Recipe: Change up ingredients with whatever's on hand
Cabbage is not something I cook with often -- maybe twice a year. And since it's such a large vegetable, I invariably wind up with extra. We're not coleslaw fans in my house, and tossing still-edible vegetables into the compost bin is such a crime.
So I went searching for another good recipe and hit on several for okonomiyaki, or savory cabbage pancakes. The dish is Japanese in origin, the name derived from the word "okonomi," or roughly "what you like." These pancakes are designed to use up ingredients on hand, which makes it perfect for shelter-in-place cuisine -- no runs to the store for special ingredients these days.
If you don't have cabbage, try kale, full-size spinach, chard, shredded broccoli, bean sprouts or shredded zucchini. Also, if you don't have scallions, try green garlic -- which is what I used -- or garlic or regular chives.
Non-vegetarians also might want to toss in cubed leftover chicken or pork, cooked bacon or baby shrimp.
The garnish is flexible, too. The budgetbytes.com blog where I found the easiest recipe suggested a quick sauce of mayo and Sriracha, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds and chopped green onion. I subbed garlic chives for the green onion, but otherwise went with the mayo/Sriracha blend, which was terrific. Make it as spicy as you like.
The recipe I adapted here is for a smaller batch than many I found, but could be doubled easily. Any leftovers can be refrigerated and reheated, but you will lose the crispiness from the original cooking.
Another note: I tried cooking these in both a regular skillet and a non-stick one. Both produced well-crisped pancakes, but the non-stick pan cleaned up easier. So there is that.
Savory cabbage pancakes
Makes six or seven 6-inch pancakes
4 to 5 cups shredded green cabbage (or other vegetable listed above)
1 large carrot
3 scallions or 1 stalk green garlic or 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
3 large or 2 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
3/4 to 1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, for frying
Topping and garnish:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce, or to taste
2 teaspoons sesame seeds (optional)
2 scallions or a handful of garlic chives, chopped (optional)
Remove wilted leaves from the cabbage, and cut out any core. If you have a full head of cabbage, cut it into quarters to make it easier to handle. Shred or thinly slice the cabbage until you have 4 to 5 cups of shreds. Peel and shred the carrot. Chop or slice the scallions (or green garlic or chives).
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl with the water, soy sauce and sesame oil. About 1/4 cup at a time, sprinkle in and whisk in the flour to form a thick, smooth batter. (Try to avoid dumping it in, which clumps the flour.)
Blend the cabbage, carrots and scallions into the batter until the vegetables are evenly coated with it.
Place a flat baking pan or heatproof serving plate in the oven at low heat (200 degrees is fine).
Heat 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a skillet (non-stick preferred) over medium heat. Measure out about 3/4 cup of the batter and add it to the heated pan, pressing it down to form a pancake about 6 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick.
Cook 3 to 5 minutes until the pancake is golden brown and crispy on the bottom. Turn down the heat if it's browning too quickly. Flip it over and cook the second side until equally brown.
Place the cooked pancake on the pan or plate in the warm oven; cover with foil if desired. Continue cooking pancakes in this manner, adding more oil to the pan as needed, until all the batter is used.
To serve, mix the mayo and Sriracha, and drizzle it over the pancakes as they're being plated, or pass it at the table. Sprinkle on the sesame seeds and chopped scallions or chives, if using.
Refrigerate any uneaten pancakes in a closed container; reheat in the microwave or oven.
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For week of March 3:
* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.
* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.
* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.
* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.
* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.
* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.
* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.
* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.
* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.
* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.
* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.
* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.
* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.
* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.
* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.
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