Photo by Judith Hausman
A sure sign of changing weather and appetites is a hankering for the cruciferous. The great big family (aka brassicas) includes not only cabbage, but also kale, turnips, radishes, rutabaga and mustard. They grow well here in cooler weather, are really good for you (with antioxidants, Omega-3s and fiber) and are very inspiring for the home cook. Broccoli has gained acceptance, despite President Bush’s dislike for it, but many of the cousins are often maligned as stinky, strong-tasting or dull. I think I know the culprit: over-cooking. Can I convince you to try again? Here are my three favorite ways to cook members of the cabbage family. Each is fast, healthy and tasty; none requires long cooking, so no smelly house or overly strong flavors to contend.
Crank up the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash and separate a nice, big head of cauliflower into florets. Toss them with olive oil, cumin and red pepper flakes. Spread them in one layer on a cookie sheet. Roast the cauliflower until tender but still firm (20 minutes or more), turning the pieces over occasionally. You can sprinkle some shredded cheese on the cauliflower now (Parmesan, Monterey Jack, Gruyere) for a heartier side, but it’ll already have plenty of flavor.
Red Cabbage and Apples
Slice the cabbage into ½-inch pieces. To prepare about ½ head of cabbage, also core and slice two apples (I like tart ones for this combo) and one medium onion. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onion to soften a little, and then the cabbage and apples. Move all the vegetables around the pan and then turn down the heat and cover for about 10 minutes. When the cabbage is as tender as you like it, uncover the mix and add 2 to 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or apple cider. Cook until the liquid evaporates a little. Yummy as a side dish for any pork.
Shredded Brussels Sprouts
If you have the good luck to find Brussels sprouts on the stalk, break the sprouts off of it, trim them and put them through the shredding blade of a food processor. Chop two to three cloves of garlic and start softening them in 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Then toss in the shredded sprouts, moving them around the pan. Turn down the heat, cover the pan and let the Brussels sprouts steam, taking care to leave them a little crunchy and firm. When they are as tender as you like them, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar or apple cider, a handful of chopped walnuts and a handful of dried cranberries. Continue cooking briefly to warm. This is a favorite Thanksgiving side dish for my family.
When you see that these recipes yield bright, crunchy, complex dishes rather than soggy, mushy, grey vegetables, I think you’ll be as enthusiastic as I am.
As a long-time freelance food writer, Judith Hausman has written about every aspect of food, but local producers and artisanal traditions remain closest to her heart. Eating close to home takes this seasonal eater through a journey of delights and dilemmas, one tiny deck garden, farmers’ market discovery and easy-as-pie recipe at a time. She writes from a still-bucolic but ever-more-suburban town in the New York City ‘burbs.