Okay, so the Dutch had a word for it, koolsla, which basically meant finely shredded cabbage salad in a vinaigrette. It was noted early on that the vinaigrette caused a pickling or fermenting action which extended the edible life of the dish. As things go, the Dutch didn’t keep to Holland and koolsla didn’t keep to cabbage. Good ideas have many fathers.
Some form of koolsla may be found on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. The Koreans have their potent kimchi, the Germans have krautsalat and the Salvadorans have a pickled curtido. The Balkans and several Middle Eastern countries share a taste for torshi. China has a dozen variations, most popular though is pao cai. Nor is the cabbage part essential. In Italy it is a dish of julienned peppers with ham and carrots. It seems that there is a universal yen for that sour flavor that vinegars add to shake up complacent taste buds. So the idiom “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” was puzzling to me as a child. It more or less ignored the fact that most of us like that sourness. Begging the questions of why on earth would anyone want to catch flies and what were they going to do with them?
When such vinaigrettes are combined with the crispy crunch of cabbage, fennel, carrot, jicama, celery, kohlrabi, snow peas, green beans and firm-fleshed fruit, most of these slaws are satisfyingly refreshing. As a summer side dish that doesn’t require heat, they find a welcome on many tables.
It is nearly miraculous how many delicious dishes can be made based on a couple of glorious ingredients. The very term milk and honey represents abundance and freedom from want and a wholesome prosperity. Even in these technology-driven days, over 750 million people live in the households of dairy farms. Last year global honey production came in at about $2.2 billion. Take that Silicone Valley.
Honey bees are not the only insect to produce honey. There is also a sugar ant that makes honey, but harvesting is problematic and the yield low. Enterprising Alaskans, their climate being too cold for bees, developed “squaw honey” which is made by boiling down nectar filled flowers into a sugar syrup, reducing it to the consistency of honey. It tastes like honey. Perhaps not the finest, but honey nonetheless. While honeybees seem to be one of the most recently endangered species, the northeast of the U.S. is still home to many bees and their beekeepers. Not least those in our own market. Are beekeeping and catkeeping similar in terms of who is actually keeping whom?
All mammals produce milk. Milk produces not only its own liquid form, but cream, butter, cheese, yogurt and ice cream. There was once a time when milk was delivered directly to your door and frequently along with butter and eggs. Today it is available in every corner convenience store and supermarket. But soon, they say, we’ll have it and everything else delivered to our doorsteps by drones. Is there such a thing as egg insurance? Will drones be smart enough to leave the butter in an insulated container? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Wherever there are milk and honey, bakers, bakeries and sweet-toothed people will soon follow. Whole libraries of cookbooks have been devoted to myriad methods of conducting honey and some form of dairy into the mouth. These week’s recipe is Honey Yogurt Cheesecake which is a lighter version of the classic with the savory twist of fresh thyme and lemon zest. It is also gluten free as the cookie crumbs are from oat cookies.
Just about everything has a sprout stage. In plants it’s that early part of life when the first two miniature leaves make their move from folded-in-prayer to discernible plants. The preceding phase, when that translucent not-yet-quite-stem pushes its way out of the ground, is called a soak. Frequently at its initial appearance, that soak is still wearing the shell of its seed as a jaunty cap. When the sprout reaches the maturity of a toddler, it becomes a shoot. Wouldn’t it be great fun to be the person who decides what each of these things is called?
The first time I saw sprouts for sale they had been cut some indefinable time ago and were encased in refrigerated plastic containers. They were different. They were good. Today one can find trays of yet uncut sprouts of many varieties at our own farmers’ market. It doesn’t get fresher than seeing them cut before your eyes. One of the interesting things about sprouts is that, like DNA, every cell contains the imprint of the entire originating body. Which also means that all the nutrients and benefits of the mature plant are found in the sprouts.
As with Mother Nature, it is best not to fool with sprouts overly much. So instead of recipes, below is a list of ideas for how to use these intense little powerhouses of flavor and nourishment. Be prepared to be surprised.