*: Apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning
My mother was a terrible cook. In the fashion ofthe '50s she boiled all vegetables until they were completely limp, lifeless and tasteless. She cooked cabbage until the entire house reeked.
When cabbage and its relatives — broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards — are overcooked, they give off hydrogen sulfide gas, making that "rotten egg" smell. I always wondered, "why, why, why would anyone want to eat such a thing?"
My love affair with cabbage started on a Grand Canyon river trip about 30 years later. It was a private trip with a small group of experienced boatmen, and two Canyon virgins — me and my husband. It was thrilling, stunningly awesome and scorchingly hot. Dry provisions were packed in watertight ammo cans and fresh food was packed in ice chests (which doubled as seats in the tiny boats). By the seventh day on the river the ice had melted and the contents were warm mush, except for several heads of cabbage. With a little peeling they were still intact, crisp and crunchy, and made a great fresh slaw.
In easier storage conditions (wrapped in plastic in a refrigerator) cabbage keeps for a couple of months. In a cold root cellar it will keep all winter. Even cut cabbage, when well wrapped, keeps for a couple of weeks. It seems like a miracle how one head of cabbage keeps on giving through salads, garnishes, stir fries and vegetable pancakes, and then there's still a piece left for soup. I would feel very poor indeed if I didn't have a head of cabbage chillin' in my refrigerator.
Cabbage is one of the world’s healthiest foods — high in fiber and low in fat, with a ton of vitamins and phytonutrients. Scientific studies show cabbage fights cancer, reduces cardiovascular disease and diabetes, promotes brain health, heals peptic ulcers, helps maintain skin, eye and bone health, improves digestion, and slows aging. What's not to like? Just FYI, the whole cabbage family shares these health benefits.
Red or green? I usually choose red cabbage over green. The red pigment anthocyanin intensifies
many of those healthy benefits.
If you have a cabbage, you can always make a salad, and you don't have to worry about it wilting. Salad made from cabbage is called "slaw." Just pretend the cabbage is a head of lettuce, chop or slice it finely, and go for it. Use different dressings.
Add different ingredients. Toss it with chopped carrots, bell peppers and red onions if you wish. Mexican street tacos or classic pozole are topped with thinly sliced repollo (cabbage) and rabanos (radishes) for extra crunch. A thin shave of cabbage is better than lettuce in any sandwich, BLT or burger, adding a layer of crispness to these classics.
Surprisingly, cabbage contains sugars. When you brown it at 280 degrees and above you will achieve the classic Maillard reaction, "responsible for many colors and flavors in foods, such as the browning of various meats when seared or grilled, the browning and umami taste in fried onions, and coffee roasting. It contributes to the darkened crust of baked goods, the golden-brown color of French fries and other crisps, of malted barley as found in malt whiskey and beer ...." (Wikipedia)
You would never guess that venerable cabbage circulated in such society until you cook up Garlic Sautéed Cabbage from Italy or Turmeric Smothered Cabbage from India (see recipes below).
With roasted or grilled cabbage, it's a different treatment with the same effect. Cut the head into wedges held together at the core, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in a very hot 500-degree oven or grill until browned. Turn and repeat (recipe below).
Chef Molly Beverly is Prescott's creative food activist and teacher.
Off the Cuff Cabbage Soup
This recipe makes 12 cups. Chop one onion, 2 pounds cabbage, and 1 pound potatoes.
Mince 4 large cloves garlic and some herbs like rosemary and sage (1 teaspoon fresh or
1/2 teaspoon dry of each). Using 3 tablespoons olive oil, sauté the onion, garlic and
cabbage until nicely browned. Throw in some chopped bacon or ham if you'd like. Stir
regularly. When everything is nicely browned, add 6 cups water and potatoes, herbs, salt
and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes
are tender. Add 2 cups of cooked or canned beans (limas, garbanzos or navy beans)
and 1 cup of cooked grain (rice, quinoa or barley). Simmer a few more minutes. Taste
and adjust seasonings (salt, pepper and herbs). Garnish with grated cheddar and other
fresh ingredients like chopped fresh tomatoes or corn cut off the cob.
Cabbage is a perfect addition to the pandemic pantry. It's economical, versatile, and
delicious. You'll never be hungry and always feel secure and healthy with a cabbage in
stock. Cabbage will carry you through good times, pandemics, chaos, and elections.
Grilled Cabbage With Yogurt and Mint Recipe
Garlic Sautéed Cabbage – Cavolo con Agilo
1 large head cabbage, about 2 pounds
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Coarsely chop the cabbage. Heat the oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add garlic and
cook gently till it is a golden brown. Remove garlic from pan. Turn the heat to medium-
high and add the cabbage. Stir occasionally till browned. Return the garlic to the pan and
stir it in. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
1 medium head cabbage, about 2 pounds
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Cut cabbage into 2-inch pieces. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a frying pan large
enough to hold the cabbage in a single layer. Add garlic and sauté, turning until it begins
to turn golden, about 1-2 minutes. Add turmeric and cumin and immediately follow it with
the cabbage. Spread the cabbage so it covers the pan bottom. Let it fry undisturbed for
one minute, then sprinkle with salt and turn over. Cover, reduce heat and cook until the
cabbage is cooked but still crisp. Serve immediately.