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Kate Heyhoe

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Napa Cabbage: Nifty and Thrifty

...and Meal-Morphing using Succulent Chinese Chicken

by Kate Heyhoe

 

While creating recipes for my book Cooking with Kids for Dummies, I focused on readily available ingredients any family can find in their local markets. At the same time, I wanted families to discover vegetables that might be new to them, but without requiring a whole manual on how to eat or prepare them. And, I knew that while parents' palates would be able to tolerate more extreme flavors, kids—especially young ones—tend to be a little more reticent about strong tastes. Here's an excerpt and recipe from my book, due out on March 1999, on one of my favorite such vegetables: napa cabbage.

Napa Cabbage

Note: This week's and next week's napa cabbage dishes are morphed from last week's recipe for Succulent Chinese Chicken. If you made and froze that recipe, then simply defrost it to use in these recipes. Otherwise, you'll need to make it anywhere from 2 hours to 3 days in advance. (You'll need just 5 minutes of labor to get Succulent Chinese Chicken started, 20 minutes to simmer unattended, and an hour to let it rest.) Also, an average head of napa cabbage is more than enough for both this recipe and next week's Hearty Wonton Soup, and if stored in the crisper, will stay fresh long enough to make both recipes.

 

Kate's Basics Recipe:
About Napa Cabbage

Most supermarket produce sections now stock napa cabbage, also known as Chinese cabbage. It comes in tight barrel-shaped heads or loose-headed varieties, both with crinkly, pale green leaves and thick white ribs. Napa cabbage appeals to more sensitive palates; it's milder than regular cabbage and lacks the same strong odor when heated. It also cooks more quickly, can last two weeks in the crisper, and a small head is so compact it may weigh as much as three pounds. You can also serve it raw, shredded for crisp and crunchy salads or garnishes. Napa cabbage is an excellent source of vitamins C and A, fiber, potassium, folic acid and contains small amounts of calcium and iron as well. While much of it is indeed grown in Napa, California, the name is thought to derive from the Japanese word nappa, meaning "greens." Slice it thinly for salads, soups and stir-fries. One large leaf shredded makes 1 cup, tightly packed.

 

Recipe:
Napa Chicken Salad

For best results, make this salad using Succulent Chinese Chicken: the moist, flavorful meat needs very little mayonnaise, which is often used excessively in other salads to replace moisture in dried-out chicken meat. Cook the Succulent Chinese Chicken one day, then morph it into this salad later in the week. You'll also want to use those Toasted and Skinned Hazelnuts we made previously (hopefully you prepared them and kept them frozen, ready for this recipe).

Preparation time: 15 to 20 minutes, using cooked Succulent Chinese Chicken and Toasted Hazelnuts.
Yield: Serves 4 as a light meal, or 6 as a sandwich filling.

 

Do this first:

Using clean fingers, shred enough Succulent Chinese Chicken meat to make 3 cups (or use other cooked chicken meat); young children are especially handy at shredding.

Toast, skin and coarsely crush enough hazelnuts to make 1/2 cup.

Stack about 6 napa cabbage leaves, or enough to make 3 packed cups when shredded. Cut across leaves to make thin shreds. If the shreds are too long, cut them in half.

 

Ingredients and steps:

3 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 3 half-breasts)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 green onions
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 cups packed shredded napa cabbage leaves (about 6 medium leaves)
3/4 cup toasted, coarsely crushed hazelnuts
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place the chicken in a mixing bowl. Mix the vinegar into the chicken until absorbed.

2. Trim and diagonally slice green onions about 1/4-inch wide. Add to the bowl.

3. Mix in the mayonnaise, napa cabbage, hazelnuts, and fresh cracked pepper to taste.

4. Taste to correct the seasonings. Add salt, vinegar or mayonnaise as needed.

Serving suggestion: For a pretty presentation, reserve 1/3 each of the cabbage and hazelnuts. Arrange the reserved cabbage on a platter, top with the chicken mixture, then garnish with the reserved hazelnuts.

Variations: If you don't have hazelnuts, use roasted peanuts or pine nuts; the flavor will be different but good. This chicken salad makes a terrific sandwich on wheat rolls.

 

Recipe copyright 1998, from Cooking with Kids for Dummies, by Kate Heyhoe. (Release date: March 1999, IDG Books). All rights reserved.

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