Kobold Slaw

Eh? Get it? Kobold? Cole, bold? Bold cole slaw? Kobold slaw? No? Sorry.

Anyway, food ideas have been thin on the ground here, lately. I went into a long post Lenten funk, and then I spent the whole month of June on a road trip eating other people’s largely uninspired cooking (with a few notable exceptions).

But yesterday’s festivities found me doing my eye of round roast with the zatar rub, sliced thin, and wrapped into pita with tabbouleh, which I served to friends. Alas, I do not yet make my own tabbouleh. But thus inspired to actually make real food, I did embark on a “one shot” quest. Our side dish was a fresh slaw.

One small head of cabbage, cored, quartered, and sliced thin.[1] One sweet onion [2], cored, halved, and sliced thin. One each of green, red and yellow bell peppers, cored and sliced thin.

I would say for an off the cuff batch, go with that, but use two each of the peppers. But I was trying to use up some of the last of the harvesting from my garden (the time has come to turn most of it over and plant black eyed peas and sweet potatoes), so instead I used four “blushing beauty” bell peppers (these are smaller than the usual variety, hence four instead of three), and a large cucumber which I removed the seeds from and sliced thin as well. I also de-seeded and sliced into ribbons three of my fresh habanero peppers which are only just barely turning orange these days. It is from this last that the dish is dubbed Kobold Slaw.

As a dressing I whisked together toasted sesame oil, olive oil, soy sauce, salt, black pepper, prepared horse radish paste, powdered ginger (if I had planned ahead, fresh would have been better), and a teensy bit of egg-free canola mayo [3]. The idea was something along the lines of a sesame ginger salad dressing, but thicker. Keeping in mind that the oil is going to draw the heat out of the ribboned hot pepper flesh, as well.

Again, if you plan ahead, you can make this dish hours prior to serving it, tossing the dressing around every 30 minutes or so. The longer it has to set up, the more profound and complex the flavors will get. I served this first within an hour of making it, and it was good. We served the rest much later for the fireworks party and it was so much better.

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If you prefer a more traditional cole slaw, I did have a genuinely inspired variety during my travels that included whole caraway seeds in with the cabbage and carrots which was very, very tasty.

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[1] If you actually plan ahead, do this an hour or two before everything else. Salt the cabbage liberally, toss it every few minutes for at least half an hour, then rinse off all the salt. This will remove a lot of water from the cabbage which will otherwise end up in your dressing at the bottom of the serving bowl.

[2] Remember that “Vidalia” is a brand name from a specific county in… Georgia or one of the Carolinas. Get whatever sweet onions grow most locally to you, even if they’re just some uninterestingly labeled alphanumeric. Reducing your carbon foot print tastes better than terroir.

[3] Vegan without having to buy “veganaise” which is just gross, since the only way to get mayo made with ethical eggs, that I know of, is to make your own from scratch, which is tasty, but a hassle.

Bubbling Caldron of Enchanted Elixir

Lest you all begin to fear that this kitchen kleric is a kloset vegan, I offer you this tasty preparation.

Get a pork shoulder. If you can find it, get boar (darker meat, more flavor).

You will also need lemon grass, hot peppers and kaffir lime leaves. Chop the lemon grass coarsely.

Put the shoulder into a Dutch oven fat side down with the chopped lemon grass and leaves on top and the hot peppers down at the bottom (when the vessel begins to fill with fat and water, the capsaicin in the hot peppers will bond with the fat so that the heat can infuse the whole dish). Cover with the lid and place in a 250 degree (or lower if you have lots and lots of time) oven for at least six hours. If you can stand it, 200 degrees and 12 hours is better.

Open the vessel. You should have several inches of water, fat and gelatin. Use a pair whatever relevant tools you have handy to pull the pork into the liquid. If you’re having difficulty with this, you may want to actually cook it longer, not all the fat and connective tissue have melted yet. Once everything is shredded, add a generous amount of Thai basil leaves and return the vessel, uncovered, to a very, very hot (at least 450) oven.

Just get a vigorous bubble going, and then you’re done.

Serve the shredded meat in a small pool of the broth you have produced, but not as if this is a soup. Let people salt to their own taste. I happen to like it with almost none, myself.

It is also possible to use the broth to make a Thai style curry and then you can pair this with steamed Jasmine rice or rice noodles.

Sorry, I’m drooling, I need to stop writing.

Everyone Should Have Fire Potions Handy

One downside with participating in a community garden and having a plot in that garden is that when produce comes in, produce comes in. Suddenly your house is full of bush beans, pole beans, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh herbs, bell peppers and hot peppers, and I mean full, all at the same time. I am a culinary spell caster who neither grew up in, nor received his training, nor has spent very much time at all for that matter, in what gardening people call “Zone 9a” but that is where I find myself at the moment. So rather than this avalanche of product happening in July or August, it has been happening for about the past month. I have literally sat at my laptop munching a cucumber I just pulled out of my garden while reading tweets from friends complaining about snow. This is deeply confusing if you aren’t actually a Southerner.

I am also not a seasoned (ha ha) green thumb. My Mom kept gardens when I was a kid, but as with most things I now enjoy, at the time I found it boring. So in some regards, I am winging it during this, my first season. Thankfully I am tag-teaming on my plot with another couple who have at least one year’s experience already in the bag.

For reasons I don’t entirely understand, my habanero hot peppers are coming in long since full grown, but are not changing color from dark green to anything close to orange. Recently I gave up and harvested a big bunch of them (about 40) that seemed to be about as big as one could expect them to get, but which were still quite green.

I also have piles of tomatoes. Sadly, not piles of Roma tomatoes just yet, they seem to be taking their time coming in, but piles of grape, cherry, some Roma and some of the more generic round ones I don’t know the particulars on. So in an effort to get some stuff used up, I decided to make a batch of arrabbiata.

Let me just say in passing that gutting grape and cherry tomatoes is incredibly tedious. People think spell casting is all glamorous fireballs and healing effects and illusions. Nobody stops to think about the finger grinding, brain numbing work of preparing physical components. Chefs get the glory, wait staff get the tips, but the morning vegetable crew does all the real work. Believe.

So, here’s what went into the whirling typhoon of mystical combining stuff:

  • fresh oregano (from my garden)
  • fresh sweet basil (from my garden)
  • olive oil
  • 3 habanero peppers, including seeds (from the garden)
  • roughly 40 assorted tomatoes, cored and seeded (from the garden)
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt
I started with 3 peppers thinking this was conservative and I could add more to bump up the heat.
What I ended up doing was adding two cans of tomato paste in an effort to cool the results down, and we still had to eat dinner with handkerchiefs in hand when served over pasta without cheese (dairy buffers this kind of heat).
That being said, a dollop of it over roast beef, stuck under the broiler on slices of sourdough made for a truly sensational lunch.
Today I will be adding another 30 or so tomatoes to continue tempering the heat. I also plan to take all the peppers that have stems and string them to dry, since I now know that using them up is going to take FOREVER.
Meanwhile, if any orcs attack, I’m just going to spoon this stuff into clay jars and throw it.