Classic Cabbage for the Win

We know, cabbage sounds so, well, cabbagey. Still, it’s the Abbott to corned beef’s Costello, a ballpark frank’s best bud, and St. Patrick’s Days’ seasonal staple. And, there are so many varieties and colors: Green cabbage, red cabbage, Napa cabbage, Savory (curly) cabbage, even bok choy is technically a cabbage, all in shades that range from yellowish pale green to dark green to red and purple.

Cabbage, belonging to the brassica or cruciferous vegetable family, was most likely domesticated somewhere in Europe before 1000 BC, and by the Middle Ages had become a prominent part of European cuisine. In addition to its usual purpose as an edible vegetable, cabbage has also been used historically as a medicinal herb to help heal a variety of ailments. It has been said to soothe everything from bruises to ulcers to hangovers and fevers. The leaves are also commonly recommended as a topical pain reliever to breastfeeding mothers.

Now, recent studies provide evidence that diets rich in cruciferous vegetables are associated with lower risks of several types of cancer. Cabbage, in particular, boasts numerous cancer-preventing properties. Per cup, this close relative of cauliflower, kale, and broccoli also contains 4 grams of fiber and is an excellent source of vitamins C and K, which help protect your skin from damage, as well as defend against osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Cabbage’s versatility goes beyond its healing properties though, and can be seen in its culinary adaptability as well. From modern twists on slaw to savory soups, salads and sides, this powerhouse proves its worth. Cabbage can be juiced, pickled, fermented, boiled, steamed or sauteed in stir fries. When warmer weather hits, you can even quarter it, season with salt and pepper, and throw it on the bar-b for a grilled side that is unexpected and nourishing. However, to reap the greatest rewards, eat it raw. Try a crunchy cabbage slaw with a simple dressing (like ours, below) that even the kids will love.

When selecting cabbage, look for heads that are firm and dense with shiny, colorful leaves. Store in the refrigerator and avoid cutting until you are ready to use to prevent the loss of vitamin C.

Crunchy Cabbage Slaw

For salad:

1 small head purple cabbage, cored, trimmed and shredded

1 cup leafy green kale, stems removed and shredded

1 large carrot, julienned

For dressing:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons minced shallot

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)

¼ teaspoon salt

1.       Combine the cabbage, kale and carrot in a large bowl

2.      In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together

3.      Toss together the slaw and dressing

Yields 4 to 6 servings

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