Thursday, August 19, 2010

SERVE CABBAGE SOUP OFTEN - WE'LL ALL BE BETTER OFF FOR IT

For most of us, the most important facts related to cooking are taste and cost. The two recipes that I recommend to you here are tastey soups based on some rather humble vegetables and legumes, and they cost only about $1.25 per person. Family finances aside, these meals should be appealing to you because they have a very low carbon footprint. This means that the resources needed to grow the foods in these recipes represent fewer carbon emissions – relative to those used in producing foods for other common menus based heavily on meat or cheese.

Most of the foods used in these recipes - cabbage, beans, lentils, onions, carrots, potatoes, and leafy green herbs - are readily available in local farmers markets, and their purchase helps to strengthen local agriculture and business. As an added bonus these soups contain some of the healthiest foods you can find. The more expensive foods (that ones that you don't see emphasized here): beef, cheese, pork, and poultry make up a separate group. And foods in this second group are higher in fat and their production involves a lot more carbon emission.

The first group of foods makes for meals that are simple, essential and life-supporting, while meals based heavily on the second group are questionable from the perspective of health and have damaging effects on our planet. A thrifty, eco-friendly kitchen plans for mostly vegetarian menus based on the first group of foods and uses only a little or none of the second group - the exception being their use in small quantities for flavor accents. So, there's wisdom in there. Look for ways to use the first group of foods and downplay the others - this helps sustain your family and community and saves the Earth’s precious resources.

The soups that I describe to you today are built around cabbage. Yes, everyone knows that big heads of cabbage are cheap. But some people have apparently forgotten about the merits of cabbage. All they remember about cabbage is that it can be used to make coleslaw or steamed or boiled, which tends to be a little boring. So, many people don’t regularly use cabbage in family meals.

This page emphasizes the highly positive aspects of cabbage in the diet, and there are many. Cabbage is cheap, eco-friendly, healthy, and available locally almost the entire year. Our ancestors will well-aware of the benefits of eating cabbage. You've probably heard about the custom of eating cabbage (cooked with a ham bone) on New Year's Day. It's done for good luck, and it has been good luck - over and over for thousands of years. Cabbage is easy to grow, available for almost the entire year, and, in hard times, has kept enumerable people from starvation.

Here, I joyfully share two of my favorite recipes for hearty and frugal cabbage soup. Try them at home. I bet your family will be well-satisfied (there’s a lot of fiber in there) and pleased with the taste. Then make some changes to these soups according to your own criteria. If you’re totally happy with your recipes, reproduce them on cards or nice notepaper and have them ready to share with family and friends. Let everyone around you know that: “Cabbage soup may (again) save the world.”

Here are the recipes:

Recipe #1 Grandmas’Favorite Cabbage and Bean Soup (preparation in an hour or so)
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 of a large cabbage, shredded
2 stalks celery
2 carrots
2 tbl olive oil or coconut oil
(Optional) Can add a little fried bacon or pork to further enhance the flavor of the soup.)
3/4 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp powdered cumin
Can of tomato sauce (may be a small or a large can, according to your love of tomatoes)
2 bay leaves
3 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tbl of fresh parsley or cilantro
1 cup of lentils or navy beans (Beans need to be presoaked or par-boiled, so this needs to be done beforehand. If you’re in a big hurry, just open and throw in a can of beans.)

- Dice the onions, garlic, celery and carrots.
- Cover the bottom of a soup pot with oil and stir-fry the garlic, onions, celery and carrots. Add the salt, pepper, and cumin (along with the pork, if you choose to add it).
- When the veggies are tender, add the beans or lentils and bay leaves, pour in a quart of water and bring it all to a boil. Let the beans or lentils boil until they are almost fully cooked. (You need less water if you're using canned beans.)
- Add sliced cabbage, tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar to the pot, and cook the soup another 20 minutes.
- Serve in soup bowls with chopped parsley or cilantro. With good whole-grain bread or a bowl of rice, you have a hearty meal for 4- 6 people.

Recipe #2: Creamed Cabbage and Potato Soup (preparation in less than an hour)
1 medium onion
2 cloves of crushed
3 lbs. cabbage, shredded
- Optional: 1 diced carrot or small squash
1 large diced potato
3/4 quart of vegetable or chicken stock
1 TPS apple cider vinegar
2 TBS olive oil or butter
1 cup or more of soymilk, evaporated milk or half cream, according to your taste

- Sauté the onion, cabbage, and garlic in olive oil in a large pot until all the veggies are translucent but don't allow them to brown.
- Add the stock, potato and any other veggies to the pot and simmer for 25 minutes.
- Blend the contents and return them to the pot.
- Add the milk or cream to thin it to the consistency you like.
(The cooked, unblended or pressed veggies can also be the basis for another sort of creamed cabbage soup, but, of course, the texture and taste will be different.)
- Reheat the soup for 10 minutes.
- Serve the soup in bowls topped off with any combination of: sour cream, parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, cilantro, toasted peanuts, sliced almonds, pine nuts or soy nuts. With a bowl of rice or whole-grain bread, you’ll have a satisfying meal. Serves 4 – 6 people.

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