The world produces a number of distict cabbages. There is the standard white cabbage, the crinkly savoy cabbage, the elongated Napa cabbage, and the oriental Bok Choi. And there is red cabbage. Each of these cabbages is best for its own set of uses, yet cabbages share enough qualities that a good preparation for one will often be a good preparation for another.
My favorite cabbage recipe is stuffed cabbage. Spiced ground turkey is rolled into leaves of Napa cabbage that have been blanched for two to four minutes, then baked in a tomato sauce. This is a balanced meal that can be slightly improved with some crusty bread and butter.
Of course, cabbage is an important part of many stir-fries - mu-shu pork comes to mind. And cabbage is used to make sauerkraut - a drammatically underutilized cooking ingredient. It is the essential complement to sausages and many pork dishes. And a hot dog is just not quite complete without saurkraut. Cole slaw contains pretty much the same ingredients and is a must-have for summer picnics.
Red cabbage offers opportunities for much different treatment. I think it can be cooked well with apples, raisins, cinnamon, and red wine. This would be an excellent complement to goose, duck, or venison. Red cabbage is also a good choice for borsht.
However it is served, cabbage shines brightest in close proximity to meat. And it needs some salt and some acidity to balance its slightly bitter flavor. Sometimes a touch of sugar or some pepper helps. Though crunch is usually an asset to vegetables, several cabbages have more crunch than one can easily deal with, and thorough cooking is required to soften the texture.
Here are some strategies for treating cabbage effectively in recipes.
OK, so I've looked for a recipe for coleslaw and I cannot find one that I like. Coleslaw requires: thinly sliced cabbage, some salt, some vinegar, some sugar, and some mayonnaise. A bit of shaved carrots or shaved, marinated onion might be okay, but bell peppers or green onions are right out. Good coleslaw will incorporate either caraway seeds - whole or ground - or ground mustard seed. Try roasting mustard seed or caraway seed or cumin seed and adding it - these will add a kind of depth to the salad that will allow it to stand on its own.
Cabbage is too crunchy the first day. But if you mix in mayonnaise an let it sit overnight, the mayonnaise runs into a pool at the bottom. So the first day we slice the cabbage, toss it with salt, and add a little white wine vinegar. Let's say 2 tsp salt + 3 tbs vinegar + 1 tbs sugar. Toss it, smash it tightly in a bowl and put it in the refrigerator over night. Cover 1/2 cup white (green) raisins with water and soak in fridge overnight.
Remove cabbage, and rinse off. Dry carefully in clean paper towells. Mix 1 tsp ground caraway with 1/2 cup mayonnaise. Finely grate one carrot. Lightly sprinkle the cabbage with 2 tbs white wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt. Mix in the mayonnaise, carrot. If you want to add some plumped up raisins, this might be interesting - use light colored raisins with light colored slaw, and cut them in half or quarter.
Copyright S.R. Brubaker 2002 - 2006.