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Of Cabbages and Kings
For so many Americans, cabbage has a bad reputation. Yet it is such a great favorite in Europe that the French use it as a term of endearment, calling loved ones mon petit chou (“my little cabbage”). Cooks around the world have developed many tricks for tempering cabbage in order to create dishes that are delicate and light. Salting and soaking in ice water is one method; another effective method for softening taste and texture is to blanch it. It can then be served as is, sauteed, or gently braised in order to absorb other flavors.
With so many light and flavorful ways to use cabbage, and with dozens of varieties to choose from – pale green heads, crispy reds, snappy Savoys, and jewels from the Orient – it’s sad to think that there are still cooks who see it as an odoriferous, unpleasant vegetable that should be avoided. Simply braised, steamed, and stir-fired – or served shredded and raw – it’s just delicious. Cabbages may also be stuffed whole and then sliced, or each leaf can be used to encase a few tablespoons of a savory mixture containing a variety of meats and vegetables.
Cabbage is one of those unsung heroes in the kitchen. You might not think too much about it, but it can be one of the most versatile veggies in your arsenal. From traditional slaws and salads to Indian-inspired curries and fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, we predict you’ll be eating cabbage all winter long.
This Easy Cabbage with Leeks recipe is a tasty side dish to just about any meal, especially corned beef, a pot roast, or baked ham. The cabbage and leeks are sautéed and then simmered instead of braised with a small amount of chicken stock, butter, and seasonings until a little bit of crunch is still left in the cabbage.
“I have but one rule at my table. You may leave your cabbage, but you’ll sit still and behave until I’ve eaten mine.”
~ Laurie Graham