Look around at the stalls at Los Angeles farmers markets this time of year and you'll be reminded of the fact that, warm weather and permanent sunshine notwithstanding, it's still winter. Which means citrus and avocados, leeks and fennel - and the gorgeous dark green pantheon of "cold weather" greenery, cold being a relative term here. There's kale and chard, but there's also cabbage, beautiful globes of the stuff in a variety of textures and colors.
Cabbage is often an overlooked and under-appreciated vegetable, maybe because we take it for granted, or because we associate it with poverty food, or because it reminds some of us of overcooked vats of childhood soup. But cabbage is utterly marvelous stuff, particularly when you check out the many variants available on market stalls this time of year. Cabbage is also amazingly adaptive, a great addition to salads, soups and stir-fries and all manner of dumplings.
If you can't think of anything to do with cabbage other than to throw it in a vegetable soup (although that's pretty great), maybe you haven't been to Mari Vanna or Chengdu Taste enough lately, where cabbage shows up in some pretty amazing dishes. Here are 5 other recipe suggestions.
Martha Rose Shulman's stir-fried cabbbage, tofu and red pepper
Part of Shulman's long-running New York Times Recipes for Health column, this is a terrific and simple stir-fry meant to be served with rice or quinoa. You could use any time of cabbage in this, and probably switch vegetables depending on what you've got in your kitchen. Or just follow Shulman's recipe, as it's a lovely balance of flavors and colors, as well as a great meatless dinner option.
Grilled cabbage wedges with spicy lime dressing from The Kitchn
Sure, you can grill the usual things - red peppers, onions, corn, hamburgers - but don't forget that there are a ton of foods that taste pretty awesome when you grill them that you don't ordinarily think of tossing on the BBQ. Watermelon and peaches in the summer, also lettuces and cabbages this time of year. This is a pretty fantastic recipe for grilled cabbae, which can also be done in the oven if you're not in the outdoor grilling mood. (Outside fires being kind of scary right now in L.A., even if you're safely using your Weber.)
Diana Kennedy's carne de des con col (ground beef with cabbage)
This is a simple dish of beef and cabbage from the legendary Mexican cookbook author Diana Kennedy. It's a dish that can be served on tortillas or with rice, and probably tastes even better the next day if you make a big pot. The recipe, via Rancho Gordo's blog, adds some of that company's fantastic heirloom beans - never a bad move.
Gingery creamed kale and cabbage from Marcus Samuelsson
A combination of the best of both worlds (i.e. trendy kale and old-school cabbage), Samuelsson adds the spice of ginger and tumeric to the richness of cream and buttermilk for a soothing, hearty side dish. A nice winter side for maybe a leg of lamb or a roast chicken or turkey or maybe salmon if meat's not your thing. (While you're stirring the pot, you can go read Samuelsson's great cookbooks, or maybe his memoir, or think about heading to New York to eat, finally, at his actual restaurants.)
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Naomi Duguid's smoky Napa stir-fry
If you don't have some (or maybe all) of Naomi Duguid's many terrific cookbooks, it's time to add to your inventory. The prolific author has covered most of the regions of Asia over the course of her career, cataloging the cuisines of the various regions with recipes and stunning photographs. Among the many, many great recipes, there's this simple one for a stir-fry using Napa cabbage from Duguid's book on Burmese cuisine. It's a very simple recipe, essentially just cabbage cooked and happily seasoned, which would pair with, well, pretty much anything. (Cumin lamb kebabs, rice.)