It’s tough goings for the garnish industry in the winter. Fresh herbs refuse to pop up until the weather warms so I’m left with spices, sauces and dried herbs to lay that finishing touch on a dish.
Earlier this year I wrote about a different type of garnish issue - I used an ingredient foreign from the dish to decorate it. I thought the beautiful black pellets of mustard seeds would contrast nicely to the orange sweet potato soup splattered with bright, white yogurt. And in fact, I think it looked lovely. I decided it didn’t matter that I hadn’t used mustard seed in the soup. I’d use it to enhance the look of the dish, without compromising the taste.
I used the opposite approach this weekend in my bean and cabbage dish. This was a simple, hearty dish combining tiger eye beans, slashed cabbage, onion and garlic, flavored with chipotle and cumin. The cabbage, onion and garlic adapted the brick color of the chipotle and adobo sauce and the tiger beans lost their stripes in the long cooking process, turning into a similar hue as the rest of the dish.
It needed some contrast. It needed some brightness. And I didn’t have a goddamn fresh herb in sight.
But, I did have some cabbage left. I minced it, just like I would with parsley and sprinkled the white and light green bits to create a diversion from the blah-looking beans and cooked cabbage.
Tiger Eye Beans with Chipotle Cabbage
I bought the tiger eye beans fresh from the farmers’ market a few months back. I really had no idea how to treat them, as I’ve normally used canned beans. I didn’t think about cooking them a day before so I couldn’t take advantage of an overnight soak. Instead, I basically had them boiling with the lid on, for over 2 hours, in salted water with a bay leaf.
The rest of the dish came together very quickly. I sauteed half a white onion, added garlic, then shredded cabbage (salting and peppering with each additional ingredient) and let it cook until slightly soft, but not soggy. I then added 2 minced chipotle peppers with maybe a spoonful of the adobo, plus cumin. I then combined the beans and cabbage mixture, sprayed it with some pickled ramp vinegar for some tang, added more salt and pepper and finished it with raw, minced cabbage.
Serve on its own, as a side, or under a fried egg.