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Spicy Cabbage with Bacon, Shrimp and Tomatoes

Spicy sautéed cabbage with shrimp, bacon and tomatoes

It's a holiday here again, one of a few this month that gives us a nice, stretched-out weekend and a Monday that is eerily quiet. Max left early this morning to get some work done back in Kassel. When the front door closed behind him, the baby started crying and then I almost cried at the sound of it. I don't know who I felt worse for, the baby or Max. Usually, Max leaves late Sunday night, long after Hugo's gone to bed. It's a lot tougher when the kid's around to realize he's being left.

We had the loveliest weekend, though, especially yesterday, when we spent the afternoon in my friend Kim's garden, grilling meat and eating salads under a few sun umbrellas, the kids playing in the sandbox. It was one of those perfect days that you wished didn't have to end. It wasn't just the weather that was perfect, it was the general mood, the feeling that we were just where we were supposed to be, soaking up the warmth and indolence in quite the right way. Whenever expat friends of mine get irritated about how the whole country goes quiet on Sundays, I have to think about perfect days like yesterday. They'd be so much harder to enjoy if you knew that you could also be running errands or working. A day of rest should be just that.

Later, after we'd gotten home and bathed the sand and strawberry juice off the baby and put him to bed and were preparing to sit down and watch a spectacularly terrible movie on the couch, legs all tangled up together for a few more hours, I realized we had nothing for dinner. I managed to cobble together a few things from the fridge (sliced beets, boiled broccoli, a few sad tomatoes sautéed with a past-its-prime zucchini), but they were a little unsatisfying and I wished we'd had a head of green cabbage in the fridge - plain, old, green cabbage, because with that around, you never go hungry.

Spicy cabbage with shrimp and tomatoes

Whenever there's nothing in the fridge but green cabbage, I make Brandon's spicy cabbage, or a variation thereof, and we always finish dinner thinking about why don't we eat it more often. It's the best kind of empty-pantry meal. You need hardly anything to make it, it's plentiful and filling and delicious and spicy (I up the quantity of sambal oelek), and it comes together in hardly any time at all.

The most recent twist I made on the recipe involved a little diced Speck, some canned tomatoes and frozen shrimp, because I wanted something a little heftier and more substantial to make it a one-plate dinner. The extra ingredients gave the cabbage a slightly Mediterranean feel and the tomatoes smoothed and sweetened the hot bite of the sambal oelek. I even ate the (cold!) leftovers for breakfast the next day. Me! Miss-toast-and-honey! Wonders will never cease. (Also, I highly recommend it.)

Happy Monday, folks.

Spicy Cabbage with Bacon, Shrimp and Tomatoes
Serves 2-3

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1/2 cup diced lean bacon or Speck
1/3 - 1/2 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/3 can plum tomatoes in juice, shredded with your fingers
1 teaspoon sambal oelek (or more or less to taste)
1 1/2 cups small frozen shrimp, defrosted
1/2 lime

1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan and add the onion. Cook over medium heat, until glossy and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the diced bacon and cook for another few minutes.

2. Dump the sliced cabbage into the pan and mix well, using tongs, to distribute the onions and bacon through the cabbage. Cook over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomatoes, and the sambal oelek. Stir well to combine. Lower heat to medium, cover the pan and let cook 10 minutes.

3. Uncover the pan and add the shrimp. Stir to distribute. Cover the pan and let cook until the shrimp are just cooked through and pink. Squeeze 1/2 lime over the cabbage, stir well and serve immediately.

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