Contemplating the cabbages accumulating in my fridge from my winter CSA, I turned to an expert for cooking advice. David Hirsch, from Ithaca's famed Moosewood Restaurant, was kind enough to suggest some ideas for the humble cabbage.
Hirsch joined the Moosewood community in 1976 and learned on the job, following his own passion for food. "I never thought it would be a career, but I liked it," says Hirsch, who studied architecture in school. "It was refreshing to work with something immediate -- food." Hirsch has worked on all of the Moosewood cookbooks and solo-authored his own, the Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden.
As for cabbage, beware of boiling. Hirsch says it's one of the biggest mistakes people make: boiling it on high for a long time. That'll release concentrate pungent sulfur chemicals in the cabbage -- the telltale and smelly sign of overcooked cabbage. (Harold McGee has a great section on this in his book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen). Also, cutting cabbage with anything other than a stainless steel knife could lead to unsavory brown streaks.
Here are a few of Hirsch's suggestions for preparing cabbage. Exact quantities aren't needed -- feel free to experiment. Or, if you want specific recipes, check out the cookbooks: The Moosewood Restaurant Low Fat Favorites, Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health, and Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special -- all of which can be purchased on the Moosewood website.
For a Simple Cabbage Slaw, shred cabbage and add a smaller quantity of chopped red onion, celery, and bell pepper. Then, create a dressing with extra virgin olive oil and lemon lime juice in a 3:1 ratio (or use yogurt instead of olive oil, if you're going for a creamy dressing). Add a touch of cumin -- if possible, grind your own cumin seeds for a better burst of flavor. Hirsch suggests serving this crunchy salad with its textural opposite, such as a soft burrito.
As an alternative to cold slaw, try a hot version like Hot Alabama Cabbage Slaw. Combine grated cabbage, celery, and red onion. Then mix up an oil and vinegar dressing with mustard and sugar. Heat the dressing, then toss it with the veggies. The heat will slightly wilt the cabbage and help the dressing penetrate the veggies.
If you're looking to cook, try Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage. First, saute chopped onions in oil. Then, add grated apples, shredded cabbage, a little red wine, balsamic vinegar, and thyme. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes. Cooking slowly, says Hirsch, is one way to bring out the sweetness of the cabbage. He suggests serving this dish as an accompaniment to a mushroom barley risotto, savory strudel pastry, or stuffed winter vegetable.
For a Cabbage Soup, try cooking chopped cabbage slowly with onions and potatoes in broth with spices of your choosing. Then puree it with some kind of dairy like cream cheese.
Or, to keep it simple, you can always just add shredded cabbage to your favorite green salad. Enjoy!