This has been the question on the lips of my fellow CSA members for the last few weeks, at least the question they’ve directed at me.
It’s no revelation to say that for the most part, I’ve been shredding it thinly and topping tacos with it or tossing it into slaws. But in the summertime, don’t forget the other great thing to do with it: stir-fry.
At your local takeout place, you probably don’t even notice that it’s cabbage that’s providing a bit of vegetal sweetness and crunch to your lo mein, your moo shu, or gai kra prow, because when shredded and cooked briefly, it becomes a subtle supporter of the more outgoing flavors of the dish.
Stir-fry is the summer-cook’s friend—even when you hate the idea of heating up the kitchen, you only have to stand over that hot wok for about 15 minutes, tops. The secret to tasting closer to your favorite takeout joint and not like Mom’s Foray into Asian Cooking, circa 1979 (with apologies to Mom) is to use the highest heat your stove can muster, and to do everything in small batches—that way the food sears, rather than crowding together in the wok and steaming. You put your rice cooker on an hour before you want to eat, then throw everything else together at the last minute. Delicately mop the beads of sweat from your brow, and enjoy your dinner as the kitchen cools back down again.
Okay, the logistics:
Chop some meat (or tofu, if that’s your thing) into bite-size pieces, shred the cabbage, and dice or shred any other veggies you want to use.
Prepare a cup of some cooking liquid: at its simplest, some soy sauce cut with water, or add some minced garlic, julienned fresh ginger, fish sauce, some sugar, sesame oil, mirin, whatever. Taste it and fiddle until it tastes yummy.
Preheat that wok on high, then swirl in a small bit of oil. When it starts to smoke, add the meat (or half the meat, if you have a lot) and sautee until it gets brown all over. (Despite the name, “stir-fry,” resist temptation to stir constantly. Let the meat sit in contact with the wok for a minute or so, then stir it up, to get nice brown bits.)
Remove the meat and place it in a bowl. Add a little more oil, then the veggies; stir fry for about 1 minute. Add your cooking liquid and cover the wok; allow the veggies to steam in this liquid until they soften slightly. Add the meat back in and cover for 1 more minute.
Serve this stuff over rice—some freshly chopped cilantro or a dollop of sriracha really makes it.