Friday, February 26, 2010

Bubble and Squeakish

For us Orthodox Christians, it is Great Lent, a season of preparation for Pascha, the Feast of Feasts, the touchstone and center of our spiritual year. We prepare ourselves by forgiveness of others, increasing our personal and corporate prayer, performing works of charity, and abstaining from sin, spiritual laziness, passions, and yes, certain foods. For a season, we become vegans: no flesh meats, fish with backbones, dairy, wine, eggs, or oil. On a few days, we are permitted fish, wine and oil, in particular, olive oil. There are individual differences and cultural differences, but this is basically the goal that we are all striving towards.

We Orthodox tend to think of fasting not as punishment - we don't punish ourselves into holiness as it may seem. Instead, we think of fasting as a means of exercising our spiritual muscles. With strong spiritual muscles, we can better fight the good fight. That is why, if you talk to 10 Orthodox, you will find at least 11 different fasting rules! The fast is applied individually like a medicine, to combat a specific individuals spiritual ills, and everyone's prescription is different, worked out with the advice of your spiritual father or parish priest, who is usually one and the same person, but not always, or you may have a spiritual mother, too. So, forgive me my weakness, but I do not abstain from olive oil. You can make adjustments to my recipes by omitting the oil and using broth or water to saute in a non-stick pan.

So... what is a vegan to eat when she hasn't been food shopping in far too long, and a search of the pantry and fridge offers up some potatoes, onions and a tired head of cabbage? The answer is bubble and squeak, of course! I don't pretend that my version is in anyway authentic, but it sure was delicious and certainly provided a nice, hot meal on a cold evening, as well as lunch the next day.

Bubble and Squeakish or, Cabbage Hash Browns
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small to medium onion sliced into strips
half a medium head of cabbage, sliced into strips
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp herbes de provence
olive oil

I peeled my potatoes because they were beginning to sprout and when that happens, a slight greenishness appears just underneath the skin. This is bitter and, I believe, it is quite bad for you, so be sure and peel your old potatoes! If the potatoes were fresher, I would not have peeled them.

Brush the bottom of a large, deep, nonstick frypan, like a wok or a chicken fryer (I used a chicken fryer), with about 1 tsp of oil. Add in the onions, season with a little salt and pepper, and saute until translucent over medium heat. Add in the potatoes and continuing sauteing until the potatoes are nearly tender and the onions are just beginning to carmelize. Add in the cabbage and herbes de provence, stir well so that the herbes are well distributed throughout, adding a little more oil if necessary, then cover the pan for about 5 minutes to wilt the cabbage. Uncover, stir and you should see that the potatoes are beginning to get a nice toasty brown and the onions are nicely carmelized, but still soft. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust if necessary, then turn the heat to high and stir fry for a minute or two. Take off the heat and smash some of the potatoes with the back of a serving spoon. Enjoy!

I was pretty hungry, so I ate this right out of the pan. While I was boxing the leftovers for my lunch the next day, I thought that this would provide a base for a wide range of flavors and ingredients. I could picture this with some curry as a filling for samosas; as the base for a baked omelette or a quiche; or even as the filling for some yummy pierogies!

I still have half the cabbage in the fridge, so I think I'll try one of these ideas and let you know how it turned out!