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Three-quarters of a big head of napa cabbage has sat planted in my fridge for the past few days.  Over the weekend,  I shredded and mixed one-fourth of the cabbage into a meat filling used for a Chinese dumpling “test-run”.  The dumplings are still a work in progress – the dough has been tricky – but hopefully, it’ll be perfected by Christmas.  Reasons for the deadline – hubby had proudly (so sweet) but a bit overzealously (so eager) promised my in-laws a holiday dumpling feast without knowing that, without the availability of pre-made wrappers, I am dumpling handicapped.  Practice in this case, however, is really making perfect.  (Hubby’s also getting pretty good at rolling dough.)  So stay tuned, bloggable dumplings coming soon!

But back to the napa.  A lot of napa.

Napa, with its big cylindrical shape and heavy leaves, takes up a lot of space in a small European sized refrigerator.  It is, however, quite versatile.  One head, as I’ve now garnered from experience, can go towards many different uses.  I weighed my options accordingly.  Kimchi?  Too much time.  A Salad?  Too chilly of a day.  I settled on a quick braise and in one fell swoop, reclaimed entitled real estate.  Triumph.

Braised Napa Cabbage (makes 5-6 side servings)

Ingredients:

  • one head of napa cabbage
  • 2 gloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small bulb of ginger, peeled and cut into very thin, skinny strips
  • 2 red Thai chili peppers (spiciness optional), diced.
  • 1 bunch of green scallions, chopped
  • olive oil

Sauce:

  • 4-5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 teaspoon agave syrup
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons Kuzu (natural thickener from Kuzu plant; cornstarch can also be substituted)

Chop napa cabbage into 5 cm (2 inch) pieces; mince garlic, ginger, and chilis.

Rough chop cabbage into ~5 cm (2 inch) pieces; discard cabbage core.  In a small bowl, mix together ingredients for the sauce and set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large wok or skillet and heat over high heat.  Next, add cabbage to the hot pan.  Since one head of cabbage yields quite a bit, work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan – about 4 batches for a medium sized napa.  Cook, constantly stirring, until leaves begin to slightly brown, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove and set aside.  Add more oil in between batches if necessary.

Once the last batch of cabbage is finished and removed, add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the empty pan over medium-high heat.  Cook minced garlic, ginger, scallions, and chill peppers, stirring continuously, until fragrant (1-2 minutes).  Add sauce and heat through for 1 minute, stirring to thicken.  Finally, place cooked cabbage back into the pan and reheat with the sauce; mix to coat all the leaves.  Cook for 5-6 minutes.

Alongside the cabbage, I made some pan fried shrimp with a fragrant, fresh ground Sichuan peppercorn and sea-salt rub (thanks for the suggestion, Conor!).

So happy after a light and healthy lunch.  Moreover, so happy to have my refrigerator space back!

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