Last weekend while I sulked in front of the wood stove and colored in my new coloring book, I also thumbed through some of my cookbooks and made a menu for the week and a grocery list. One of my favorite cookbooks, The Vegetarian Gourmet’s Easy International Recipes, has recipes from Mexico, The Caribbean, Italy, Eastern Europe, India, and Asia. It’s one of my go-to cookbooks when I’m in the mood to try something different. While I’m not a huge fan of Eastern European food in general (though I do love me some Polish haluski!), I always try to keep an open mind about trying something new. I found a couple of recipes calling for cabbage that sounded good, and my brain–in its infinite wisdom–said: “Why not combine the two recipes into one??” So that’s what I did. There was a recipe for cabbage and cheese sauce and another for cabbage and noodles. Cheese sauce, cabbage, noodles. That sounds good, right? I found a package of pappardelle from last summer’s CSA in the freezer. Major score! The cabbage I bought at the grocery store last week–I chose a red cabbage because the “green” cabbages were so sickly pale yellowish-white that I couldn’t actually bring myself to buy one. But the red ones looked great, cute tiny little heads the size of a Cabbage Patch Doll head. Coincidence? Probably so.
I didn’t actually use either recipe when I made this, it was all on the fly, as usual. That’s the fun of cooking for me, but it also makes it hard to replicate something if it turns out to be something I’d like to make again. But, on the other hand, each time the dish may taste slightly different, so that can help keep it from getting too stale (though it’s rare I get into a food rut and make the same dish over and over). So this is my all-too-familiar disclaimer: the amounts of the ingredients are approximate. Adjust as you see fit and things will probably turn out just fine.
As I was making the cheese sauce, which is actually based on nutritional yeast, I was trying to think what spices would go best with the cabbage to keep to its Eastern European roots. The cabbage and noodle recipe called for caraway seeds, but I don’t use them often, and I didn’t think I even had any in my spice rack. Here’s my train of thought: “So…fennel seeds. Yes, I’ve seen fennel seeds in Eastern European recipes. I think? Oh well, it’s going in the pot. Paprika. I know paprika is an Eastern European staple–Hungarian Paprika, anyone? Ooh, nice color! What else? Ah! Dill weed! Dill and cabbage are best buddies in the food world. Will that go with fennel? Hell if I know, but here’s hoping.” Cooking, when I’m in charge, is always a bit of an adventure…
When I tasted the sauce, I was quite proud of myself. It tasted good! When hubby tasted this dish, and he was verrrrrrry skeptical about this one, he really liked it. He said, “This reminds me of something I’ve had before. I know, my mom’s tuna casserole. <Insert confused look on my face here. Tuna?> And I really like my mom’s tuna casserole. I don’t know why it tastes like that, though. It didn’t have cabbage in it.” Having never had my mother-in-law’s tuna casserole, I can’t say why it tasted similar, either. But I liked this dinner, Hubby liked it, and that was a good thing. Even though Hubby is often skeptical of what shows up on the dinner table next, he has learned not to doubt me, because time and time again he ends up really liking the meal, even if it does sound really weird and off the wall.
And finally, I’m the first to admit that this isn’t necessarily a beautiful dish to look at, but it is delicious. And that’s what really counts.
Cabbage and noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small head cabbage (green or red), shredded
1 medium onion, diced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
12 ounces egg noodles, cooked according to package directions and drained
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
2 heaping tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sour cream
½ – ¾ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ – ¾ teaspoon dill weed
½ teaspoon paprika
Heat oil in large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add cabbage, onion, salt, and garlic powder. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage turns soft. Turn heat back up to medium-medium high and cook for another 5 minutes or until the cabbage and onions begin to brown. Remove from heat.
While cabbage mixture is cooking, prepare the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the remaining ingredients. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce just begins to thicken slightly. Remove from heat.
Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Spread noodles in bottom of dish. Spoon cabbage mixture over noodles. Pour the sauce on top of the cabbage and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.