Giving CABBAGE the ROYAL treatment
By Kay Rentschler
NOTHING says winter vegetable like a head of cabbage. I see one just now, heading into a steam bath with a sack of potatoes and a side of pork. Of course, winter has no exclusive rights to cabbage, which can find itself scraped raw on a box grater in July. There is, however, something in a cabbage's gravity, the inscrutability of its smooth, round face, and the jealous grip it keeps on its inner leaves that tells the cook to chop, steam and soften.
Cuisines that have adopted the cabbage as their own - Russian, Polish and Hungarian in particular (the Germans
and Austrians got partial custody) - agree. They bundle up cabbage and get it good and warm, then stuff it, use it to stuff other things, stew it, sauté it, salt it and simmer it some more. The silky richness and sweet pungency that
result explain why winter and cabbage arrive together in the same frosted breath.
It is not surprising that head cabbage (green, red and Savoy), the stoutest and most stalwart of the wild cabbage
family, stayed up north, while some of its sexier relatives, like lacinato (black kale) and broccoli rabe, headed south to drizzle olive oil on their leaves.
Green and red cabbages weather temperatures between cool and downright cold - 20 degrees will not faze them - and can step up to the heat as well. The crinkly, smiling Savoy cabbage, on the other hand, is more tender and sweet in character than its counterparts and frilly enough to shiver. As such, Savoy cabbage has made its culinary home in moderate European climates like those of England and France.
Cabbage has enjoyed fame and perfidy. The ancient Romans celebrated its blood-cleansing properties, particularly in the context of hangovers. Today, doctors tell us to tank up on cabbage for its antioxidant and potentially anti-cancer benefits. EARTHCLINIC gave cabbage a whole page: http://www.earthclinic.com/Remedies/cabbage.html
But throughout much of history, cabbage has suffered marketing problems. Considered a poor man's food, it was deemed unworthy of preparation by Europe's great chefs (Lewis Carroll's fanciful "cabbages and kings" speech conveyed the incongruity of the two words in a single phrase), and to this day carries a whiff of poverty about it.
Unfortunately, that is not the only whiff we get from cabbage, especially boiled cabbage, whose sulfuric
compounds sneak through cracks and keyholes to hang poisonously in the hall. The best solution to cabbage odor
is simple: stay very low on the fire, low temps & don't overcook it. Some of the very compounds that make cabbage healthful and tasty (called glucosinolates) turn ugly when they leach from the vegetable, into its cooking liquid and off into space. Proper cooking also assures that nutrients stay where they are supposed to - in the cabbage, not in the cooking liquid.
Consumption of cabbage is thought to occasion bloating, which can lead to social embarrassment. How nice for
everyone that caraway seed, a medieval answer to those ills, pulls a double shift as antidote and aromatic.
No cabbage deserves to be boiled, a Hungarian chef once told me. Indeed, a gentle braise, brief simmer or leisurely sauté pays off handsomely when cooking cabbage, which will smell and taste sweet for your troubles. Red cabbage is higher in fiber and takes longer to cook than green. Cabbage is still dirt cheap, but squeaky clean. No garden grit enters its inner sphere, so it is core, chop and go! for the cook.
Having considered one head much like the next, I was surprised to find that green and red cabbage come with
dozens of proper names. Given the abundance of carefully cultivated cabbage types, I wondered if consumers could be trained to recognize differences among them. Unfortunately, said Dr. Matt Kleinhenz, an Ohio State University horticulturist and cabbage enthusiast, our options are not as abundant as they might seem.
Most cabbage varieties, he said, are developed with mass marketing in mind (for sauerkraut, coleslaw and the like); those sold loose in stores are considered all-purpose and bear no labels at all. Growers have worked to make all cabbage mild and unassertive - vanilla, in effect, he said.
So, assuming that vanilla is what you want, what should you look for when buying cabbage? Taut, glistening leaves free of little holes or discoloration, and bowling ball density in the hand. And color? Red cabbage is consistently colored throughout. Green cabbage, however, becomes progressively paler toward the center, Dr. Kleinhenz said. Heads with a minimal green in their outer leaves have been heavily trimmed, suggesting they may be old or that there were problems on the farm, in storage or in transit. Short answer: go for the green.
Here we are then, an ice rink of winter before us. There is plenty of time for a few plates of cabbage. The fusty king? Forget him. The head that rolls may be his own.
Cabbage and Potato Gratin With
Mustard Bread Crumbs
1/3 cup slab bacon in 1/4-inch dice
3/8 cup yellow onion in 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 cups Yukon Gold potatoes in 1/2-inch dice
1 small bay leaf
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 cups green cabbage in 1-inch dice
1/2 cup heavy cream
For the bread crumbs:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups fresh white bread crumbs
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
3/8 cup Comté or Gruyère cheese, grated.
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place bacon in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat
and cook about 2 minutes. Add onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until bacon is
crisp and onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, bay leaf, salt and pepper
and sauté, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add cabbage and sauté, stirring frequently until
cabbage wilts a bit, about 5 minutes.
2. Turn cabbage mixture into a shallow 1 1/2 or 2-quart casserole dish. Pour cream
into sauté pan and reduce over high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon
until cream is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Pour cream over cabbage and stir
to mix. Cover casserole with foil. Bake 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a 10-inch skillet over low heat. When it is foamy, add
bread crumbs and sauté, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until crisp and
golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat, add garlic, salt, cayenne pepper, mustard
and parsley, stirring well to combine. Sprinkle casserole with cheese, then with bread
crumbs, and return to oven uncovered. Bake until fragrant and bubbling slightly around
edges, about 5 minutes. Serve as a side dish to roast fowl, pork or meaty fish like
monk or halibut.
Cabbage and Sparerib Soup
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/4 pounds pork spareribs (about 8 ribs or 1/2 rack)
1 head garlic, peeled, cloves crushed
6 cups rich chicken stock
2 cups diced yellow onions
6 generous cups green cabbage in 1-inch dice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped parsley for garnish.
1. In a spice grinder process caraway seeds, paprika and mustard until fine. Turn into
a bowl with brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and the cayenne; fluff with fingertips.
2. Dry ribs well with paper towels, and rub both sides with spices and crushed garlic.
Place ribs on a small rack or plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least
6 hours or overnight.
3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a sheet
pan lightly with vegetable spray. Brush garlic cloves from ribs, place ribs in a sheet
pan, and roast until a deep golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven.
4. Transfer ribs to a 5-quart Dutch oven; pour rendered fat (about 2 tablespoons)
from sheet pan into a large heavy skillet, and set aside. Place sheet pan on 2 burners
over high heat, add 1 cup water, and stir with a wooden spoon to dislodge browned
bits. Pour deglazing liquid and stock into Dutch oven, cover, and bring to simmer
over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer gently until ribs are tender,
turning occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove ribs from broth, and cool slightly.
5. While ribs simmer, sauté onions and cabbage in a skillet over medium-high heat,
stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and
the black pepper; stir to combine. Set aside.
6. Pull pork off bones, trim off bits of cartilage, and dice meat. Discard bones. Return
meat to soup base, add cabbage and onions, and simmer about 15 minutes. Serve,
garnished with parsley.
OK-- that was child's play, CABBAGE grade school. Now......IF YOU ARE A GENIUS, make SAUERKRAUT, the real deal. Very health conferring. Make it, serve it, get raves and much bettered health, plus an automatic PHD for cabbage heads!
My pal Marla is working hard to drive Lymes disease out of her body. She writes "I bought a culturing jar with the double lid and airlock, however it takes months to use up that amt of kraut! And it only came in I think approx. 2 gallon size. So instead, this method looks good and I wish I had found it before (smaller jars).
Sauerkraut makes lactobacilli just like yogurt - in even more quantity, so it is excellent for your gut and immune sytem. I have not used juniper berries but can attest that the caraway, mustard, dill seeds are all very tasty additions. You can really culture any vegetable and a beet/cabbage mix tastes great and has an incredible color.
Supposedly you can make sure you are getting the right kind of lactobacilli started in your kraut by emptying an acidophilus supplement capsule or 3 into the kraut. Or, some people have used whey (that I believe they poured off plain yogurt). Others just do the cabbage and salt and it sounds like usually the right buggies get started that way. However, a friend from Eastern WA (desert) has never had good luck with sauerkraut or sourdough so I think it depends on if you have a climate with damp temperate air that holds the right airborne bacteria.
Here is a link on making sauerkraut http://germanfood.about.com/od/saladsandsides/r/Sauerkraut.htm
Last if you want to get standing applause from your family, make HUNGARIAN STUFFED CABBAGE!
This is as it comes off stove, before you pour
on the thin tomato sweet sauce which you
serve it up in ---a POOL of it ! Dot with
softened raisins! WOW!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Our POSTER is ANITA SANDS HERNANDEZ, Los Angeles Writer, Futurist and Astrologer. Catch up with her websites TRUTHS GOV WILL HIDE & NEVER TELL YOU, also The FUTURE, WHAT'S COMIN' AT YA! FRUGAL LIFE STYLE TIPS, HOW TO SURVIVE the COMING GREAT DEPRESSION, and Secrets of Nature, HOLISTIC, AFFORDABLE HEALING. Also ARTISANRY FOR EXPORT, EARN EUROS....* Anita is at email@example.com ). Get a 15$ natal horoscope "my money/future life" reading now + copy horoscope as a Gif file graphic! No smarter, more accurate career reading out there!
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