Valley Bounty, June 29: Napa Cabbage
Napa cabbage, or Chinese cabbage, is the first cabbage to appear at farmers’ markets in spring. Tender and mild, it bears little resemblance to the storage varieties of fall and winter. Napa has thin leaves and crisp stems, making a wonderful slaw and adding pleasant crunch to vegetable stir-fries or curries. Kimchi is its claim to fame, and rightfully so: this delicious fermented dish with ginger and garlic takes little time to make, and even less time to eat!
Napa cabbage is currently available at many local farmers’ markets, farm stands, retailers and CSA farms. There are many other great varieties of spring cabbage you’ll find at these locations as well, each with its own unique characteristics. Check out the Kitchen Garden’s posts on tendersweet and savoy cabbage for more information on these varieties and some great recipes.
If it’s too hot for you to feel like cooking, check out these variations on Napa cabbage salad, and then do some experimenting yourself… First, a basic recipe with oil and vinegar, then Napa with peanut sesame dressing, and finally Napa with olives and Gruyere.
Napa cabbage is one of the main ingredients in spring rolls, as in this recipe for Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce. Another common use of Napa cabbage is in Bi Bim Bap; the Happy Valley Locavore calls this tasty dish “Korean comfort food” and recommends serving it with a side of kimchi.
Here is my standby recipe for kimchi. There are hundreds of variations, and kimchi is the most foolproof of all the fermented foods I have tried making, so don’t hesitate to experiment!
1 head napa cabbage
1 head bok choy (or 4 baby heads)
4 salad turnips
8 garlic scapes
2 TBSP fresh ginger (or 2 tsp dried)
Fresh or dried hot pepper to taste
3 TBSP salt for every 5 lb vegetables
Finely slice napa cabbage and bok choy. Grate turnips and radishes, and dice scapes and scallions. Add ginger and hot pepper to taste. Toss all ingredients in a bowl with salt. Feel free to vary the amounts of any of the ingredients above depending on taste and what you’ve got – just be sure to keep about the same ratio of salt to veggies (3 TBSP salt should be added for every 5 lb of vegetables), since the amount of salt controls the fermentation. Put the mixture in a ceramic crock, large glass jar, small plastic bucket, or other non-metallic container. Press down on the veggies and water should come out to form a brine. Put a small plate or other weight on top of the veggies to keep them under the brine. Cover the container (just make sure the cover isn’t airtight) and place it in your cellar or another spot away from the heat of the day – ideally around 70 degrees. Leave it for about 1 week, checking it daily to keep track of progress and to make sure the vegetables stay submerged under the brine. As soon as it’s done (whenever it starts tasting delicious!), move it to the refrigerator to stop the fermentation. Kimchi will keep in the fridge for weeks or months, but chances are good that it will be eaten long before then.