Cabbage & Carbonara
My kids are half Irish, so I'm committed to introducing them to celebratory fare in March -- and especially committed to doing so without the soggy, salty corned beef and cabbage meals sometimes found in previous generations. In honor of St. Patrick's Day and the Ides of March, I have created two updates on traditional Irish and Roman foods...and some small, fun history lessons to share with the kids along the way. Enjoy!
Cabbage with Bacon & Hazelnuts
During the mass immigration in the 19th century, food was scarce. Cabbage was plentiful but meat was reserved for the wealthy. If a family was ever gifted pork they would preserve it by salting or brining, thus creating bacon. This side dish is homage to just that -- with hazelnuts added as a modern twist. Engage the kids by having them help crush the hazelnuts after they are toasted -- either by placing between two kitchen cloths and rolling over with a rolling pin or banging them with a pot.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 lb fresh savoy cabbage, chopped into long, thin strips
- Salt and pepper
- ½ hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
In a large saucepan, melt the butter at medium heat, taking care to not let it brown. Add the bacon and sauté until crispy. Remove bacon from pan. Sauté cabbage in remaining fat, seasoning with salt and pepper. When cabbage is wilted, but not cooked to death (still slightly al dente), stir in hazelnuts and vinegar and reintroduce the bacon. Allow to cook about one minute. Remove from heat and serve hot.
Spaghetti Squash Carbonara
The Ides of March (March 15) mark the day to "beware of" -- the day Julius Caesar was assassinated. In honor of Julius Caesar, I have created a twist on the typical hearty Roman pasta carbonara using spaghetti squash. The result is a protein and veggie rich dish that there's no need to be beware of! Engage the kids to help wash the sandy leeks -- chop the leeks first, submerge in a large bowl of ice water, and have the kids rinse them well.
- 5 slices turkey bacon, chopped (smoked)
- 2 medium leeks, rinsed and chopped
- 1 large spaghetti squash, roasted (To roast, slice in half, remove seeds, bake in oven for one hour at 400 degrees. Scrape out strands of pulp and set aside.)
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup green peas
- 1 tablespoon Italian parsley
- Salt and pepper
- In a large skillet, sauté turkey bacon until crisp. You may need to add some oil to the pan, depending on fat content of the bacon. Remove bacon and set aside. Add leeks to the pan and sauté until tender, 4-5 minutes. Add salt and lots of cracked black pepper.
- Meanwhile, have 1 cup of very hot water or broth on the stovetop waiting for you. Whisk eggs and parmesan in bowl and gradually whisk in about a quarter of a cup of your boiling liquid. Whisk quickly to prevent the eggs from curdling.
- Add your already cooked spaghetti squash to leeks and add boiling liquid to this pan to loosen it up a bit. Add egg mixture to the spaghetti squash mixture and cook for about 2 minutes over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Add more of the boiling liquid if you feel you would like to thin the sauce out again. Stir in bacon, peas and parsley. Top with additional cheese and serve immediately.