Cabbage: Neglected Crucifer

Let’s reacquaint ourselves with that sadly neglected cruciferous vegetable, cabbage.

Once a kitchen stalwart, it’s been overshadowed recently by kale, its frillier and more fashionable cousin. Sure, it’s nutritious as hell, but the kale fad is now bordering on madness. It reminds me of the oat bran craze of the late 80s and early 90s. People were going berserk for the stuff because it supposedly lowered blood cholesterol levels. Remember that?

No? Exactly.

Here’s evidence of kale’s star dimming: kale in pill form. I’m not sure how a highly processed green powder stuffed into a teeny tiny gelatin capsule could possibly replace the real thing, but hey, capitalism is a wondrous beast. Also, a website called Blender Babes where you can watch bikini-clad women preparing Dr. Oz’s kale smoothie recipe. So, so hot.

After this kale hysteria dies down, what will be left? Yes, more kale, but also cabbage!

Here’s why you should be paying attention to this unpretentious vegetable now: Cabbage is ridiculously cheap. On my last (cold) trip to the farmers market cabbage was $.99/lb., while kale was $2.49 per bunch, and these “bunches” weighed only half a pound each. Like many trends, buying kale does not do your wallet any favors. cabbagebrain

A head of cabbage goes a long way. The cabbages I found recently were bigger than my head and weighed in around 5 lbs. Do not be overwhelmed by its mass. This humble vegetable has a mild sweet flavor that lends itself to many preparations. For me, versatility is cabbage’s main selling point.

Now, onto the preparation.

The obvious choice for cabbage is some type of slaw or salad.  I’ve never been a fan of goopy, mayonnaise-based coleslaw. Or anything with mayonnaise, really, but that’s a subject for another time.

On the other hand, I have always loved sauerkraut and even kimchi, the more controversial dishes that cabbage stars in. Despite their immodest reputation, I find the pungency of these two cabbage preparations alluring. The tangy funk of sauerkraut and kimchi demonstrate that all it takes is some prep work to turn this tame veggie into something that could awaken you from a coma. In a good way of course!

My cabbage slaw recipe is a sort of hybrid of these preparations, sans mayonnaise, and is very loosely based on Mark Bittman’s vinaigrette-based slaw. I like to punch up the spice a bit, so a Thai chili or jalapeno is always in the mix.

For extra funk, I encourage you to use a few drops of Thai fish sauce (also known as nam pla) in the slaw, and prepare this while listening to “Word Up” by Cameo.


Cabbage Slaw (mayo-free!)
Cabbage Slaw (mayo-free!)

The Mayo-Haters Cabbage Slaw

5-6 cups of red or green cabbage (or both), thinly sliced
4 T rice vinegar
5 T sesame oil
5 T canola oil
Thai fish sauce (also known as nam pla)
1 thai chili, jalapeño or other fiery pepper, minced
2 scallions, finely chopped
Pinch of white pepper
1 T (or more) sesame seeds
Salt to taste

Throw all of this into a large bowl and mix away.

Roasted Red or Green Cabbage
For the inevitable left over cabbage half, make it easy on yourself and just throw that thing in the oven for a good roasting with some caraway seeds (cut it into wedges first though). Like other cruciferous vegetables, it will smell and taste like a port-a-potty on a 90 degree day if you overcook it, so keep an eye on it! Serve it with some good sausages, or on it’s own with a dollop of sour cream.

  • Cut cabbage into small to medium size wedges.
  • Place in a roasting pan and drizzle with at least 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  • Sprinkle caraway seeds over cabbage, and salt generously with kosher salt.
  • Roast at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown and caramelize slightly.

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