Sunday, August 12, 2012


It's time to play Refrigerator Surprise, everybody's favorite game show where you must make a healthy dinner solely out of ingredients scrounged from your fridge or pantry - no grocery shopping trips allowed!   Ali from Green and Lean, come on down!  You're the next contestant on Refrigerator Surprise!

Wooie!  I'm so good at this game.  Sure, it's been a full week since I was last at the Farmer's Market and I know food is a bit scarce, but let's see what we've got to work with here.

Ok, the top shelf is pretty much just cocktail mixers, a half bunch of cilantro (in a mason jar, covered by a bag), and a half gallon of whole milk intended for a batch of yogurt.  Second shelf contains a salad spinner of somewhat wilty leaf lettuce, refrigerator pickles, ground flaxseeds, three jars of assorted Trader Joe's nut butters, and a whole bunch of other condiments.  Bottom shelf is 2 beers and 4 mini cans of pineapple juice (more cocktail mixers).  Well, this is a bit more bare than I expected, but I'm up for the challenge.  What's in the refrigerator door?

Wow.  Pretty bare here, too.  Eggs, butter, anchovy paste, several mustards, and lots more condiments.  Maybe this won't be quite as easy as I thought.  Oh, wait!  The crisper drawers!  I ALWAYS have lots of great fruits or cheese or veggies there!  Hallelujah, I'm saved and will win this contest after all!

Oh crap.  I'm so screwed.  I can't make a fabulous quick and healthy meal out of a tiny $1 farmer's market head of cabbage, half an onion, and some old carrots.

Or can I?

I can!  I'll make okonomiyaki (say it out loud, it's so fun! oko-nomi-yaki), a Japanese pancake/frittata/pizza (depending on which website you believe) made mostly of cabbage.  My aunt Barb has lived near Osaka, Japan for many years, teaching at the US military base.  She once told me about how delicious okonomiyaki is.  Then shortly after, I read about it on Heavy Table.  I used 101 Cookbooks' recipe today because it doesn't call for specialty ingredients like dashi or bonito, which I don't have, and I'd be disqualified from Refrigerator Surprise if I tried to make a quick run to United Noodles for them.

First I shredded up the cabbage, carrots, and onion in my food processor, then tossed in some flour and salt.  And hey, since the only herb I've got in the fridge is cilantro, I chopped that up and added it, too.  I carefully stirred in 3 beaten eggs until everything was coated.  The texture of the batter was kind of like making a veggie burger patty.  Sticky, and not too runny.

In my skillet, I heated a mere tablespoon of olive oil and pressed my batter into the pan.  I was worried about it sticking, but I kept using my spatula to push down the sides of the okonomiyaki and that seemed to help.

When the bottom was nicely browned and started smelling good and toasty, I slid the entire thing onto a plate, used another plate to flip it over, and slid it back into the pan with a touch more olive oil.

While side two was cooking up, I mixed together a tiny spoonful of mayo with a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a squeeze of sriracha, influenced by this recipe.  I also found some sliced almonds in the freezer so I toasted them up in a separate skillet.

Now that side two was browned up all over, I used a spatula to slide my okonomiyaki onto a large cutting board, slice off a big piece, slather it with a thin layer of spicy mayo, and top with toasted almonds and some chives snipped from the backyard container.

DING DING DING!  **Bells and whistles**  JACKPOT WINNER!!!!  The cabbage transforms into something sweet but still crunchy.  The crispy brown crust tricks you into thinking you're eating something deep fried and decadent.  The cilantro was a bright hit of freshness.  The spicy mayo added a touch of richness and sweetness and the almonds were the perfect garnish.

Join me next time on Refrigerator Surprise when I make a 4 course Italian feast with only sprouted garlic, almond butter, boxed wine, and a bag of frozen peas.

Okonomiyaki, adapted from 101 Cookbooks and Love and Lemons
Serves 2

1 small head cabbage (about 2 or 3 cups), shredded
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 large onion, shredded
handful chopped fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, parsley, etc), optional
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
3 small eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp mayo
1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
hot sauce to taste (sriracha recommended)
toasted sliced almonds to garnish
chopped chives or scallions to garnish

In a large bowl, toss your shredded veggies and herbs with flour and salt.  Mix in beaten eggs until all veggies are coated.

In a medium skillet, heat a tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Press cabbage mix into pan and use spatula to push down sides and press flat.  Cook for about 4-5 minutes or until bottom is nicely browned.

Slide onto plate.  Use another plate to flip over.  Add a touch more oil to hot pan and slide flipped okonomiyaki back into pan to cook second side.  Use spatula again to keep pressing it flat.  Cook another 4-5 minutes or until side 2 is browned as well.

Remove from pan and slice into triangles. Spread a thin layer of mayo mixed with worcestershire and sriracha on top and garnish with toasted almonds and chives.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Pickled Red Onions
TWO YEARS AGO:  Grilled Balsamic Veggie Sandwich
THREE YEARS AGO:  Quick Zucchini Saute


  1. beyond impressive. SPEECHLESS. You rock my friend!

  2. Agreed with Cass - that was funny and still looks amazing...Alicia

  3. Nice! Getting creative in the kitchen (and having your efforts turn out well) is always fun!