It’s officially spring, a time of renewal and growth. A time to start incorporating more fresh veggies into our diets — and what better way to do that than with a lettuce or cabbage cup filled with something delicious for dinner?
As we learned in our Eating With the Seasons classes at AHS last month, from a Traditional Chinese Medical perspective, in preparation for spring we should begin eating young animals (like lamb), fresh spring veggies, and pungent foods like onion, garlic, and cheese. We should put away our slow-cookers and start lightly steaming and sauteing our foods instead. Quick cooking keeps some of the valuable enzymes in-tact (as does going raw) while pungent foods encourage bile production, both of which help us digest our foods and stimulate the digestive fire within us — our metabolism in western terms.
TCM also calls for a lighter use of oils and fats in cooking during this time of year. For this recipe, I used high quality palm oil (sustainably harvested), a healthy saturated fat, to sauté the onions before adding in the meat. (This is the palm oil I like.) I also chose to use cabbage instead of lettuce. Most lettuce cups you see at restaurants are iceberg lettuce which has no nutritional value, so to keep the same look but up the nutrition many fold, we’re going with cabbage. It could work and be really pretty to use purple cabbage, but you might run the risk of staining your cloths and hands — or maybe I’m the only messy eater around here.
I’ve also incorporated far more veggies than your average restaurant lettuce cup. Typically you might see some water chestnuts, some green onion, and maybe red bell pepper. These cups have a leafy green, a crunchy green, and a better container for all if it — the cabbage. Enjoy this recipe with a nice bottle of red wine or a simple squeeze of lime in a glass of water.
Lamb Cabbage Cups
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 2 lbs ground lamb
- 2 tbs red palm oil or ghee for sautéing
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 big bunch of broccolini, chopped
- 3 small bunches tatsoi or a few fistsful baby spinach
- 12 large raw leaves green cabbage (for the cups)
- 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
- 1 tsp – 1 tbs lemon pepper to taste
- red pepper flake to taste
- REAL or sea salt to taste
- hard pungent cheese for grating over the top
- OPTIONAL 1/2 tsp sesame oil (for drizzling)
- Warm your skillet over medium heat
- Once hot, add 2 tbs palm oil or ghee
- Add in diced onions and let them sweat for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly (you don’t want them to get brown, just translucent. Turn down the fire if you need to to avoid burning them)
- Once the onions are translucent, add in ground lamb and the minced garlic
- brown the meat completely, allowing the water to evaporate before adding veggies (optional to drain off the fat at this point)
- Add broccolini only, and cook until it softens slightly
- Add in salt, spices, and black sesame seeds
- Once the broccolini is just about as tender as you like it, add in the tatsoi or spinach just to wilt it. You want all the veggies to retain their vibrant green color
- To serve, place 3 large cabbage cups on your plate and fill to the brim with the mixture from the pan. Drizzle a bit of sesame oil and top with your favorite pungent cheese