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Cabbage, the Versatile Vegetable

Corned Beef and Cabbage Rolls

On March 17, cabbage joins corned beef in its annual co-starring role on St. Patrick’s Day. I like to honor the day with these Corned Beef and Cabbage Rolls, and I may try this St. Patrick’s Day Quiche this year.

While cabbage has a rich history with traditional Irish fare, it’s also a mainstay of cuisines from around the world. In fact, modern cabbage is a descendent of wild field cabbage that grew along the Mediterranean region of Europe in ancient times. Those Mediterranean roots can be tasted in Linguini with Wilted Cabbage and Ham, flavored with olive oil, Pecorino cheese and garlic.

Here’s a quick rundown on the most common varieties: 

  • Green cabbage is the most familiar. It’s heavy and round with smooth light green leaves. Delicious in slaw, salads, soups, stir-fries and sandwiches like Turkey and Goat Cheese Open-Faced Sandwiches with Tangy Apple Slaw.
  • Napa cabbage has long, light-green leaves with white stalks. Chop and add to slaw, salads and side dishes like this Napa Cabbage Coleslaw with Miso Dressing.
  • Savoy Cabbage is also known as “curly” cabbage. Its leaves are less compact than traditional green cabbage making them easy to separate. Try it stuffed and baked or braised in vegetable or chicken broth flavored with a little butter, olive oil or coconut oil.
  • Red cabbage, also called purple cabbage (it is closer to magenta in color), makes a beautiful addition to slaw, salad, stir-fries and side dishes. It’s fabulous cooked with meats and flavored with wine or vinegar like this Red Cabbage and German Sausage. Remember, red cabbage may turn blue when cooked. Adding something acidic like vinegar or lemon juice can help retain its color.

Cabbage is often eaten raw in salads, pickles and slaws, but it’s equally delicious when braised, steamed, sautéed or baked with meats or other vegetables. Raw cabbage is delightfully crunchy and slightly spicy. Once cooked, it takes on a mellow, sweet flavor.

Whatever your preference, here are some ideas:

  • Combine with potatoes in stews, soups like Borscht with Cabbage and Potatoes, and salads like Potato Salad with Cabbage and Spicy Mustard, served warm, much like my German grandmother would. 
  • Roast with colorful root vegetables such as carrots, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, yellow or purple potatoes, parsnips and red onions. Try adding cabbage to this recipe for Roasted Root Vegetables.
  • Braise cabbage with onions and carrots in chicken or vegetable stock and serve with roast chicken, spiral-sliced ham, baked tempeh or tofu. 
  • Serve these slaws at room temperature on cold days or use them as a condiment for burgers: 
  • Honey Mustard Coleslaw
  • Cabbage Slaw with Gala Apples and Walnuts
  • Cabbage and Carrot Slaw
  • Seafood Burgers with Roasted Cabbage Slaw
  • Simmer cabbage wedges in curry sauce and serve over basmati rice. 
  • Serve stir-fried veggies or protein over shredded cabbage instead of rice or potatoes – great for those cutting back on carbs.
  • Tuck chopped cabbage into this warm and comforting Cabbage and Cheddar Gratin.
  • Make vegetarian cabbage rolls by stuffing parboiled cabbage leaves with your choice of cooked vegetables, legumes (black beans, garbanzos, white beans, etc.) and whole grains (wild rice, quinoa, whole wheat couscous or millet). Ladle seasoned tomato sauce over top and add a sprinkling of cheese, if you like. Bake until piping hot.

Do you have a favorite cabbage recipe? I’d love to hear.