Cooking

Food Jeopardy

I find that I play food jeopardy every few weeks. That is, I purchase a food item that I buy so infrequently, usually a vegetable in season, and bring it home with hopes of preparing something very special. A potential “ah-ha!”moment with a new food. My most recent lucky victim? Green cabbage.

The answer: Green cabbage.
The question: What is the best way to highlight the delicate and unique flavor of green cabbage? (aka- How can I prepare this somewhat unfamiliar food in a way that is easy to do AND tasty?) Let the games begin…

But before that… a word about new foods in general. With SO much nutrition information in the media I find that as a whole, we tend to hyper focus on cementing favorite foods or the “perfect” breakfast, that often times we miss the opportunity for something new. Let’s be honest.  Food shopping is far easier when we’ve memorized our food list.  We are creatures of habit.  If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Answer: There are many important reasons to try new foods and vary our diet regularly.  If you have children you likely hear parents saying, “Eat the rainbow!” Here’s why:

1. Essential Nutrients: When we stick to just carrots and kale we reap the benefits of vitamins A, C, K and manganese.  What about other vitamins and minerals?  What if we consumed a diet lacking all nutrition such as the go-to chicken nuggets and mac and cheese?  It is so important to include a wide food selection in our diet to protect us against nutrient deficiencies and many diseases. You may miss out on essential nutrients by a limited diet.

2. Too much of a good thing. Remember the Salmonella outbreak in peanut butter?  Listeria outbreak in cantaloupe?  E. coli outbreak in spinach? We all remember when one of our regular foods became publicly ridiculed with dangerous levels of bacteria. The automatic response was to not eat that food… ever again. (I remember working inpatient when peanut butter was the culprit and no matter how many times we reassured our patients that our peanut butter supply was unaffected, they continued to refuse it.) I agree that no one wants to risk getting ill. Therefore ensuring a balance in the foods we eat can also minimize our exposure to known and unknown food hazards (aka nutrient toxicity and/or food borne illness.)

I do practice what I preach, so back to the green cabbage.  My search for a perfect recipe led me down the popular path of green cabbage cole slaw:  an easy and obvious choice.  Having never loved mayo, both in flavor and nutritive value, I was determined to find another way of preparing this cruciferous vegetable.  I stumbled upon this recipe for a Fiesta Slaw (allrecipes.com), a citrus and spicy no-mayo cole slaw substitute.  Why this recipe caught my eye, you ask?  The fresh and simple ingredients: pineapple, lime juice and zest, olive oil, garlic, and toasted cumin seeds. Immediately I was able to modify this recipe based upon what I forgot to buy had in my house, such as ground cumin vs cumin seeds, the omission of red peppers, and addition of white onion.

Sadly, I will earn neither money nor applause from this round of food jeopardy.  My “little chef” (pet name for my eager kitchen helper middle child) was so excited to help me with the food processor.  This recipe was a snap.  I left the finished product in a bowl on my counter and once I returned home after a three hour dinner outing, I returned to an overwhelming stench of citrusy garlic.  (How my kids and the babysitter survived, I’m still not sure.)  I tasted this dish the following morning. It was a disaster. No fiesta for me.

Had I taken the time to select a recipe before my market run, perhaps this mishap and waste of an entire head of cabbage would have been avoided.  I am again reminded my cardinal rule in cooking: always follow a food recipe exactly before making custom edits.  Especially when preparing a new food.

In this case, go easy on the raw garlic and onions!  But I will not let this stop me from finding my next “new” food.  And as for a repetitive diet of chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, we’ve ALL had those nights.  The important thing is to not have it EVERY night.

~ Emma

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