Sunday, 12 February 2012

Cabbage and loutza (Λάχανο με λούτζα)

Some of my best meals owe their existence to leftovers. That's how some of my most creative cuisine is made. They are often dishes I don't make very often, and if I did, they would taste different, according to the leftovers I have at home on that day.

I had a dirty looking cabbage lying in the fridge for what seemed like too long. The outer leaves had gone grey, but once cleaned, the inside leaves seemed clean. The problem with this cabbage was that it didn't taste good raw. A friend had given it to us from his garden, but it tasted terrible in the salad we made. The leaves were tough and chewy, nothing like the crispy cabbage we grow in our garden.

You can still see some of the grey bits on the cabbag. This cabbage was very dense, as if the leaves did not have enough room to breathe. The cabbage we grow in our winter garden comes out much more fragile - the leaves break off before I get a chance to slice them.

This is how the cabbage came to be forgotten in the fridge; I wouldn't dream of throwing it away, so I just left it in a plastic bag, pretending that the day will come when I would use it because there will be no other fresh produce available. That day never came. But I got tired of looking at that plastic bag in the vege box - it was taking up too much space in my fridge. I decided to do something about it. I took out the cabbage, cleaned it up (again), and chopped it finely. The crisp salad looked good to me - but I knew I could not present it in this way because it would not be appreciated. So I decided to cook it instead.

Whatever I cook in a saucepan, it is most likely to contain  - 99.9% of the time - some finely chopped onion and garlic, sauteed in olive oil. That's always a good start to a creative meal; onions cooking over a low heat give off an incredibly strong umami smell. Then I added the cabbage and wilted it a little. The onion aroma overpowered the farty cabbage smell that often accompanies brassicas. Now all the meal needed was a bit of substance. I chopped up some lountza (a kind of smoked pork made according to traditional recipes in the Cyclades and Cyprus), which I'd bought at the supermarket along with some sausages made according to a Metsovo recipe, and added it to the pot. 

Apart from some salt and pepper, the meal did not seem to need much more added to it. I served it with the meal we were having that day (spaghetti with mince sauce), but it turned out more popular than the main meal itself. 

Cabbage and cured meat seem to have some affinity. When I looked up 'cooked cabbage' on the internet a little while later, the first image to come up was one referring to a cabbage dish cooked with bacon. What could be simpler?
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