Planting To Eat
The minute it stops freezing at night, it feels like spring to me, and spring means planting time. Since my planting space is limited, I only plant things I love to eat fresh and use every day. Though I love it raw, as a kid, I used to hate cooked cabbage, largely because of the way it got cooked. When I learned to cook for myself, cabbage became a staple, appearing in many guises through the week. I shred it into slaws, dressed with homemade vinegars or herbed yogurt dressings. I tuck it into sandwiches and wraps, add it to soups and stir fries, and best of all, I roast it in thick wedges that turn buttery and tender in the oven.
Because I am often cooking for one, I usually plant smaller cabbages like Mini Super Red 80, a ruddy little ball head with crisp texture and a peppery flavor, or Golden Acre, a compact, tender little thing that is among the earliest to head up. Savoy cabbage, with its netted texture, is idea for capturing salad dressing or sauces, and I especially like an early variety called Mini Alcosa Savoy, which heads up at 2-4 pounds. An excellent flathead cabbage called Tendersweet can be grown in waves from early spring into fall and is lovely in salads and stir fries.
Crazy For Rocket
Arugula is a cabbage cousin that packs a lot of nutrients into its fine-textured foliage. An easy to grow cool season crop, arugula is of course lovely in salads, where its peppery bite adds snap and savor to buttery spinach and tender lettuce. It’s also surprisingly good as a cooked green, wilted quickly in a little oil with garlic and fennel seeds, or tossed into a stir fry at the last minute. You can easily grow arugula as a microgreen indoors or sow it in large outdoor pots placed right out the kitchen door for daily harvest.
There are lots of heritage types, many of them wild forms that have been collected for centuries. Most have serrated or lacy leaves, but some forms are smooth leaved, such as the Italian olive leaf form called Rucola Selvatica A Foglia di Oliva. Most are annuals, but perennial forms can sometimes be found as well (these have denser foliage with a stronger flavor than the annuals). Perennial arugula can be roasted along with kale or sweet potatoes and tart cherries (in season). Yum!
Vegan Veggie Bangers
I love pretty much any roasted vegetables, especially when paired with the spiciness and chewy texture of sausages. Some meatless versions are pretty meh, but the Seattle-based Field Roast varieties are both tasty and toothsome (and vegan, though not gluten-free). There’s an Italian kind, with eggplant, fennel, and lots of garlic (terrific in pasta sauce and lasagna), a Smoked Apple Sage one with Yukon Gold potatoes, Granny Smith apples, sage and ginger (try this one with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes with caramelized onions), and a lively Mexican Chipotle type that’s terrific in tacos, chili, bean soups, and wraps or omelets.
Any or all are satisfying accompaniments to roasted vegetables, from potatoes and leeks to carrots and cauliflower. All they really need is a little sea salt, but a few toppings can make this simple dish fabulous. My go-to is plain Nancy’s yogurt with chopped fresh herbs, a scattering of seeds or chopped nuts, and a squeeze of citrus. If you don’t do dairy, try a splash of vinaigrette instead, using a lemon- or vanilla-infused vinegar and buttery avocado or olive oil.
Cabbage And Sausage Roast
1 tablespoon avocado or any high temp oil
1 medium head green or red cabbage, cored and quartered
4 cups halved, trimmed Brussels sprouts
2 sweet potatoes, thinly sliced in coins
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup raw cranberries (frozen work fine)
4 veggie sausages (Field Roast Italian or any)
1 cup plain yogurt OR 1/4 cup vinaigrette
1/2 cup cilantro
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1 lime, in wedges
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put oil in two rimmed baking sheets and rub to coat. Press both cut sides of each cabbage quarter into the oil and place on a baking sheet. Place sprouts cut-side-down and tuck in sweet potato coins so all is in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Add cranberries and peeled whole sausages and return to oven for 10-15 minutes, turning sausages several times. Divide everything between 4 plates, topping each portion with yogurt or vinaigrette and a scattering of cilantro and pumpkin seeds. Squeeze lime juice over each serving just before eating. Serves 4.