I’m falling in love. No kidding. About a month ago I discovered cabbage, and have been smitten ever since. Sure, I’ve made cole slaw and corned beef & cabbage dinners. Even tried my hand at cabbage rolls, but it all seemed so … ordinary. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with vegetables and took it on as a personal challenge to find ways to gussy up the lowly cabbage. Bonus: it’s relatively cheap and plentiful.
First, let me share a thing or two that I’ve learned about cabbage in my quest to find new ways of using this old vegetable.
Cabbage is a member of the species Brassica oleracea, which also includes kohlrabi, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale. Most of us know that, but I didn’t realize that this species started off as a loose and leafy vegetable, native to the Mediterranean region of Europe and has been around for over 4000 years. It was pickled in brine by Chinese and Mongolian horsemen and kept the builders of the Great Wall of China alive when they started their mission in the third century BC.
It’s rumored that Egyptian Pharaohs consumed vast quantities of cabbage before parties, believing this would offset the downside of drinking too much. This likely spawned the notion that cabbage with vinegar is a remedy to a hangover.
In the days when explorers sailed the high seas, captains rarely left home without kegs of cabbage stored in brine (sauerkraut). High in Vitamin C and K, cabbage kept many sailors from dying of scurvy and starvation. Jacques Cartier introduced cabbage to North America when he brought it to New France on his third voyage in 1542, but it had long been popular in France, Germany, Holland, Ireland and England to name a few places where this vegetable was a staple. An English gentleman by the name of William Collingwood grew a whopping 123-pound cabbage in 1865.
In The Devil’s Dictionary, journalist (and humourist) Ambrose Bierce defined cabbage as “A familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man’s head.” This makes me smile and I often think of that line when I get ready to smack a dense round head with a big cleaver. A head of cabbage that is.
Here are some unusual but tasty dishes. If you try them, I’ll wager that the cabbage ratings will soar sky high in your household. Do let me know! And don’t forget to pass along any favourite cabbage recipes you have.
Vegetable Medley with Peanut Sauce
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1 C water
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
dash cayenne pepper
2 C cabbage, shredded
2 C beans (green or yellow or mixed)
2 C bean sprouts
1 package spinach (8 0z.) coarsely cut
Combine the peanut butter, water, garlic, lemon juice and brown sugar and in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for one minute. Add cayenne and salt then cool. Stir-fry the cabbage and beans over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Turn the heat up high, add the spinach and bean sprouts and continue cooking for another minute until heated through. Place in a serving dish, top with the sauce and serve immediately.
Pineapple Slaw with Curried Dressing
Curried Cole Slaw Dressing
1 C mayonnaise
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. celery salt
1 tablespoon curry powder
Keeps well in fridge. Dressing is also great for potato salad.
Kohl Slaw (not to be confused with Cole Slaw!)
1 medium cabbage
1 chopped onion
¼ C butter
½ C brown sugar
½ C cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste.
Put all ingredients in a pot and simmer until cabbage is tender. (Takes about 30-45 min.) Stir often. Serve hot.
“Vegetable Medley with Peanut Sauce” © Sandra Phinney All Rights Reserved.
“Pineapple Slaw” © Sandra Phinney All Rights Reserved.