Braised Cabbage and Green Garlic
My cabbage obsession runs deep. So deep in fact I think it teeters on the edge of obsession. Some people can't live without coffee, others chocolate. But for me it has always been the cruciferous family. This devotion began at the tender age of 5 when I declared broccoli my favorite food. There is a distinct heartiness and structure to the crucifers that my palate has always found alluring. No, I'm not trying to be a goody two-shoes or show-up you doughnut lovers (just FYI, doughnut love and cabbage love are not mutually exclusive). I just want you to know, as Ms. Gaga would say, "I was born this way!"
So after consuming broccoli for a solid 20 years I allowed myself to branch out to kale. Though briefly concerned over my infidelity, kale's luscious leaves were simply too much to resist. From there I caroused with collard greens and cauliflower, eventually working my way through the entire band. I was a cruciferous groupie, of sorts and as it turns out, landed at cabbage simply because I had exhausted all other members. What I found was an extremely versatile, sweet and forgiving vegetable that has since not been far from my plate.
Though I am tempted to now embark on my Ode to Cabbage I will spare you (be thankful)! But know this...you can do almost anything to cabbage and it will never disappoint. It will maintain its integrity, take what you give it and deliver delicious vegetable gold. I literally throw cabbage into everything using its bulk and adaptability as the perfect meal extender. I use it in soups and curries, toss it into sautes and simply slice it up for an easy slaw. Now, I know what you are about to say. "But cabbage gives me gas!" I know, I've been there. Promise. But let me say this: cabbage it totally worth a little flatulence. As is broccoli, kale and all their lovely cousins. And I actually find that when my clients eat more of these amazing vegetables, they tend to have less of a wind breaking issue. However, if you are very concerned with the antisocial effects of cabbage you can always take a good probiotic, which introduces healthy bacteria into the gut that aids digestion.
OK, now that THAT is out of the way, let's get down to the dish. This being Spring and all, last week I had an over abundance of green garlic sitting in my fridge. I also found myself with an extra head of cabbage that was in desperate need of use. Since they were sitting close together, all cute and cuddly-like, I thought they might like to do the same in a braise. I had braised both cabbage and green garlic separately but never together, though now that I have, I cannot believe I never did so before. The combination is truly brilliant. The sweet/sharp cabbage is lovingly supported by the sweet/earthy hint of green garlic and while both soften at the same rate, they still maintain good structure. Add a splash of vinegar for a touch of tang and it is a dish that begs for little more. Yet please know, the possibilities for variation are endless. If green garlic is not in season, toss in a yellow onion. Have leftover herbs, throw in some thyme and let it do its magic. Not a fan of red pepper, a little dash of cumin will do ya'.
If you have ever been nervous about cabbage or not sure what to do with it, this is your recipe. I promise you will become a cabbage convert. Just be careful....you don't want to become obsessive!
Braised Cabbage and Green Garlic
1 medium head of cabbage
4 stalks green garlic, ends trimmed and cut until 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of red pepper flakes
A dash of champagne vinegar (love this stuff!)
Sea salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the middle of the oven. Cut the cabbage in half and then again into quarters. Core the cabbage just a bit, leaving enough to keep the wedge in tact. Cut each wedge horizontally into thirds so you end up with rather large chunks.
Place the cabbage in a 5-quart Dutch oven (or medium-sized baking dish with a cover) and cover with the green garlic, water, olive oil, red pepper flakes, vinegar and salt. Put in the oven and cook for an hour. Remove from the oven and stir the cabbage. If the mixture seems dry you can add a bit of water. Return to the oven and cook for another hour. Remove from the oven and taste for seasoning. Add a touch of salt if necessary and enjoy!
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