A Hamburger Today

Vegetarian: Braised Napa Cabbage with Mushrooms and Gorgonzola

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[Photograph: Lauren Rothman]

I recently ate dinner at a small, modest and unassuming Italian restaurant in Brooklyn. It was one of those kinds of places that makes you realize, all over again, why Italian food is so damn good: everything on the menu was very simple, but made with delicious ingredients, that, tied together in a dish, created something so much more than the sum of its parts.

One dish I ate that really surprised me—in a good way—was a warm salad of Napa cabbage cooked with bacon and mushrooms, then finished with just a tiny bit of Gorgonzola cheese, which melted into the vegetables to create a mild, creamy sauce. Here, you had four humble ingredients—cabbage, mushrooms, bacon and cheese—that, put together, were swoon-inducingly delightful.

As soon as I got home from dinner that night, I knew that I wanted to recreate the dish for this column. The question was: could it be as good without the bacon?

In my version, I took out the bacon and added caramelized shallots to make up for the loss of some heft. To make up for any lost richness, I finished the dish with just a drizzle of heavy cream. And, of course, the top gets dotted with smooth, not-too-funky blue cheese, which almost disappears into the vegetables, leaving just a note of dairy creaminess behind. And you know what? I didn't miss the bacon at all.

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