Show your Valentine a whole lotta love this week with cozy cabbage dishes, good for the heart and soul!
By CINDA CHAVICH
Mon petit choux is a term of endearment you can happily haul out at this time of year.
I’m not sure why “my little cabbage” equates to “sweetie” or “cutie” but it’s so of-the-moment — green, vegan and heart healthy, if you take it literally and to the table.
For someone like me — who loves this crunchy cruciferous vegetable, in all of its hefty, crinkly, leafy glory — adoration is a word that comes to mind.
Because the humble cabbage has so many strong points and uses in the kitchen. You can shred it up for a quick coleslaw salad with apples and dill, chop it with beets for hearty borscht, braise it with corned beef, mash it with spuds in colcannon, stuff it with ground pork and rice for cabbage rolls, sautee it with bacon and vinegar, or stir fry it with Asian noodles.
A CABBAGE IN EVERY POT
There’s a favourite cabbage dish in almost every culture. It’s inexpensive, portable and storable — a green that you can easily ferment for sauerkraut or kimchi, and keep in your root cellar for months, to enjoy fresh, even in the middle of winter.
It’s a versatile vegetable that goes from salads and sides to main dishes. You might try making a Mu Shu Chicken filling of ground chicken with ginger, garlic, shiitake mushrooms and bean sprouts, cooked with oyster sauce, to roll up in steamed Napa cabbage leaves for an exotic cabbage roll. Think about a filling made with Chinese bbq pork or even pulled pork. Or try cabbage in a Thai curry with coconut milk, or in Indian cabbage thoran.
I love the Irish dish, colcannon — which is basically a pot of boiled potatoes and shredded cabbage or kale, mashed together with butter and milk or sour cream, and some sautéed onions or leeks — it’s delicious with something hearty like braised short ribs or lamb shanks.
Or Choucroute, which is the classic French Alsatian winter dish of finely shredded Savoy cabbage cooked in white wine and butter, with various sausages or ham.
Braised red cabbage — seasoned with a little red wine vinegar — makes a colourful addition to any plate, especially Germanic meals featuring bratwurst or schnitzel.
There are several types of cabbage to try. The classic cultivar is green cabbage, a dense green ball, which comes in a red/purple version, too. Both are perfect in salads or to shred and sautee in butter. Red cabbage can turn blue when cooked – add something acidic (vinegar or citrus) and you’ll keep the purple hue.
If you can find a flatter head of green cabbage, sometimes labelled Taiwanese cabbage, you may find it easier to separate the leaves after steaming the head for making cabbage rolls.
Savoy cabbage with its beautiful and distinctive ribbed leaves, and loose heads, is tender and sweet. It’s great raw and easy to roll and stuff when blanched.
Chinese cabbage or Napa Cabbage – the tall narrow heads - is perfect in stir fries or big bowls of Asian noodle soups with barbecued pork or shrimp and shredded carrots and green onions.
The average cabbage weighs in at 1-2 pounds, but in Canada’s northern climes, long summer days can result in gigantic, award-winning cabbages, behouths sometimes topping 130 pounds.
Cabbage is relatively cheap, too. Just this week a major supermarket in my neighborhood is selling green cabbage for 26 cents/100g (just over a buck a pound), with organic cabbage coming in at close to $3 a pound (and this at the height of winter prices).
With my own prairie, Eastern European and Celtic roots, it’s no wonder I have a taste for cabbage. It’s a comfort food for me, especially when I think of my mother’s cabbage rolls or the way cabbage, onions and potatoes mash so perfectly together in an Irish colcannon.
Cabbage slaw, made with chopped apple, dill, mayo and yogurt is a staple to serve with fried chicken or grilled sausages at my house. And I have several tried and true recipes for borscht, a golden one with yellow beets my latest favourite.
There’s another meaning for this French phrase of fondness, that comes from the opposite end of the menu — “chou” relating to the cream puff (aka chou ala crème).
And though that might make more sense when it comes to romance, I’m sticking with cabbage, a beautiful brassica I’ll always love.
SALMON WITH SWEET AND SPICY CHINESE CABBAGE
Here’s a simple and romantic dinner for two made with heart healthy salmon and crisp cabbage. You can also steam some basmati rice to serve alongside this Asian-inspired glazed salmon and slaw.
2 skinless salmon fillets, each about 5 ounces and 1 inch thick
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey or brown sugar
1 clove garlic, pressed in a garlic press or finely minced
1 teaspoon lime juice
toasted sesame seeds
3 cups shredded cabbage (use Chinese or Napa cabbage)
¾ cup shredded carrots
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and slivered
2 green onions, sliced
1 teaspoon shredded fresh ginger (or pickled sushi ginger)
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon white sugar
1-3 teaspoons sweet red Thai chili sauce or Chinese garlic chili paste (to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk together the oyster sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic and lime juice. Pour over salmon fillets and marinate for 15 minutes. Remove fish from marinade, reserving marinade.
For the salad, in a mixing bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots, bell pepper and green onions and toss. Whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour dressing over mixed vegetables and toss again. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Meanwhile, bake the salmon. Set fillets baking sheet that’s been lined with foil or parchment. Brush with a little reserved marinade. Bake in a preheated 450F oven until just cooked through, about 10 minutes for a 1-inch piece, just until fish begins to flake. Remove from oven and let rest 2 minutes.
Arrange some cabbage salad in the centre of two plates. Top with salmon. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serves 2.
I fell in love with this yummy combination of cabbage, coconut and spices on a food trip in southern India. Serve this as a vegetarian course, or a side dish for any Indian-inspired meal, and impress your friends with the play of subtle sweet and spicy flavours. To save time, use a bag of pre-shredded coleslaw to start this simple dish. Great alongside grilled prawns, cod or other white fish fillets, too.
1-pound bag pre-cut coleslaw cabbage or shredded green cabbage (about 5 cups/l.25L)
1/2 cup dried unsweetened shredded coconut
1 serrano chili, seeds removed, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup minced onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard or kalonji seed (black onion seed)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1 teaspoon sugar
Place the cabbage in a large bowl.
In a food processor, mince the coconut, chili, garlic and onion very fine. Add to the bowl with the cabbage, along with the salt, turmeric, coriander and black mustard seed. Mix well.
Heat the canola oil in a wok over medium high heat. Add the mixture and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and sugar, cover and steam 5 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook just until the cabbage is tender. Squeeze the lime over dish. Serves 4.
This classic cabbage salad is the perfect side dish for fried chicken, pulled pork or burgers, and is an essential companion to fish and chips. Start with a bag of pre-shredded cabbage and carrot salad from the supermarket to speed things up. From The Guy Can’t Cook by Cinda Chavich.
1⁄2 cup fat-reduced mayonnaise
1⁄2 cup fat-free sour cream 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp granulated sugar 2 Tbsp cider vinegar 1⁄4 tsp celery salt 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 2 tsp
1 apple, finely chopped or shredded
1 1⁄2-lb head of cabbage, finely shredded
(about 6 cups)
3 green onions, finely chopped 1 carrot, shredded
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon mustard, sugar, vinegar, celery salt, and dill. Add the apple and mix well, the add the cabbage, green onion and carrot. Toss all the ingredients to thoroughly combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or until ready to serve. Serves 8.
Colcannon is a classic peasant dish from the Celts — a mash of potatoes, onions, parsnips, and cabbage that exceeds the sum of its parts. With the addition of a little butter and cream, it’s a winter feast on its own, or perfect as a side dish with tender braised lamb shanks. From The Guy Can’t Cook by Cinda Chavich.
6 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered 1 large onion, finely chopped 1 cup peeled and chopped parsnips,
(about 2) 3 cups finely shredded or chopped
2 cups water 1 tsp salt freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp butter
1⁄4 cup whipping cream
2-3 cups shredded green cabbage (about 1⁄2 of a small cabbage)
In a large, heavy saucepan, layer the vegetables—half of the potatoes, onions, parsnips, and cabbage — then repeat. Add the salt to the water, and pour it over top.
Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
Drain and use a potato masher to mash everything together to form a chunky purée. Season with pepper, and stir in the butter and cream. Serves 6.
Wilt the cabbage then continue to cook until its lightly browned, caramelized and sweet. Easy, healthy and great alongside almost anything, especially pork chops or schnitzel.
2 pounds white cabbage, core removed and shredded (about 10 cups)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fine sea salt or more to taste
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or white wine vinegar)
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat and add the cabbage, garlic, red pepper flakes, and the salt. Stir to combine and cook until the cabbage wilts, reduces in volume and eventually begins to brown. This will take about 15 minutes.
Season with lemon juice or vinegar, and adjust with more salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Serves 4.
BIGOS (POLISH HUNTER’S STEW)
This mixed meat and cabbage stew, a traditional “hunter’s stew”, is considered the national dish of Poland — a savoury combination fermented cabbage, smoky sausages, bacon, beef or pork, wild game meats and mushrooms. Every Polish family has their own special recipe for bigos, a feast dish that’s served with crusty rye bread and potatoes at winter gatherings. In Alsace, France, there’s a very similar dish served in brasseries across the country called choucroute.
Go to a good Polish butcher to buy the end bits of smoky bacon, ham and sausage to add to the stew. Bigos is best when reheated and served a day or two after it’s made.
From 200 Best Pressure Cooker Recipes by Cinda Chavich (Robert Rose).
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ pound pork shoulder steak, cubed
1 1/2 pounds mixed smoked pork – including kielbasa, smoked ham, pork and bacon – cubed
½ cup white wine
28 oz./796 mL jar sauerkraut, rinsed and drained, squeezed dry
2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
4 pitted prunes, chopped
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed allspice berries
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
½ teaspoon hot paprika
½ teaspoon caraway seed
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup tomato juice or V8
1 cup chicken stock
In the pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onions and garlic for 5 minutes, until softened and starting to brown. Add the pork shoulder and mixed smoked pork (sausage, ham, smoked pork, sausage, etc.) Stir together and saute to sear and lightly brown the meats, then add the wine, stirring up any browned bits.
Add the sauerkraut, dried mushrooms, prunes, chopped apples, allspice, marjoram, paprika, caraway, bay leaves, black pepper, tomato juice and chicken stock. Stir to combine.
Lock the lid in place and bring the pressure cooker up to full pressure over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium low, just to maintain even pressure, and cook for 30 minutes. Release the pressure quickly. (alternately, make the stew in a heavy Dutch oven and simmer on the stovetop on low heat, or in a 300 F oven, for 2 hours until tender.)
Simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes to thicken if necessary.
Serve with boiled potatoes or rye bread. Serves 6.
SAUSAGE AND SOUR CABBAGE SOUP
From High Plains: The Joy of Alberta Cuisine, by Cinda Chavich (Fifth House). You can substitute smoked fish for the sausage in this soup – try hot smoked haddock (finnan haddie) or hot smoked salmon.
1 pound sauerkraut (either homemade or the milder European style sauerkraut from a jar – not canned)
6 cups water or broth
2 teaspoons caraway seed
2 teaspoons salt
2-3 bay leaves
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
1/4 pound double-smoked bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ pound smoked Polish garlic ham sausage
½ cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, combine the sauerkraut, water caraway seed, salt and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Fish out the bay leaves and discard.
Boil the potatoes separately for 20 minutes, or until tender, drain.
Saute bacon until beginning to render its fat, then add the chopped onion to the pan and cook together until the onions are golden. Stir in the paprika and flour and cook together, stirring, to form a roux. Slowly whisk this mixture into the soup, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Cube the sausage and add to the soup along with the cooked and drained potatoes. Stir in the cream and heat through. The soup should have a thick, chowder-like texture. Add a little more water or broth to thin to taste.
Serve the soup in shallow, wide-rimmed soup bowls – dust with paprika and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley. Serves 6.
GOLDEN BEET SOUP
This is my version of the gorgeous, award-winning golden beet borscht created by Pawlina Demchuk MacQuarrie for the Borschtfest at Victoria’s Ukrainian Cultural Centre.
6-8 medium yellow beets, roasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup butter
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
3 cups shredded cabbage, divided
1 cup diced potatoes
2 cups diced rutabaga
1 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, divided
8-10 cups broth (mushroom or chicken broth)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice or white balsamic vinegar (to taste)
To roast beets, wrap loosely in foil, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Bake at 375 F for 45-60 minutes, until beets can easily be pierced with a knife. Cool slightly, peel and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large pot and sauté the chopped onion over medium heat for 5 minutes, until starting to brown. Add the chopped mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are softened.
Stir in half the cabbage and sauté 5 minutes longer. Then add the potatoes, rutabaga, carrots, remaining cabbage and half the dill. Add the broth, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, just until the potato and rutabaga are cooked.
Shred or chop the roasted beets. Add to the soup, with the remaining chopped dill, and heat the soup for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and vinegar. Serve immediately or chill overnight and reheat for serving. Serves 8.