Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Cabbage in Winter

Now that the garden is buried in snow, we are eating through our harvest. Most of it is preserved in some way, but there are still some roots in the produce crisper, and red cabbage in the basement refrigerator. Ruby Perfection makes heads rather late and they are very frost-tolerant. I brought them in just before the winter weather really hit. Now we are tired of rotkohl (German red cabbage), so it's time to try something else.

I wrote earlier about the lack of respect cabbage gets and its importance as a nutritious vegetable, especially to the world's poor. Now the New York Times has not only reinforced that point but includes some excellent-sounding recipes that are nicely frugal as well as nutritious. I like these recipes better than some of those in the links at the bottom of the article. As one of the authors notes, the answer to the blandness of cabbage and some of its less attractive flavor notes has been to smother it with pork, cream, cheese and such, thus to turn its nutritious, economical nature on its head (so to speak). Some of the recipes do that, and really I think using shrimp in stuffed cabbage is an aberration, especially since it is likely to be farmed shrimp. This Greek cabbage and feta pie sounds good, though.

Still, one of the articles reminded me that caraway seeds, a traditional flavoring for cabbage, also was used in medieval times as a digestive, thus offsetting some of the tendency for cabbage to cause bloating or other problems. It also reminded me of a recipe I think I'll use tonight.

Hot Cabbage Slaw

Core and shred a small head of cabbage, or 1/2 head green and 1/2 red cabbage. Toss it with 3 teaspoons of salt and allow to sit in a bowl for 30 minutes. Rinse and drain.

Cook 2 slices of bacon until crisp; set aside. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the skillet.

Add the drained cabbage to the fat and cook until hot and wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, 2 teaspoons sugar, and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Place on serving dish or individual plates and crumble bacon over the top.

Note: I have adjusted the seasoning from the original recipe, which called for adding 2 teaspoons of salt at the end, plus 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds. I also reduced the vinegar; add more to taste. Depending on how much cabbage you use, you may also want to use slightly more of the bacon fat. I found that 1/2 small head of cabbage was about right for 2 people, so reduced almost everything.

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