Veggie of the Week - Cold Weather
sponsored by Coleman Farms
For the last couple of weeks we've been having trouble getting fresh produce photos, but so far we've not run short of words. This week, unanchored by the specificity of a photograph, we'll respond to a number of stimuli ranging from the cold weather to some incidental research on Irish emigration prior to the Great Famine.
Root crops - carrots, beets, turnips - favor cooler weather, tending to go to seed otherwise. In turn, they'll keep, in the ground, cellars or clamps, through a very hard winter, so they are a favored source of vegetable nutrients for those afflicted with such a climate. Much the same is true of various members of the cabbage family. Santa Barbara Winters aren't hard, they're more like early Autumn, the perfect weather for growing and harvesting both types of vegetable.
So you've got a few root vegetables and some Cabbage, Brussels sprouts or Kale, and want to make a dish to ward off the chill. We'll assume you've also got dry Onions and Potatoes in your cellar. You could always do a soup, which might be something on the brothy side to start a meal or, with the addition of beans, pasta, old bread or potatoes, could become a main dish.
Or there's Colcannon, a sort of Cabbageheard's Pie. Whereas a soup or stew is a collection of ingredients served in their own cooking liquid, Colcannon or it's English congener, Bubble and Squeak is a bit more fastidious, involving separate cooking, intervening preparation, assembly and further cooking. In return, it's an easier thing to pass off as a meal, and it maybe a bit more versatile.
The 'recepie' is: cook the greens and the potatoes. You could do this in the same pot if your timing is right. Drain the greens and put in a baking dish, top with the mashed potatoes. Heat in the oven before serving. There's nothing to prevent you from using greens other than cabbage, or more than one kind of green, or adding garlic, sauteed onion, peppers.... And you needn't stick to Potatoes for the topping. You could use Bashed Neeps (mashed Turnips), or a mix of roots - Carrots and Potatoes, Neeps and Tatties. If you like beets, you could mix slices of cooked beet in with the greens, or you might consider mashing them with the topping, which will probably turn red or pink. This could be dramatic, or it could be off-putting. You want to know your audience.
Traditional Colcannon - whatever cabbagy green you use - is loaded with vitamin C, which both cabbage and potatoes are rich in, and, if you mash the potatoes unpeeled, there will be a good deal of iron and various B vitamins as well. Add a bit of cheese or a couple of eggs to the topping and you'll have some reasonable protein as well as more B vitamins, including B-12 to help you use the iron.
Soup the second day is often nicer, but it's still soup. Leftover Colcannon can be metamorphosed by heating in a skillet, so you get that bit of buttery crust here and there, then drop the 'slice' onto a slice of fresh whole wheat bread, and you've got a warm sandwich, a nice alternative to that favorite of the British Midlands, the Chip Butty (heavily buttered bread roll filled with French fries).