THE MODEST CABBAGE – THE UNSUNG HERO AMONG ALL VEG
And yes, we are still cooking. Let’s be honest – some of the “oh crap” kitchen mistakes have turned out (for the most part) to be something outstanding.
With the cost of food skyrocketing, most of us are trying to incorporate affordable ingredients. So why not make something altogether different for dinner?
Consider the humble yet stalwart cabbage, which is one of the unsung heroes in the veggie arsenal. It really shouldn’t be forgotten or given the pass-over, as it warrants a much-deserved ode because of its versatility! Did you know that broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and the infamous kale, all are members of the cabbage family?
And here’s another mind-blowing fact: cabbage is a cancer fightin’ veg!
Yep, cabbage is majorly nifty. It can be pickled, left crunchy in slaw, added to stir fries, sautéed as accompaniments for meats and of course added in soups for mind-blowing flavor. Where would St. Patty’s Day be without its infamous corned beef and cabbage? And if your Grammy didn’t make you hardy, stuffed cabbage rolls growing up with velvety tomato sauce, you’ve seriously missed out when you were a kid.
However, most shy away from its putative anonymity, as the sheer size of the veg is a beast to contend with. But let me assure you there are a myriad of creative ways to render its preparation. If you are eschewing the idea of cabbage altogether, you should really reconsider, because you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the mouthwatering results, as well the affordability of this awesome veg.
Give this pasta recipe a try or and maybe at some point over the weekend spend some time making the inimitable stuffed cabbage roll. Your family will surely love new recipe contributions, which will win you ninja kudos from everyone.
PASTA WITH GARLIC, CABBAGE AND TOASTED BREADCRUMBS
(Following the recipe from Melissa Clarke from the cooking section of NY Times)
Who would have thought of adding cabbage to pasta? It’s a revelation to be sure! But as peculiar as it sounds, this is a righteous pasta dish, bursting with flavor considering the few ingredients.
Before we go any further, let me drop the bomb now. It has anchovies.
Now that you’ve had your “ewww” moment, don’t reject this dish, or even worse, not make just because you’ve read the word “anchovy”. To the large community of consummate ‘anchovy haters’, I’m going to let you in on a secret. Anchovies are epic in pasta dishes and tomato sauces. They add depth and umaminess (yes, that’s a word) becoming very nutty once dissolved and the fishy taste you’re cringing about it’s a goner! You’ve undoubtedly eaten them without even knowing it and probably raved about the dish. So, remove all preconceived ideas, because this recipe isn’t just economical is out of bounds delish!
½ small head of Napa cabbage – very finely shredded
6 cloves of garlic finely – chopped (separated into two bunches)
3 large shallots – finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 TBSP unsalted butter
3 TBSP of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1 TBSP of parsley – finely chopped
1 PKG of Mostaciolli or Penne (you could also use any long pasta)
¼ TSP of red chili flakes
1 TBSP of balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze
4 anchovy filets – chopped
½ cup of Pecorino Romano
½ cup of homemade breadcrumbs – (store-bought are OK in a pinch but homemade are best)
6 sage leaves – finely sliced
In a skillet, heat up the butter and 1 TBSP of EVOO. Add the shallots, garlic, chili flakes and sweat for about 5 minutes. Incorporate the cabbage, toss for a few minutes and add the vinegar. Simmer, stirring often for about 20 minutes until caramelized and allow for all the ingredients to become good friends. Add the sage. Season with freshly ground pepper – omitting salt, as the anchovies are already salty – you can adjust seasonings later.
White the cabbage is caramelizing, add 1 TBSP butter and a good drizzle of EVOO into a separate skillet, add 1-2 cloves of finely fresh chopped garlic, a small pinch of red pepper flakes and the anchovies (c’mon, you can do it!). Allow the anchovies to dissolve, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the breadcrumbs and mix well. Set aside.
Boil pasta according to package instructions, adding a lot of salt to the water and reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water. Drain when done.
Add the pasta to the skillet with the cabbage and the some of the reserved pasta liquid until the cabbage has achieved a creamy sauce. Toss well with the Pecorino Romano and the parsley. Adjust seasonings and add more fresh ground pepper before serving. Top with the breadcrumb mixture and serve immediately.
POTATO, LEEK AND CABBAGE POTAGE
This is a very hearty soup with amazing depth in flavors – an antithesis considering the simplicity of its ingredients. It may sound like a winter dish, but it will definitely take the out the lingering chill in late spring months. Perfect for a weeknight meal. Some ham or sausages can be added or even a can of cannellini beans, but why complicate things, as it’s superb without anything else – and it’s even better the next day.
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP Olive oil
½ head of cabbage – shredded (savoy, regular green or even red cabbage)
1 large sweet onion – Maui or Vidalia – sliced thinly
2 leeks – white parts only, washed thoroughly and sliced thin
4 chopped garlic cloves
4 medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes – peeled and cut into small cubes
2 large carrots – peeled and chopped in rounds
2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
1 TSP of sweet Spanish paprika
1 TSP of dried thyme or a couple of fresh sprigs
3 cups of low sodium chicken broth (or Vegetable broth if you prefer)
1 TBSP chopped chives or parsley
In a large Dutch oven, place a couple of knobs of butter and melt with the olive oil till frothy. Add the leeks and the onion and sweat for about 5 minutes with a pinch of kosher salt. Add the garlic and the paprika and cook a few minutes more. Incorporate the shredded cabbage and sauté till it becomes somewhat wilted. Add the broth, potatoes, bay leaf, thyme and simmer for about 1 hour. Dicing the potatoes very small makes them dissolve into the soup and they add a velvety softness to the potage.
Cut up medium sized squares from an old baguette or any bread at hand; place in a cookie sheet sprinkled with EVOO, salt and pepper and bake at 350F for about 10/15 minutes till golden brown. To serve the soup, place a few croutons on the bottom of a bowl, ladle the soup and top and sprinkle some chives or parsley and shavings of Parmesano or Pecorino Romano.
STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS
The OG of cabbage recipes and one that’s received global accolades, as every single country has it’s own take and version of cabbage rolls.
1 whole large cabbage – core removed and a few outer leaves reserving them
½ LB of ground pork
½ LB of ground sirloin
¼ cup of Panko
¼ cup of white wine or marsala
1 egg – beaten
1 large onion – finely chopped
2 carrots – finely chopped
3 garlic cloves – finely chopped
1 Trader Joe’s bag of frozen Basmati rice – (added frozen and not cooked)
½ TSP of garlic powder
splash of ½ and ½
bunch of parsley finely chopped
salt and fresh ground pepper
Boil the cabbage for about 25 minutes and remove from the water with a large strainer or two large forks. Allow the cabbage to cool before handling.
Make a thin tomato sauce.
Add about 2/3 TBSP of olive oil to a pan and sauté the onion, carrot and garlic, for about 5-8 minutes, till the veggies are soft. Cool. In a metal bowl, add the ground meats and incorporate all the other ingredients. Grab a cabbage leaf – use the largest and the ones that are not torn (save all the other leaves) – and place some of the mix inside the leaf a fold like a burrito – tucking in the sides first and then rolling. In a large oven safe dish, place a thin layer of the tomato sauce on the bottom. Then add some of the unused, boiled torn cabbage leaves and start placing the rolls, seam side down. Don’t cram them in like sardines, but make sure that they are snug. Add some more tomato sauce over the rolls, a drizzle of EVOO and finish covering with some of the remaining boiled cabbage leaves. Doing this, keeps the rolls moist and prevents them from drying out in the oven. Cover the pan with foil and bake in a 375 F oven for about 1 hour.
BRAISED RED CABBAGE
In the cabbage division, this is one knockout side dish, and it really shows how incredibly versatile and invincible this workhorse of a veggie is. Heavenly in flavor with the addition of cinnamon and epic in pairings for all meats – steaks, chops, ribs; on top of lamb burgers, in grilled cheese and even on pizza. It is better the next day, so ensure there are leftovers. After you prepare this, you’ll wonder why you didn’t make more!
1 red large onion – finely sliced
4 slices of bacon cut into pieces or ½ cup of chopped pancetta
1 Apple peeled and cored – and cut into ½” squares
1 large head of red cabbage- finely shredded
1 TBSP honey or maple syrup
1/2 cup of toasted walnuts
1 whole cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 cup of low sodium chicken broth
1 TBSP of Balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
In a Dutch oven brown the bacon to lightly crisp and render its fat. Remove to some paper towels and leave some of the bacon fat in the pan. Add the onions, a pinch of salt, bay leaves and the cinnamon stick and sweat them for about 8-10 minutes over low fire.
Remove the lid and bring quickly to a boil and allow the liquids to evaporate so it thickens, about 2 minutes or so. Adjust seasonings before serving.
In Lombardy, specifically the town of Valtellina, near the Italian Alps bordering Switzerland, Pizzoccheri is a hearty and easy to prepare dish served typically for the après skiing crowd as this is an awesome, hearty winter dish. If you’re thinking that Pizzoccheri it’s a gourmet Italian pizza, sorry pal, you’re wrong. Buckwheat noodles are a part of the dish, with potatoes and cabbage added to make it a nice and stout. You can substitute the buckwheat for lasagna noodles and a good alternate is pappardelle.
1 small head of Napa cabbage – thinly sliced in a mandolin
½ LB of cooked lasagna noodles cut into ½ “strips, or pappardelle
3-4 medium sized Yukon potatoes – peeled and cut into small cubes
½ large onion sliced
1 TBSP of chicken bouillon
5-6 cloves of garlic – sliced
3 cups of chicken stock
½ cup of pancetta
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
In a pot add some olive oil and sweat the onion for a few minutes with some salt. Add the garlic slivers and pancetta and cook for about 2/3 minutes. Incorporate the cabbage, potatoes, stock, bouillon and cook until all veggies are tender, about 30 minutes. In a pot of boiling water, cook the fresh pasta for a few minutes and drain. Add the pasta to the veggie pot and cook a few more minutes. Ladle the pizzoccheri into bowls with loads of Pecorino cheese and fresh chopped parsley.