An Ode to Cabbage, plus 2 recipes

I think cabbage gets a bad rep. It’s what you shred to make cole slaw, and somehow, that seems to be the only acceptable method of preparation. My mom seemed surprised when I told her I was cooking with cabbage (though really, why anyone who knows me is surprised by my cooking anything unconventional, short of a deep fried twinkie, is beyond me at this point); even my roommate, a fellow Nutrition major, eyed one of the dishes I’m about to share with you and told me it looked and sounded way too healthy. Apparently, cabbage turns people off, and I’m here to stand up for it. I’ve done an ode to Brussels sprouts. And now, I think, it’s time for an Ode to Cabbage.

Cabbage, once you take away all the mayonnaise from cole slaw, has a complexity of flavors that leads to a subtle bitterness that is not unlike what Brussels sprouts bring to the table. Because of this, I guess I can see where people are coming from when they have a hard time embracing this veggie. It’s something that needs the right complement flavors and ingredients, along with a little bit of time to grow on you. I’ve found that the more bitter foods I’ve come across become more and more palatable with each successive taste test, to the point where I now love it when I bite into something that has a little bit of a bitter bite to it. I’m even coming around to plain greek yogurt, which is a whole other ode, I think. Really, the point is that if you give the right recipe a chance, you may find that you’ve come to appreciate the subtle bitterness. It’s refreshing in a world that caters to our more primal gravitation toward excessively sweet foods.

So, to try to sway you over to the realm of cabbage love, I have two recipes for you – I loved them both, and they’re equally simple to make and enjoy. That’s what’s really great about cabbage. Cabbage is healthy comfort food, without a doubt. Curl up with a warm bowl of either of these cabbage and bean mélanges on a cold, rainy day, and you won’t miss that heavy chicken pot pie or lethargy-inducing lasagna. Well, maybe sometimes – there are those days when only a heaping pile of pasta and cheese will do, I know – but for the most part, this will be enough.

The first recipe for curried cabbage with cannellini beans is spicy and comforting, warm with a slight crunch from cabbage that hasn’t fully wilted. The second, also a cabbage and white bean dish, is simple and filling, nothing showy or flashy, but wonderful between the browned beans and ever-so-bitter cabbage. Try one, try them both – but do try them.

Curried Cabbage with Cannellini Beans, adapted from This is what I eat…
Yield: 5 servings

The Ingredients
1 large onion, chopped
14 ounces diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon dried cilantro
1 ¼ cups low fat milk
¼ cup water
½ cup cannellini beans, drained & rinsed if canned
1 medium green cabbage, coarsely chopped
The Method
Bring all of the ingredients except the cabbage to a simmer in a large skillet; allow to cook for five minutes. Add in the cabbage and cover to cook over medium-low heat until the cabbage is tender. (Oh, did I mention this was ridiculously easy to make??)

Simple Cabbage & White Beans, adapted from 80 Breakfasts
Yield: 4 servings

The Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ small-medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cups white beans, drained and rinsed if canned
3 cups coarsely chopped green cabbage
hot sauce and water, for taste and texture
parmesan cheese, for serving

The Method
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onion and beans in a single layer. Allow them to brown for a few minutes, then agitate the pan to toss them around and continue cooking until the beans are nicely browned and a little crispy all over. Stir in the cabbage, hot sauce to taste, and enough water to blend it all together. Increase the heat to high for 1-2 minutes, just to allow the cabbage to soften and the excess liquid to evaporate. Serve with parmesan cheese.

So there you have it! Two dynamite, easy, and satisfyingly simple recipes that use cabbage in a way that doesn’t involve a heavy duty food processor or copious amounts of mayonnaise. 

Also, for anyone celebrating Rosh Hashanah, I wish you a very Happy and Healthy New Year! I'm a little bummed that I can't go home for the first night of the holiday this year, but plan to drizzle a little honey over a cinnamon apple loaf in my freezer for dessert tonight. Then, tomorrow I'll be able to go home for a more traditional, family gathering for the holiday. I hope everyone enjoys the holiday and is able to spend it with those they love!


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