Growing up, I ate a lot of stewed squash. Textureless, tasting mostly of butter and salt, stewed squash barely belies its origins as a smooth, crisp summer vegetable. And it was only...
Over the winter, leeks and cabbage are staple vegetables for us. At least in the Pacific Northwest, they seem to be available even during the bleakest part of winter, making them standards for cold weather cooking in our house. People love to gripe about winter produce, and while I will be among those to greedily snatch up the first of spring’s asparagus and rhubarb, I’ve come to enjoy my winter cooking companions. We can’t all be heirloom tomatoes, after all.
Working with underdog ingredients can lead to real appreciation and happy discoveries like this one. It was really a discovery of necessity, as in, we needed to make dinner and happened to have a leek, some cabbage, and green garlic in the crisper. Fritters are an easy and invariably delicious way to prepare almost any vegetable, but this combination is particularly good. The leeks almost melt into the fritters in that charming way that they do, and the cabbage provides structure and a little sweetness. I’m always pleasantly surprised at how sweet cabbage is! We aren’t a gluten free household, but we made these the first time with chickpea flour just because we had some around that needed using, and it worked out really well. But all-purpose is just fine too.
If you can’t find green garlic, you can still make these! Simply mince a couple cloves of normal garlic or use scallions, spring onions, or even ramps. The flavor won’t be exactly the same, but the fritters will still be delicious.
As is, these cakes are vegetarian, but if you have leftover corned beef and are in desperate need of ways to use it up, you can dice it and add ½ cup or so to the fritter batter. On the other hand, if you want to make these cakes vegan, simply omit the cheddar, add an extra 1/4 teaspoon salt, and replace the egg with 1 tablespoon ground flax or chia seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons water. They may be a bit more fragile than the cakes containing egg, but a little extra care in flipping them will solve that.
Be sure to save any leek trimmings and cabbage cores for stock--we like to keep a bag in our freezer for vegetable scraps.
Trim, halve lengthwise, wash thoroughly, and thinly slice:
1 medium leek (about 10 ounces)
Core and thinly shred:
¼ medium cabbage (about 10 ounces)
Heat in a large skillet over medium heat:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Add the leek and cabbage and saute until beginning to wilt, about 5 minutes. Add ¼ cup water, cover, and cook for 3 minutes or until softened. Remove the leek mixture to a medium mixing bowl to cool for 10 minutes.
¼ cup all-purpose flour (if gluten free, use chickpea flour)
1 large egg
2 ounces sharp cheddar, grated
(¼ cup chopped green garlic)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Wipe out the skillet used for softening the leek mixture and add:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Return the skillet to medium heat, and when the oil starts to shimmer, add the leek mixture in spoonfuls. Exact size isn’t important, but they will be easier to flip if they’re on the smaller side. Cook, flipping once, until browned on both sides. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. If desired, serve with:
Horseradish-Yogurt Sauce, below
Makes about ½ cup
Combine in a small bowl:
½ cup plain, unsweetened yogurt
2 tablespoons minced chives
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish