I bought a head of cabbage last week. See, it got all damp and rainy and fall-like and I started to crave this stew my mom used to make. Stretchum Stew. All sorts of good fall flavors in it…onions, garlic, tomatoes, spices, etc. And cabbage. It calls for 3 cups of chopped cabbage. Normally, when you buy a head of cabbage at the grocery store, it’s not all that big, and once you’ve cored it and chopped it, your yield is just about 3 cups give or take a little. But since I didn’t want to have to ride my bike home, then turn right around around and leave again, get in the car (losing my parking space in the process), and go to the grocery store during rush hour, I decided to just buy a head of cabbage from the Wednesday farmers’ market on campus. So last Wednesday, I walked over (fortunately there was a break in the rain), to buy cabbage, a head of fresh garlic (so good when it’s that fresh!), an onion or two, and a whoopie pie (dessert).
OMG the heads of cabbage were huge. Seriously huge. Like over eight inches in diameter. These were massive heads of cabbage. So I picked the smallest one. And worried about getting it home on my bike because it was heavy. This was a very dense head of cabbage. And very fresh. And cheap. It cost me 2 dollars. That’s it. Two dollars for a massive head of cabbage that was over 5 pounds.
But I did get it home. When I went to make my stew for dinner that night, I had to use my bread knife to chop the cabbage in half as it was the only knife long enough to reach all the way across it. My 8 inch chef’s knife didn’t quite make it. I used half the head of cabbage for my stew, and it yielded over 3 cups once cored and chopped. Fortunately with stews, measuring does not have to be exact, so my batch this time was just a bit heavy on the cabbage. But the stew was delicious, extra cabbage included. But now I had a problem…half the head of cabbage remained. Another 3+ cups that I needed to find something to do with. And soon, before it went bad (nothing smells worse than cabbage that’s gone bad, except maybe broccoli that’s gone bad).
I thought about cabbage rolls, but since I had cut the head in half, I didn’t have full leaves to work with. So I thought maybe “un-stuffed” cabbage rolls, but that still involved making meatballs and steaming and lots of work. A colleague suggested coleslaw. But I didn’t want a salad, I wanted a one-pot meal. And coleslaw to me means summer, and it’s definitely no longer summer. Another colleague suggested making kimchee (alternately spelled kimchi), and as much as I enjoy the spicy pickled dish, the idea of something fermenting on my counter for days on end is not appealing to me. So I turned to some of my favorite recipe websites and started searching for cabbage recipes that weren’t salad.
Who knew people got so creative with cabbage? In addition to the plethora of recipes for cabbage rolls and dishes involving corned beef, there were hashes, cabbage and sausage dishes (lots of types of sausages), various ethnic recipes (Japanese, Korean, German, Czech, Indian, etc.), colcannon (classic Irish potato and cabbage dish…delicious!!), and every manner of creative use of cabbage, including a slow-cooker meal that involved squirrel! (I can NOT make sh*t like that up.) Seems I’m not the only one wondering what to do with leftover cabbage.
I settled on trying a “cabbage casserole” that got great reviews and billed itself as having all the flavor of a cabbage roll without all the work. Sounds like a plan. The results? Nothing stellar, but still tasty. I probably needed to add a bit more salt (I tend to under-salt things, but some salt is necessary to bring out flavor). It was a little on the bland side, I wanted some kick to it, but it was filling and hardy. But it was really easy to make and good enough that I decided to keep the recipe for the next time I had leftover cabbage and try some of the suggestions mentioned by the reviewers to give it that extra kick I was looking for. And of course, there were leftovers. The problem with most recipes is that they serve 4 to 6 people, and there’s only one of me. So I better like what I make because I’m going to be eating it for awhile. [Thus my fondness for and collection of cookbooks of meals “for one or two” is illustrated.]
So I’ve now been eating cabbage in some form for a week. It’s time for another vegetable. I’ll be heading back to the campus farmers’ market tomorrow to get something new. Maybe some green string beans…or squash…or beets…anything but cabbage. And as much as I love Brussels Sprouts, they’re too closely related to cabbage, so none of them this time either.