Cabbage Dishes From East to West
Shorter days and cooler nights bring cabbage season. By mid-fall, firm, jade-green, cruciferous heads have matured in the fields, sweetened by the first nip of fall frost. Take advantage of the full variety in your market now when cabbage season is at its peak.
A Salt-Kissed Start on Rocky Shores
Whether stewed, braised, sauteed or stuffed, cabbage is a popular vegetable in Europe and eastern Asia. It's cheap, filling and highly nutritious. Cabbage started out in ancient times as a weedy plant along the shores of the Mediterranean. Over time, the long stem was bred out of it to bring about today's familiar compact head. Meanwhile, new varieties developed in the Far East.
To Stave Off Famine, Just Ferment
For Central and Eastern Europeans, cabbage has been a staple food for centuries. The yearly harvest was originally shredded and fermented in brine as a way of making it last through the long winter. Sauerkraut remains very popular in the region to this day.
Koreans and the Chinese followed a similar tradition with Chinese-type cabbage. For Koreans, especially, cabbage kimchi is a foundation of local cuisine. Mid-November marks the start of Kimjang, or kimchi-making season in Korea, and every family has its favorite recipe.
It's Not Just for Boiling Anymore
Corned beef and cabbage is familiar to most Americans and is the only experience many people have with cooking cabbage. But if boiled is the only way you've ever had cabbage, you've been missing out. Different cooking techniques can bring out the natural sweetness and tender crunch of this nutritious vegetable without turning it into a mushy mess.
Blaukraut, or German-style braised red cabbage, has a beautiful color and a gentle, sweet-sour flavor. Serve it alongside roast pork and mashed potatoes for a hearty Sunday meal.
Pull out your wok and stir fry Chinese cabbage to make kai yang bai cai, an amazingly simple vegetable side and the perfect accompaniment to many Chinese beef and pork dishes.
For a taste of the Russian soul, simmer up a batch of shchi, a hearty cabbage stew that can be made in both beefy and vegetarian versions.
Another Eastern European favorite is stuffed cabbage rolls, known as gołąbki in Poland and töltött káposzta in Hungary. These warming dishes are made by wrapping whole cabbage leaves around a meat and rice filling and simmering them in a tomatoey sauce.
For an exotic taste of the Middle East, go for kalam polo, a cinnamon-scented Persian dish of layered cabbage, meat and rice.
That should get you going on a mission of discovering the full versatility of an often overlooked vegetable. Maybe you have some undiscovered gems of your own. What's your favorite tasty cabbage recipe?
More cabbage recipes »
Farmer Dan's Blog: A Couple of Good Cabbage Recipes »
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