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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Easy-Easier-Easiest: Cabbage

Cabbage seems to be regarded any more as an old-fashioned vegetable, one whose popularity is passed and one that gets overlooked in favor of trendier produce items.  I think that's a shame.  Cabbage is a sturdy stand-by, a crop that plugs along when others fail and always easy to find at any grocery store or farmers' market.  Not to mention its value...you get a lot of bang for your penny with cabbage.  A medium-sized 3-ish pound head usually costs less than $2, even less in season (fall), and makes 10-12 servings. 

There are many types of cabbage.  I think they fall into 2 main types...hard and soft.  Hard cabbages are the traditional green, red/purple and brussel sprouts...densely leaved and heavy headed those.  Soft types are trendier...bok choy, napa cabbage, savoy cabbage...these types often feel light for their size and have thin crinkly leaves that cook quickly.  Soft cabbages are excellent in stirfrys or as a quick sauteed side for dinner.  Hard types require longer cooking in general. 

Even when a hard cabbage is meant to be used raw, as in cole slaw, I think it still benefits from a quick blanch in boiling water.  To prepare cole slaw, core a cabbage and slice it thinly.  Pour boiling water over all and drain after 1-2 minutes.  It softens the cabbage just a bit and seems to make it, in my experience, a little less digestively challenging.

A lot of the recipes I have for cabbage use it as a partner in a larger casserole dish, especially for making cabbage rolls.  That is certainly one option, though if you have a head of cabbage sitting in your first but don't want to invest the time in a recipe like Savoy Cabbage Rolls, Beef Cabbage Casserole, or BBQ Lasagne, I have a few other thoughts which follow.

My husband's grandfather was fond of cabbage, and the first recipe is how he typically prepared it.  A pinch of sugar in the cooking and vinegar at service are the secret ingredients.  The second recipe is my own version of his recipe.  The cabbage tastes, well, like butter.  The final recipe is a great way to incorporate cabbage into a meal on the grill.

Cabbage à la Cap
Makes 6 servings

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 medium head cabbage, cored and chopped into 1/2" pieces
pinch sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup water
Red wine vinegar for serving

Heat oil over medium heat.  Saute onion and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add cabbage, sugar, seasonings and water.  Cover and simmer 30 minutes.  Drain.  Add a splash of vinegar to serve.

Cabbage à la Jesse
Makes 6 servings

1 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp butter
1/2 medium head cabbage, cored and sliced into ribbons
pepper to taste
1 cup chicken stock

Heat oil and butter over medium-high heat.  Add cabbage and cook 5-7 minutes, until lightly browned.  Season with pepper and add stock.  Cover, reduce heat to medium and simmer 20 minutes.  Remove lid and raise heat back to medium-high.  Cook a couple of minutes, until excess liquid is reduced.

Grilled Cabbage Packets with Tomato
Makes 8 large servings

3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium head cabbage, cut into 8 wedges, core removed
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained and juice reserved
4 tsp Italian, Cajun, or Greek seasoning
1/2 cup white wine

Tear 8 squares of foil about 12"x12".  Working one at a time, place on each square 1 tsp olive oil, 1 wedge cabbage, 1/8 of tomatoes, 1/2 tsp herb seasoning, 1/8 tomato juice and 1 tbsp wine.  Fold foil into tight packet.  Grill over indirect heat with grill cover closed at least 30-40 minutes. Pin It

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