What I learned in Grade 8 home economics

Omigod, I found my Grade 8 Home Ec notebook this week!

home ec notebook *Looking through it, I realized that I’ve been saving recipes for longer than I remember. Maybe it didn’t “count” when I cut them out of magazines in junior high because it was for school, not for me, but I know it had an long-term influence.

From a cooking standpoint, what fascinated me most was the section on “Creative Meal Planning.”

In handwriting that was much rounder and fancier than it is now, I listed the “important elements of meal planning,” including “pleasing colours and attractive & varied combinations, wise use of food, and variety in flavour, colour, shape, texture, temperature.”

I used the term “kitchen artist” in one section. I doubt I came up with that one on  my own. There were references to eye appeal, taste appeal, and colour combinations. No wonder I see cooking as creative and satisfying.

It’s funny, Home Ec wasn’t my favourite subject, even though we got to eat everything we made. There were a lot of rules and expectations, so it wasn’t strictly a “fun” class.

But I remember some interesting dishes, one of which inspired a recipe for sautéed red cabbage, apples and sesame seeds on this blog a couple of months ago. The original recipe calls for white vinegar instead of apple cider or umeboshi, only one apple, and brown sugar instead of (preferably dark) maple syrup. I prefer the updated version.

I have red cabbage in the fridge. Now I know what I’m going to do with it.

Sautéed Red Cabbage, Apples & Sesame Seeds

The great thing about red cabbage is that, if you haven’t been to the grocery store for a while and other vegetables in your fridge are turning into science experiments, it’s probably still fresh.

red cabbageApples and onions also keep well, and the combination makes for a hearty winter side dish.

I finally got around to cooking my weeks-old red cabbage last night, combining ideas from a few online recipes: this one from Food Network star Rachael Ray; this one from Michael Smith, also a familiar face from the Food Network; and a final one from the World’s Healthiest Foods website.

Because I’d pre-sliced the cabbage, prep was very quick. I actually sliced half the cabbage a couple of days before I cooked it, and wondered if it would be okay. I sliced the second half the next day, and both were fine – not wilted or starting to brown. Red cabbage is – um – hardy, not just hearty. After I sliced it, I kept it refrigerated in Ziploc bags, with paper towel to absorb any moisture, and I’m sure that made a difference.

I’ve always kind of liked sautéed red cabbage with apples. The first time I tasted it, as a teenager, the contrast between the familiar apple and unfamiliar, purple cabbage intrigued me. Red cabbage seems to be the more popular name, but in reality it’s more purple – definitely my favourite colour when I was a teenager, and still high on the list now. I can’t honestly say that red cabbage is my favourite food, but I do like it once in a while.

Sometimes, I like to add red cabbage to salads. I know it’s healthy – aren’t all cruciferous vegetables? A Google search for its health benefits yielded many links. I knew red cabbage had fiber and antioxidants, but I was surprised to see that it’s also high in vitamin C. Maybe red cabbage’s long shelf isn’t really the great thing about it after all.

Here’s my version.

Sautéed Red Cabbage, Apples & Sesame Seeds

1 head of red cabbage

1/2 red onion

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. Umeboshi vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)

1 tbsp. maple syrup (dark maple syrup, if you have it)

2 tsp. brown sesame seeds

2 apples, sliced not too thin and not too thick (I like organic Royal Gala)

salt and pepper to taste

2 tsp. sesame seeds

1. Cut red cabbage in quarters, and remove core by cutting around it. Slice thinly.

2. Slice red onion, and cut slices into bite-size chunks.

3. Heat olive oil in large pan on medium-high, and sauté onion for two minutes.

4. Add cabbage to fill the pan generously. I used about 3/4 of my cabbage, and will add the rest to a salad.

5. Sauté about two minutes more, then add Umeboshi vinegar and maple syrup, and mix together. I bought the vinegar, which is made from Japanese pickled plums, for a recipe a long time ago, and thought this would be a good opportunity to use it again.

6. Sauté another minute or two until cabbage is wilted, then add sliced apples and mix in gently. Cook until apple is no longer raw, but not yet mushy.

7. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Or maybe just pepper, if you’re using Umeboshi vinegar, which has a high amount of sodium – 1200 mg. per tbsp. Yikes!)

8. To serve, drizzle with sesame seeds and a small amount of maple syrup.