Mention coleslaw and everyone has something to say. Something positive. Cooked cabbage? The crowd rushes for the door.
“Smells like my grandmother’s apartment building”
“I had a nightmare about a cafeteria…”
Typical comments. But wait! Here are the magic words:
Healthy. Cheap. In season (all year).
White, red, green, curly or smooth, cabbage is loaded with vitamins and touted as a cancer inhibitor and even a hangover cure. And it can be really, really good. Just don’t overcook it or your house will smell.
Here are six persuasive cabbage recipes.
Genoa’s Savoy Cabbage Rolls
Mrs. Meyers’ Austrian Sauerkraut
Braised Red Cabbage
Napa Cabbage and Spinach à la Susan Lindeborg
Simple Baby Bok Choy
1. Genoa’s Savoy Cabbage Rolls
‘Heavy’ is a term slung at cabbage: these rolls are the opposite of that. Genoa restaurant in Portland has been the grand dame of fine Italian cooking in Portland Oregon for 35 years. Recently, I had these rolls as an appetizer and have tried to approximate them. If you have access to wild mushrooms, the dish will be very interesting and fragrant and makes a good main course.
Makes 4 rolls
- 1 medium head Savoy cabbage
- 4 slices very thinly sliced prosciutto
- 2 T olive oil
- ½ lb ground pork*
- 1 shallot, minced
- ¼ lb mushrooms (such as chanterelles, hedgehog or porcini)**, wiped off
- Salt and pepper
- Chicken broth, 2 cups approximately
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Wash the cabbage and discard the outer leaves if tough or spotted. Carefully, separate 8 large leaves from the head and reserve the rest (which can be chopped up in a salad).
Wilt these leaves in the boiling water just until limp which will be less than a minute.
Immediately rinse with cold water. When cool, drain and dab dry with a towel. Cut out the thick white stem section into a small V with scissors.
Chop half the mushrooms into a rough dice. Leave the rest whole or in large slices.
Heat the olive oil and sauté the shallots until soft but not brown. Add the ground pork and the chopped mushrooms and stir just until barely cooked. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and cool.
On a large chopping board or the counter, lay out four of the cabbage leaves. Top each with a slice of prosciutto, followed by the remaining cabbage leaves. Using a slotted spoon, divide the pork mixture between the four piles of leaves, making a little mound in the center of each.
Fold the cabbage over the meat mixture, rolling and tucking in the sides as you go.
Place in a small skillet seam side down and cover barely with chicken stock.
Bring to the simmer and cook covered about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate. Add the remaining mushrooms to the broth and cook until mushrooms are just soft and the broth is reduced.
Pour this sauce over the cabbage rolls and serve.
*If you have leftover pork roast, you can chop or shred it up and use for the filling instead of ground pork.
** Dried mushrooms are an alternative although they can sometimes be quite strong. Soak them in a dish of warm water to soften and clean them. Note that some sand may drop to the bottom of the bowl.
2. CHOUCROUTE GARNIE
This Alsatian braised sauerkraut dish is a staple of French family cooking. When the special cabbage is harvested that becomes ‘choucroute’, the event is on national television. This is my version which my family has enjoyed for years. In France, only white wine is used but I always use some beef stock which makes the kraut very tender and unctuous. The meats you choose should not be spicy or smoked. If you happen to have leftover roast duck or pork, these would make good additions to the pot.
Cooking times are approximate: simmering the sauerkraut up to two or even three hours is a great idea, just be sure to add more liquid if needed.
Serves 6 – 8 people
- 2 lbs fresh sauerkraut, drained and rinsed – (in pouches in the deli section)
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1 cup white wine
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and flattened
- 2 oz salt pork, rinsed well (or a chunk of bacon, simmered first in water to reduce the smoky taste).
- Black pepper
- 1-2 Tablespoons of oil (canola or vegetable)
- 3 or 4 pork chops
- 4 medium thick slices of ham
- 1 # sausage such as bratwurst or mild Italian
In a large heavy pot, place the small chunk of salt pork or bacon and the sauerkraut on top of it.
Bury the garlic in the sauerkraut and season generously with black pepper. Add the stock and wine just to barely cover the sauerkraut. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer one hour.
In a frying pan, heat one or two tablespoons of oil until quite hot. Lightly brown the chops, the ham slices and the sausages. As each is browned, add to the simmering sauerkraut. Continue to simmer for an additional 30 minutes.
Serve with boiled or steamed potatoes, hot mustard and cornichons (French pickles).
To drink: Riesling or beer.
3. Mrs.Meyers’ Austrian Sauerkraut
My friend, photographer Keith Meyers told me about this pink sauerkraut dish from his mom. Fairly rich, it is cooked slowly just like the ‘choucroute’ recipe but can be quickly put together and served as a side dish. I’d serve this with either bratwurst or roast chicken.
Serves 4 -6
- 2 lb. package fresh sauerkraut (in the deli section of the supermarket)
- 1 slice ham (optional)
- 2 Cups, approximately, chicken or beef broth (vegetable broth an okay substitute)
- 1 Cup sour cream or crème fraiche
- 1 Tablespoon Hungarian* paprika
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (warm them for 10 seconds in the microwave to bring out flavor)
Drain the sauerkraut in a strainer and transfer it to a saucepan. Bury the optional ham in the kraut. Cover with broth, grind pepper over the top, bring to a boil and simmer slowly for about an hour. Taste it – it should be salty enough but if not, add seasoning.
Just before serving, stir in the cream, paprika and caraway seeds. Sour cream will curdle if brought to a boil. The taste won’t change but it will look a little funny. Crème fraiche will not do this but it’s more expensive and harder to find than sour cream.
*Hungarian paprika is very flavorful, quite different from the ‘red dust’ of the usual paprika. Look for it in a red tin box. There is also a smoky kind but don’t use that for this dish.
4. Braised Red Cabbage
My friend Lilly Rubin’s German grandmother always braised cabbage using goose fat. Being health conscious, Lilly has gone from the goose to butter and now olive oil and her cabbage is great. This is more or less the way she does it. Your slicing skills are tested here but it’s all to the good. Pre-cut cabbage loses much if not most of its vitamins (C, particularly) so you don’t want to buy the bagged kind or cut it way in advance.
Serve 6 – 8
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil, butter (or goose fat!)
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 red cabbage
- Salt and pepper
- 2 Tablespoons red wine or cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Rinse off the cabbage, discard any tough outer leaves and cut it in half. Cut away the white core and slice the cabbage as thinly as possible.
In a large deep pot, heat the olive oil or butter and sauté the onions slowly until translucent but not completely cooked through. Add the garlic and stir. Sprinkle the caraway seeds over the onions and let heat through. Place the cabbage on top, cover and cook gently for a few minutes allowing the cabbage to steam slightly. Uncover and stir until the cabbage is tender. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
As the cabbage is cooking, you may also add some vinegar to preserve the red color and to offset any sourness, a touch of sugar can be added as well. This is very traditional in cabbage cooking but certainly can be omitted.
5. Napa cabbage and Spinach à la Susan Lindeborg
My former boss and dear friend, chef Susan Lindeborg is a vegetable lover! The following is similar to a dish she served with salmon phyllo triangles at the Morrison Clark Inn in DC. You can do all the chopping a bit in advance and cook this at the very last minute.
Serves 4 – 6
- 1 Napa cabbage
- ½ lb leaf spinach
- 1 T canola, vegetable or peanut oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 Tablespoons cream or crème fraiche
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill
Wash the spinach thoroughly by filling up your sink or a large bowl and floating it, agitating the leaves a bit. Lift the leaves out of the water. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
(This may seem like an annoying step but sand and grit in spinach is hard to ignore when you’re eating it.)
Rinse off the Napa cabbage and cut off the thick stem end.
With a sharp knife, slice the spinach and Napa into a ‘chiffonade’ which is French cook-talk for ribbons about ½ inch or a little less. Stacking the spinach leaves makes the job easier. Discard any large stems from the spinach.
Using a large skillet or wide deep pot, heat the oil and add the cabbage and spinach, tossing continually until it begins to wilt. Season with salt and pepper, add the mustard, cream and dill and toss to combine. Remove from the heat and serve.
6. Simple Baby Bok Choy
This is a great accompaniment for fish or shrimp that is quickly made, very tasty and low on fat. Buy bok choy that looks tender and fresh without wilted or spotted leaves.
- 4 baby bok choy (about ¾ lb)
- 1 Tablespoon butter (optional)
- 1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
- ½ teaspoon Asian sesame oil
- Optional: 1 small slice fresh ginger, 1 smashed garlic clove
Rinse off the bok choy and trim the stem ends. Bring the butter and broth to a simmer and add the optional ginger and garlic. Add the bok choy and cook covered on low heat for 5 minutes or until just tender. Remove to a side plate. Remove and discard the garlic and ginger, boil the remaining broth to reduce it slightly, add the sesame oil and pour over the bok choy.