I never really understand the appeal of creamed spinach. My very limited exposure involves dark steakhouses, sizzling slabs of juicy steak, and garlicky mushrooms. No wonder the creamed spinach doesn’t stand a chance among such stiff competition. If I want to eat spinach, I can think of so many different ways that don’t mute the mineral tang with copious amount of butter and cream. Why oh why?
But of course, not everyone’s a fan of leafy greens. I understand that. When I came across Marcus Samuelsson’s recipe for Gingery Creamed Kale & Cabbage, my curiosity was piqued. He took the creamed spinach idea and used hearty lucinato kale and green cabbage. Instead of one dimensional richness of cream, he boosted flavour with turmeric and ginger. I wanted to taste the result so badly…until I saw 2 cups of cream and 1 cup of buttermilk at the bottom of the ingredient list. I decided to give this recipe a vegan makeover.
Have you heard of cashew cream? It is a thick cream made of raw cashew, water, and optional seasoning. I read about it many times in vegan cookery but never occurred to me to try it. I don’t have dairy-intolerance so why not use the real thing? According to some sources of anti-inflammatory diet, nuts are much preferable over dairy. I can’t see any harm in trying new things.
I was pleasantly surprised by this dish. The cashew cream gave richness to the hearty greens. I liked the textural variation between shredded cabbage and chopped kale. But most of all, there was a subtle sweetness and complexity from the liberal use of onions, shallots, ginger, thyme, turmeric, and tandoori masala. I meant to only taste a bite before putting it away but ended up scarfing down half a bowl. Oops.
Gingery Creamed Kale & Cabbage
adapted from Marcus Samuelsson and Heidi Swanson
serves 4 as side dish
A Note About Kale: I totally would double the amount of kale from one bunch to two next time I cook this. The leaves shrunk more than I anticipated after blanching. No need to adjust other ingredients in the recipe.
Cashew Cream (makes 2 cups)
- 1 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1 scant cup of water
- 1 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast, optional
- a squeeze of lemon juice, optional
Creamed Kale & Cabbage
- 1 or 2 bunches of lucinato kale, washed and ribs removed
- fine sea salt
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon of tandoori masala, optional. Alternatively, a pinch of cayenne would do.
- 1/4 cup of water
- 1/4 head of green cabbage, shredded
- 1 cup of cashew cream
- To make cashew cream: The night before, soak cashews with enough water to cover. Leave in fridge overnight to soften. The next day, drain cashews and put in bowl of food processor/blender/immersion blender. Add 1 scant cup of water, 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice. Blend until very smooth. This makes a very thick cream and undoubtedly savoury. Set aside 1 cup and put the rest away in the fridge for other use.
- Boil water in a medium saucepan and add a teaspoon of salt. Blanch the kale leaves until wilted and drain under running cold water in a colander. Squeeze water from the cooked kale and roughly chop. Set aside.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat with about a tablespoon of cooking oil. Sauté onion, shallot, and ginger until softened. Add thyme leaves, turmeric, and tandoor masala and keep stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. If things start sticking to the bottom of the pan, drizzle in water by tablespoon to dislodge. Add cabbage and keep stirring until wilted, about 5 minutes.
- Add kale and 1 cup of cashew cream to the pan. Stir to combine. If it looks a bit dry, drizzle in a bit more water. This is not a saucy dish (strictly personal preference). Adjust seasoning with salt if necessary. I did not find it necessary because the cashew cream and kale are already seasoned. Serve immediately.