Almost gone. Stragglers from the fall harvest are finally dwindling as the dark days of winter have turned light. It’s a game I play with myself, making sure we use every last bit of fall produce that’s been stored in the fridge before the first spring harvests appear in usable amounts. Sure, I there are over-wintered mustard and hardy speckled salad greens thriving in the garden, herbs poking up in pots, and dandelions stretching their leaves on the lawn. But it’s the last red cabbage, purple kohlrabi and beets that focus my attention. They’ve got to go.
I get excited when I read a recipe that coincidentally uses stuff I have on hand, especially leftovers, and does so in a relevant way. Being an avid reader of Martha Rose Shulman’s Recipes for Health column in the New York Times, I was taken by a recipe for red cabbage and black forbidden rice inspired by traditional Lenten recipe for Greek Easter. ‘Tis the season and there was the cabbage. I often melt down red cabbage with vinegar and apples, a technique characteristic of the zone from Alsace to Budapest. Or I stew it with sausage and white beans northern Italian style. This is a variant on those slow cooking methods, but when stewed with a handful of dill and parsley, a grassy essence shines through and takes us across the border from winter to spring, at Easter no less. Perfect.
Black forbidden rice is a flavorful, chewy variety that is a perfect counterpoint to the unctuous texture of melted cabbage. I happened to have a half-cup in my pantry, surplus from a collection of exotic rice that I bought in bulk and packaged as Christmas gifts. I’m sure other types of rice would be more typical but this was genius.
Red Cabbage and Rice with Parsley and Dill adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, NYT
About 1lb red cabbage trimmed of outer leaves and core
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c black forbidden rice or another type of rice
Handful each of parsley and dill, chopped (about 1/3 c)
Salt and pepper
1 c water
Fresh parsley and dill to garnish
Cut the cabbage into fine shreds.
Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a large wide pan with a lid, and add the onions. Cook slowly until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until it becomes aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the cabbage, stir to coat with olive oil and cook until it is slightly wilted, 8-10 minutes.
Add the rice and chopped herbs and stir to combine. Season generously with salt and lightly with pepper. Add water, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat as low as your stove allows and cover the pan. Cook for 30-40 minutes until the rice is tender, checking every so often to make sure the mixture hasn’t dried out.
Remove the pan from the heat, replace the lid with a folded tea towel and let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes. Adjust the seasonings.
May be made ahead and reheated. Serves about 4, or more depending on the accompaniments.