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cabbage moth caterpillar

It’s been a great season.  We’ve eaten cauliflower and cabbage and broccoli and kale and pak choi and daikon pretty well every day for the last five months.  We’ve eaten Okonomiyaki for breakfast a lot of times, and Cheesy Broccoli Omelette has been a regular standby.  We’ve discovered cabbage chopped very fine in the food processor, added to chicken and vegetable soup makes it thick and delicious and not like boiled cabbage at all.  We’ve discovered Cauliflower Cheese Soup doesn’t actually need cheese, or perhaps just a sprinkle of parmesan on top, and that adding a leek makes it smooth and creamy just like cheese.  We’ve had many many Roasted Cauliflower  finger food dinners, occasionally alternated with Greek Crumbed Cauli or Broccoli Tempura.  We’ve had coleslaw or Greens as Themselves as a side dish at one meal or another every day.

And it’s lasted well too.  Here it is, nearly the end of Spring, just about to launch into summer.  I’ve seen the cabbage moths around for a few weeks but the local predators have been knocking them off before they get a chance to lay eggs.  But summer is here, all but, and it’s time to say goodbye.

There are many, many organic remedies for cabbage moth caterpillars (and the web moth caterpillars that will be next to arrive).  There are nets and traps and fake moths and eggshells and trichogramma wasps  and dipel. But the only one I reckon is worth the time and effort for results is timing.

From June till October, sometimes if I’m lucky like this year all the way through to November, I can grow brassicas and do nothing to control cabbage moths at all.  From November till April or May, I can do everything in the arsenal and I still don’t get brassicas that can compete for a place on the plate with tromboncino and beans and squash.

It’s been lovely, but I need the space now for the capsicums and curcubits.  So goodbye Brassicas, till next year. It’s been very nice.

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roasted-cauli

My caulis are getting away from me.  Only three or four left in the garden now, which is fairly nicely timed because the white cabbage moths are just starting to appear and in a couple of weeks it will become a battle not worth the prize to keep them off the Brassicas.  Fairly nicely. We’re not quite keeping up with them and the last few are being harvested a little late, heads loosening up and florets with longer, light green stems.   I could, I should, harvest them while they still look like perfect supermarket caulis and give the extras away.  But we’ve developed a bit of an addiction to roasted cauliflower, and these slightly blown ones make the best roasted cauli.  And there’s only a few left.  Greedy.

cauli

Roasted cauli is a surprise. It is so so so much better than you would think.  The basic recipe is:  just chop the cauli into florets, not too small.  With these ones I cut lengthwise through the florets to leave quite a lot of stem on. Put them in a big bowl, sprinkle generously with olive oil and salt and pepper, toss well to coat, spread in a single layer in a roasting pan, and roast in a hot oven for around half an hour until they are just tender and getting little caramelised browned bits. Best just that little bit undercooked but browning, which needs a hot oven.

Just like that is hard to go past.  We ate this bowl for lunch with fingers straight from the bowl.  But it’s also good hot as a side dish or cold in salads or blended with stock as a soup.  From there though, there are any number of elaborations possible.

  • A s sprinkle of finely grated parmesan and back into the oven till it melts and browns (this is probably my favourite).
  • Or a generous sprinkle of dukkah
  • A squeeze of lemon juice and a couple of cloves of garlic crushed in with the olive oil (or perhaps this is the favourite).
  • With some dried chili if you like it spicy (Lewie’s favourite)
  • Or a spoonful of tomato paste
  • Or a couple of big spoonfuls of tahini

Really though, I think you can easily overelaborate food. Maybe just salt, pepper and olive oil is the favourite.

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cauli

My glut crop at the moment is cauliflower, and though I’ve seen the odd white cabbage moth flutter through, they’re not getting got yet.  My very favourite recipe for using lots of cauliflower is Greek Crumbed Cauli (kounoupith tiganito). It’s a conversion recipe.  If you have kids (or adults) who are not sure they like cruciferous vegetables, this will change their mind – which is a good thing because this family (cauli, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage) are important.  They have phytochemicals  that are really really good at getting rid of misbehaving cells before they cause havoc.

A platter of crumbed cauli and a glass of wine on a Friday night and life is good.

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Second of the cauliflower season Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipes. It’s an oldie but a goodie.  This is a fairly low fat, low GI version of the ultimate cold winter night comfort food. I like cauliflower cheese soup kept very simple, and I find adding potato tends to make it gluggy, so this version has no potato and low fat cottage cheese.

The Recipe:

For two adult dinner serves.

Gently sauté an onion in a little olive oil in a large, heavy pot with a tight fitting lid, or a pressure cooker.

As it softens, add

  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped,
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon dill seeds
  • grating of black pepper

As soon as the seeds start popping, add ½ cauliflower, stems and all, chopped into flowerettes, along with 2 cups of vegetable stock. If your stock is homemade, you may like to add a pinch of salt too, depending on how salty you make your stock.

Simmer for around 15 minutes or pressure cook for 5, until the cauliflower is quite soft, then add

  •  ½ cup of low fat milk.
  •  ½ cup of low fat cottage cheese
  •  ½ cup of grated tasty cheese 

Blend until it is very smooth.  I find my stick blender the best tool for this, but you could use a food processor or even pass it through a mouli or sieve.  I like cauliflower soup very smooth.

Put it back on the heat and bring it back up to temperature, stirring all the time and not boiling. If you boil it at this stage it will curdle, and if you don’t stir, it will stick.  It just needs to be brought back up to eating temperature. Taste and add salt if needed.

Serve with a sprinkle of chopped dill as garnish and some good wholegrain toast for dipping.

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Does it seem odd eating just one vegetable for dinner?  We do it quite often. Variety is the key in nutrition, but it doesn’t all have to be in the one meal.  I also love platter meals, where dinner is served on one platter for everyone to help themselves from, rather than individual plates. It’s a nice sociable way to eat. This recipe is great for a fast, easy, informal platter meal.

Cauliflowers are just coming into season fully now, so if you are going to have meals based just on caulis, now is the time of year to do it. (At least in the southern hemisphere). Even if they are not home grown or labelled “organic” cauliflower this time of year are much less likely to be carrying a load of insecticides. And if you have kids who are a bit suss on crucifers, this is a conversion recipe.

The Recipe:

Break a cauliflower into little flowerets and put them in a big pot with water, a good pinch of salt, and a lemon cut into quarters (skin and all). Bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes or less, till the cauli is tender but not soft.

While the cauli is cooking, make up an assembly line for crumbing.

The first bowl has the wet mix. You have a couple of choices:  You can use just eggs and milk (2 eggs beaten with ½ cup of milk), or, if you have sourdough, it works really well with ½ cup of  sourdough starter with an egg and a little milk beaten into it.  Whichever you use, add a little salt and a grinding of pepper.

The second bowl has the dry mix: half and half breadcrumbs and finely grated parmesan cheese.  You need about half a cup of each for a medium sized cauli, but exact quantities will depend on the size of your cauli and the size you cut it up.  Good breadcrumbs make the dish. I make my own – whenever I have the end of a loaf of heavy, wholegrain bread left over when the new one comes out of the oven, I put it in a very slow oven as it cools down.  I blend the dried, lightly browned bread in the food processor and store in a glass jar. It will last like that practically forever.

Put a heavy frypan on to heat up to medium hot (not smoking hot) with about 1½cm of olive oil.

Drain the cauliflower and cool under cold running water for a minute.

Dip the flowerets into the egg mix, then into the breadcrumb mix, then shallow fry for just a couple of minutes, turning with tongs, until brown and crunchy. Drain on paper as they come out.

Serve on a platter to share, with a dipping sauce.  Although it’s totally not traditional, my favourite is a mix of homemade mayonnaise, chili jam and soy sauce.

(Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipes are fast, easy, healthy, in season, from scratch.  I am trying to post one a week every week this year,  and collecting your links and ideas in the comments.)

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My partner’s favourite lunch is microwaved tofu and vegetables with chili (he’s a chili fiend).  I’m not a huge fan of either tofu or microwaves, but hey, I’m not purist. It’s mostly garden vegetables, and I am a huge fan of them!

I’m not a huge fan of tofu because soy beans contain a number of compounds that can cause health problems,  it takes a fair amount of processing to get tofu from soy beans, and they are one of the most genetically modified and unsustainably farmed crops on the planet.   Nutrisoy and Soyco are a couple of brands that don’t use genetically modified soy beans.

I’m not much of a fan of microwaves either, mostly because they have such limited uses for so much consumer electronic junk.  But Lewie has a microwave at his work and it is an easy, no mess way to cook lunch, especially if you have an inactive office job.

The Recipe:

Part 1: The Dressing/Marinade

I make a jar of this because we use it for all sorts of dishes.

In a jar, shake together:

  • 1 part olive oil
  • 1 part lemon juice
  • 1 part soy sauce
  • 1 part sweet chili sauce or chili jam
  • a clove or two of garlic crushed
  • a similar amount of ginger crushed
  • a little sesame oil or tahini

This dressing or marinade will keep in the fridge for weeks.  Use a few dessertspoons over the vegetables in the lunchbox.  They will toss themselves on the way.

Part 2: Tofu

Fry some cubes of tofu in a little oil till browned.

Part 3: The Vegetables

This is just simply chopped garden vegetables in season.

  • Chinese cabbage
  • Silver Beet
  • Celery
  • Carrot
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Snow Peas
  • Red Onion

(I have a zucchini plant surviving in my garden, but really it shouldn’t be in season.)

Assembling and Cooking:

Vegies and cooked tofu in a microwavable lunch box with a lid, with a couple of spoonfuls of dressing.

At work at lunch time shake the lunchbox to cover everything in dressing and put the whole thing in the microwave for 4 to 5 minutes (more or less, depending on how crunchy you like your vegetables.)

Feel so glad you brought lunch rather than succumbed to a burger.

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