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Five ways to eat a cabbage

Elspeth Hay

Here’s a confession: I’m totally bored with winter vegetables. I love to cook, but I need an infusion of new recipes for the cold months. So the other day I sat down with my mom Liz Pierson, who I call the cabbage queen, and I asked her — why does she love this vegetable so much?

"I love cabbage because it’s so versatile, there’s so many things you can do with it. I’m a huge fan of coleslaw, I think a lot of people think oh, coleslaw is something you make in the summer and take to a picnic, but there’s so much more to do with it than that."

My mom is constantly coming up with new coleslaw recipes. Some of her favorite ingredients are apples, fennel, jalapenos, nuts, and herbs. And she rarely dresses these with mayo. It’s always something different: yogurt, or sesame oil, or balsamic or peanut oil.

"A recent favorite that I’ve been making a lot this winter is so simple, a fourth cup cider vinegar, a fourth cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons of honey, and 2 tablespoons of lime juice, and I’m completely addicted to it."

I’ve had this one — it’s sharp and tangy and especially good when green cabbage is mixed with something sweet, like slices of roasted delicata squash or a grated apple. My mom says never underestimate the power of a good slaw — paired well, these cabbage side dishes can make a winter meal.

"Like I’m thinking of the Korean Slow Cooker tacos that your sister makes, with a killer coleslaw."

I asked her to remind me. What’s in that one? Do you remember?

"It’s from the website, Dinner: A Love Story. I’m pretty sure it has lime juice…"

It does, along with fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, and grapeseed oil, and the veggies are napa cabbage, carrots, cucumber slices, scallions, and a few handfuls of chopped fresh cilantro and mint. Another one of my mom’s favorite ways to cook cabbage is a stir-fry:

"I make a really quick and delicious stir fry that has for vegetables nothing but cabbage and carrots in it, but then it has garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, star anise, and soy sauce, which make it super flavorful, and the recipe is vegetarian, but I have to admit that your father and I often crisp up a little sausage to put in with it."

Elspeth Hay

Yum. My mom says you could probably spend years testing cabbage slaw and stir fry recipes without a repeat. And the same goes for cabbage soups.

"Borscht is delicious and there are truly an endless number of good borscht recipes out there, that’s another thing I think someone could spend a lifetime exploring."

Last but not least is the simplest preparation, which in my opinion is also the most comforting and delicious.

Don’t forget just plain sauteed cabbage, sauteed in butter. It’s sweet and tender and so flavorful.

My mom also reminded me of a recipe from the blog Smitten Kitchen called roast chicken with schmaltzy cabbage — you take a whole chicken and roast it over thick slices of green cabbage in a cast iron skillet, and the only other ingredients are butter, salt and pepper. It actually made me excited to think about buying yet another winter cabbage.

Find links to the recipes here:

Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy Cabbage

Slow Cooker Korean Tacos (with Killer Slaw)

Apple-Fennel Coleslaw with Cider Vinegar, Lime, and Honey Dressing

Spicy Stir-Fried Cabbage (vegetarian but my mom eats with sausage)

Sauteed Cabbage

And bonus! An excellent Chinese cabbage salad courtesy Liz Pierson.

An avid locavore, Elspeth lives in Wellfleet and writes a blog about food. Elspeth is constantly exploring the Cape, Islands, and South Coast and all our farmer's markets to find out what's good, what's growing and what to do with it. Her Local Food Report airs Thursdays at 8:30 on Morning Edition and 5:45pm on All Things Considered, as well as Saturday mornings at 9:30.