I enjoyed reading the novel Among the Lesser Gods by Margo Catts1 more than I expected. I read Deb of Kahakai Kitchen's review2 tried my luck at her giveaway and won a copy. Once I started reading the book, it was hard to put it down: I wanted to know whether Elena would sort out her life, how the children she takes care of would adjust to their new life, whether the truth of Elena's aunt's disappearance decades earlier would eventually emerge. Everything in the book is well-measured: the plot, the characters and their evolution, the conversations and the descriptions. The writing is graceful and the reader gladly follows the story of hurtful truth, redemption and finding contentment in the individual moments of our life.
Elena accepts the offer to take care of two children whose mother recently died and whose father is often away for work. Adjustments on both sides are needed. Providing nutritious and varied meals that the children enjoy is a source of concern for Elena and sometimes, focused on ensuring that they are engaged in interesting activities, she ends up having to make do with what's available in the refrigerator (there is also a "secret" stash of food in the house, but you'll have to read the novel to find out about that ;)
I don't have two children to feed, so the challenge to create a dish with what I have available is more driven by the fact that I have an assortment of vegetables (verdure) in the crisper that I must consume. For all my trust in, and reliance on, recipes (usually my own), I also believe in serendipitous mixing of ingredients to produce a pleasant result.
What I share below then is not so much a recipe as an invitation to be creative with what you have, to try matching flavors you have not tasted before. The important thing is that you use all the vegetables you have, without waste and with pleasure.
Ingredients: what you have available in the crisper, garden and storage (e.g., onions). In the case of the photo above:
- 3 tablespoons / 45 ml extra-virgin olive oil or avocado oil
- 7 ounces / 200 g red onion, diced small
- Leaves from a few sprigs of fresh thyme (timo)
- 7 ounces / 200 g celery, diced small
- 5 ounces / 140 g rainbow carrots, scraped, rinsed and sliced (if large, sliced into half-moons)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon Harissa spice mix3
- 1 1/4 pound / 20 ounces / 570 g green cabbage, quartered and thinly sliced
- 2-3 tablespoons / 30-45 ml coconut milk (latte di cocco)
- Fine sea salt, to taste
Warm up the oil in a lidded 5-Qt cast-iron Dutch oven.
Add the onion and stir well, then add the thyme leaves and stir. After a couple of minutes, add the celery and carrots and stir. After a couple of minutes, cover the pot and cook the vegetables on gentle heat for 12-15 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Uncover the pot, add the garlic and sprinkle the Harissa, stir well and continue cooking for a couple of minutes. Add the cabbage, stir well, cover and cook gently for 20 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and, if necessary 1-2 tablespoons of water to the vegetables, stir well, cover and continue cooking until the vegetables are soft. Check after 20 minutes and gauge the amount of time still needed.
Adjust salt, give it a final stir and take off the heat. Serve warm.
The latest "empty the crisper" side dish I made included: a large leek, stalks from a bunch of rainbow chard4 and a small bunch of red Russian kale from my vegetable garden (orto).
Sometimes the result will be better than others. It will be a surprise (sorpresa). If it is blah, add cheese and use it as a topping for a vegetable tart, like this one.5
Final note: the sauce in the top photograph is my rendition (vegan and gluten-free) of mole poblano (recipe in this post).
1 The novel's page on the publisher's website
2 Read Deb's review of the novel and the recipe she paired with it
3 The Harissa spice mix I use
4 See this post for the recipe that uses the green portion of the chard
5 From the blog archives: savory zucchini and skyr tart
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the contorno "svuota frigorifero" audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]
This is my contribution to the 32nd edition of Novel Food, the literary/culinary event that Lisa of Champaign Taste and I started some time ago and that I continue to host.
FTC disclosure: I have received the napkin free of charge from the manufacturer (la FABBRICA del LINO). I have not and will not receive any monetary compensation for presenting it on my blog. The experience shared and the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.