Oh humble cabbage, you have a reputation as a poor man’s food – kind of bland, a little boring, potentially farty. You used to remind me of cafeterias and old folks homes, of old fashioned times of hardship, of coleslaw in sweet goopy mayonnaise. Of overcooked meals served plain in their broth.
But lately I’ve discovered the real you.
You’re actually a hefty one – solid, substantial, reliable, hardy. You’re good raw, you’re good roasted, you’re good braised. You’re good for days! Keeping crispy at the bottom of the crisper. You’re tough compared to most.
You hold your crunch in your salads. You soften to silk when baked. You take on many flavours. Cabbage and caraway, cabbage and cream, butter, parmesan, poppy seeds. Balsamic vinegar, sage and juniper, hot sauce, sauerkraut, borsht and more. Cabbage, oh cabbage, you’re hardly a bore.
You’re better than lettuce for salads. You are no wimpy veg. You’re like a steak when braised in slabs and charred so slightly, heart all beefy.
And best of all, you’re cheap! The cheapest veg I think. At 79 cents a pound, you’re a find and a joy.
And to think I never glanced your way. Never considered, never lingered, never adored, practically ignored.
But now your weighty head, hard and smooth in my hand – pale but stately, grave and graceful, brave and bulky, like kohlrabi, crunchy, munching, good for slicing. Cabbage, it is you I’m liking.
I was going to give you a recipe, but I think I’ll just give you a suggestion. I suggest that you make a cabbage salad.
Cut a cabbage in quarters and slice it thinly. Toss with oil (I like olive or flax) and some acid (I like lemon, lime or apple cider vinegar). Sprinkle with salt, maybe pepper. It would be delicious if you stopped there.
To give it a tangy bite, slice up a shallot or a tiny red onion (I have some from last year’s garden) and soak it in the acid element for a few minutes. This softens its harshness a little. You could go Asian with it – add sesame oil, tamari and sesame seeds. You could mix it with apple and toasted pumpkin seeds. Or with carrots, honey and mustard. Bean sprouts are nice in there too.
In the winter months (including April), cabbage provides us with life-giving enzymes, vitamin C and some crunch. But if you’d rather cook cabbage, you could cut it in 8 wedges, mix with olive oil and salt, and roast it in the oven for about 45 minutes. When it comes out, tender with toasty blackened ruffles, you can sprinkle some balsamic vinegar and parmesan on it, if you’re so inclined. Either way, yum.
Got any cabbage ideas? Let me know in the comments below.