It was the week of St. Patrick’s Day, last week, and I had a great, big, gorgeous head of green cabbage from Farmhouse Delivery, and oh yeah, I’m mostly Irish. Still, I sat there with that cabbage wondering what to do with it. Somehow, the obvious solution of Irish cooking with cabbage wasn’t clicking for me, so I did a quick recipe search for something different. I found just the right dish in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. As usual, when looking for ideas for cooking a particular vegetable, you can find several from Deborah Madison. This was a dish built around steamed cabbage, and the flavors are Asian-influenced. The recipe actually calls for savoy or napa cabbage, but I proceeded with a head of round, green cabbage instead. And, I know, we’re talking about tofu and steamed cabbage here, but trust me, even Kurt liked it. In the book, the dish is presented with options. The tofu could have been left plain and simply steamed with the cabbage, but there were suggestions to try a sesame marinade on the tofu or to fry the tofu rather than steam it. I did marinate the tofu, and then I roasted it in the oven while the cabbage steamed. Most importantly, both the cabbage and the tofu were topped with a quick peanut sauce and garnishes of cilantro and chopped peanuts. So, simple cabbage and tofu became vehicles for big flavor.
The tofu should sit in the marinade for at least an hour but the longer the better. The sesame marinade was a mix of sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, a pinch of sugar, chili oil, and finely chopped green onion and cilantro. The tofu was cut into slabs, placed in a wide, shallow dish, covered with the marinade, and placed in the refrigerator. I turned the tofu pieces after a few hours. I decided to roast the tofu in the oven to make it more hands-off than frying. So, while it roasted, I cooked rice and steamed the sliced cabbage. The peanut sauce was a quick version from the front of the book, and it included natural peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, chopped cilantro, minced garlic, soy sauce, light brown sugar, and chile oil. It seemed a little thick when mixed, so I added a tablespoon or two of water to make it drizzleable. The steamed cabbage was spooned onto a base of cooked rice, and it was topped with chunks of tofu, drizzled with peanut sauce, and sprinkled with cilantro, sliced green onion, chopped peanuts, and sliced dried chiles.
The flavors here literally built up from the base going from simple rice to cabbage, then from marinated tofu to peanut sauce. It was fresh, healthy, simple and savory, bold, and spicy all at the same time. I love finding a different way to use a vegetable, especially when it turns into something this good.