Nerdgasm Jedi (Root-Leaf) Stew

May the sauce be with you.

I hope everyone had a great holiday week! I didn’t manage to get a recipe out last weekend, although I did make some baked (instead of fried) potato latkes. They were good, but not stellar. That recipe still needs some tweaking. Speaking of stellar, however, last weekend was practically a national holiday for us sci-fi nerds. The final installment of the 42-year-long brainchild of George Lucas (did he plan that number, I wonder, per Mr. Adams?) is upon us! I thought I should commemorate the occasion with some Jedi-oriented chow to gratify the vast geekdom. We already know all about blue (and green) milk, but I dug a little deeper to find something hearty and plant-based to serve as an entree. Yoda did feed some kind of soup or stew to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back.

From starwars.fandom.com: Root-leaf stew was a meal that the Jedi Master Yoda used to prepare during his years of self-imposed exile on Dagobah. It consisted in a mix of roots and swamp weed and had a sour taste.

Other attempts on this theme are out there, but the aforementioned sourness in combination with leaves made me think immediately of Korean cabbage kimchi, which I love and which I’ve actually eaten in stews. In considering what might grow on a planet like Dagobah, I thought that its perennial dark swampiness might lend itself to colorless, starchy roots, along with something like seaweed, maybe fungi, and general ferment (cabbage and tofu). So I picked several less commonly used root vegetables with slightly distinctive tastes (like sweet or mildly spicy) and used the dulse and tofu because I had and like them. I think shiitake mushrooms, however, would make for a great, distinctively smoky addition if you don’t want to go the soybean route. (Maitake or oyster mushrooms might be tasty alternatives to try out too, for variations on flavor and texture.) The dulse, carrot, chili and green onion add a pop of color to the pale roots. The final product may be spicier than its imagined namesake, but it makes a warming stew for a cold winter day, and I’ve been looking for an excuse to make at least a mockup of kimchi.

I opted out of serving this stew with rice or noodles because the roots are plenty starchy already. Serves about four Star Wars geeks eager to get their foodie jollies on. (Four-way nerdgasm, anyone?)

Ingredients

For the “sour leaves” (a riff on kimchi)

  • Head of napa cabbage (mine was 3lbs), sliced crosswise in 1″ ribbons
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 T grated ginger
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 3 T rice vinegar
  • 2 T umi plum vinegar
  • 2 T sriracha (readily available everywhere, which gochujang is not)
  • 1 1/2 T coconut sugar
  • 1 large carrot, grated coarsely
  • 3-4 green onions (1/2 bunch), thinly sliced

At least a day ahead so that it can ferment a little, toss the sliced cabbage with the salt in a large bowl and let it sit for an hour to wilt and reduce. It’ll shrink down by about half. In a separate bowl combine the ginger, garlic, vinegars, sriracha, and coconut sugar. Once the cabbage is treated, rinse it thoroughly in a colander to remove most of the salt, and then toss it together in a bowl with the sauce, carrots, and onions. Pack it all down tightly into a glass jar (about spaghetti sauce size) and let it sit with the lid on at room temperature overnight before refrigerating in the morning.

For the root stew

  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 T rice bran oil (or avocado oil)
  • 2 cups parsnip (about 1 medium parsnip), julienned/cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cup daikon radish (about 3 in.), cut lengthwise and thinly sliced in half moons
  • 1 cup turnip (1 small turnip), chopped as you would a potato
  • 2 T soy or tamari sauce
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed dried dulse seaweed
  • 3-4 green onions (i.e. the rest of the bunch we used above)
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes, or to taste (optional)
  • 2 cups of the above sour cabbage leaf “kimchi” with sauce
  • Batch of Make-You-Like-It-Tofu or 8 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

In a soup pot or dutch oven sauté the shallots over medium heat in the oil until they soften and start to brown, then add the parsnips and mushrooms (if using) and sauté for several more minutes to “sweat” and soften them a bit. Add the vegetable broth, soy or tamari, seaweed, chili flakes and turnips and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes uncovered or until the turnips are becoming tender, and then add the green onion, radish, baked tofu (if using) and spicy cabbage leaf mixture. Cook at least 5 more minutes to soften the radish and heat the cabbage and tofu through. Serve up hot in bowls like a soup – with or without some blue curaçao coconut milk shots on the side just for fun.

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