mention inexpensive and perennially available — and history has proved its worth.

Cabbage is one of the oldest vegetables. Its cultivation dates back more than 4,000 years.

Cabbage was popular with the Greeks and Romans. During the Middle Ages, farmers in Northern Europe developed compact-headed varieties that thrived in cold climates, and people with little else to eat began to rely on cabbage for their winter survival.

The origin of the English word cabbage is the Latin “caput,” which means “head.” History, though, has its limits. It’s time to rediscover cabbage in our modern age. We may now know that cabbage is nutritionally valuable, but we might well benefit from a few new ways to serve it.

One of my first cooking jobs was at a tiny macrobiotic restaurant, where we served mostly grains, legumes and vegetables. This dish was my favorite of all the simple dishes we served. Decades later, I remain impressed by how such ordinary ingredients can be transformed when cooked and combined in just the right way. The sesame salt blend in the recipe can be used to season a wide variety of dishes. Make extra and keep it on the table in a large-holed shaker for everyday use.

I like to serve cabbage, carrots and onions with sesame alongside cooked brown rice. About 30 minutes before you begin, start 2 cups brown rice (long- or short-grain) in 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, lower heat to the lowest possible simmer, cover and let steam for about 40 minutes, or until tender. Fluff with a fork to let steam escape and serve.

Cabbage, carrots and onions with sesame

6 tablespoons sesame seeds

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 medium onions, chopped (larger pieces OK)

2 medium carrots, thinly sliced

1 small head green cabbage, coarsely chopped (about 8 cups)

Cooked brown rice

To make sesame salt blend, combine sesame seeds and salt in a blender, electric spice grinder or mortar and pestle, and grind until mixture is consistency of coarse meal. Set aside.

Place a large wok or a deep, wide skillet over medium heat and wait 1 minute. Add sesame oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add onion and turn heat to medium-high. Stir-fry for about 1 minute, then add carrots and 1 tablespoon sesame salt blend, and keep stir-frying over high heat for another minute.

Add cabbage and sprinkle in about half of remaining sesame salt blend. Keep stir-frying until everything is tender or done to your liking (another 8 minutes or so, the way I cook it). Sprinkle in remaining sesame salt blend and serve immediately on or next to steaming hot brown rice. Makes 6 side-dish servings.

Mollie Katzen’s latest book is “Salad People and More Real Recipes: A New Cookbook for Preschoolers & Up” (Tricycle Press). To contact her, visit her Web site www.molliekatzen.com.


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