Like most humans, I am hungry...our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it... - M. F. K. Fisher
Thick, paperback, and a little bit intimidating, a large text book sat on my desk when I walked into the office one morning. I immediately remembered a conversation with a co-worker when they said they had a book to lend me (thanks Max!). Food and Culture: A Reader, was the title.
The forward was a quote from M. F. K. Fisher that I absolutely adore (the one I opened this post with). Of course food and security and love, are intertwined. Every discussion about food is also about your up bringing and your emotions and your heart. Of course. This is why I love the topic: we all have a deep, intrinsic connection to what we make in our kitchens and even what we eat when we are very, very far from our kitchens. There is something there, and it is so much more than food (even when food is the hero of the story).
Take these cabbage pancakes: I could tell you about how delicious they were, and how they were something new for our table. But that's not the story. The story is about how I have always (always!) struggled to make anything like this: latkes, zucchini pancakes, corn cakes. The few memories I have of latkes (a bat mitzvah, a pot luck) are positive (who doesn't love potato fried in oil) but they were never something my parents made and I didn't grow up watching them come together. So when I've tried to recreate them in my own kitchen, it's been a battle of Caitlin versus fried patty, and sadly the patties usually win and I put up a white flag. We eat whatever it is as a shredded, fried pile (it's delicious, but totally off the mark).
With this as my background, I'm not sure what exactly made me think "I will make pancakes out of this head of cabbage that's been wasting away in the fridge" rather than just sautéing it or making slaw. But, that's what I thought. I got out a knife, and shredded the cabbage into thin, papery strips, and as I did it's volume ballooned and filled our largest mixing bowl. This made me nervous, but I made the move that said "There's no turning back" (tossing everything with egg and cassava flour) and then--after thinking for a brief moment What will I do with this pile of sticky battery cabbage if this doesn't work out?- I heated up oil in the pan.
And? Hallelujah! Finally a fritter I can make. A single battle won, 15 more pancakes to flip. That first pancake gave me the bode of confidence I needed: It didn't matter that I wasn't a life-time latke-making pro. Attempt after attempt of fritter frying, my work had paid off. This win was coming home. (And yes, the stringiness of the cabbage, compared to shredded potato, may have something to do with my success. I'm ok with that for now).
These were also completely devoured in 5 minutes, if any one asks. But if they do ask, please also tell them it's a story about perseverance.
Yields: 4 | Total Time:
- 6 cups shredded cabbage
- 4 eggs
- 1/3 cup cassava flour (Here is one brand)
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 bunch green onions, roots removed and remaining parts roughly chopped
- Dash salt
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- Coconut oil for cooking For the dipping sauce:
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha
- Please shredded cabbage in bowl and toss with chopped green onions, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, dash of salt, and cassava flour. Once cabbage is coated, crack eggs into bowl and add sesame oil and soy sauce. Mix until everything is combined.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it sizzles, scoop the cabbage mixture into the skillet 1/4 cup at a time. Use a spatula to press the 1/4 cup pile down into a pancake shape and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes, until the cabbage begins to brown. Using the spatula, flip the fritter and cook on the second side for 5-10 more minutes, until browned. (I find I can do 3 fritters at once in my skillet to quicken the cooking process). Place cooked fritters on a plate and repeat until all of the cabbage mixture is used.
- Make the sauce: combine ingredients for sauce in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Stir. After 5 minutes, remove from heat. Pour into small bowl.
- Serve fritters warm with sauce for dipping. Garnish with extra sesame seeds or Sriracha.