Although vocally partial to onions with their powerful ability to ignite emotions, cabbages mesmerize me with their tightly woven layers and hearty armor. Last winter would find me at least three nights a week near the oven with a Le Creuset full of green cabbage, chicken stock, salt and pepper. Sauerkraut is a staple in the fridge and a hot brine poured over shaved cabbage serves as a most delightful accoutrement for soups and bean bowls. Health-wise, red cabbage specifically possesses a high content of antioxidants which is good for potentially preventing everything from blemishes to Alzheimer's.
This has been a favorite side dish for Thanksgiving dinners in the Lee household for years. Sometimes side dishes feel naughty with the level of processing or creamy indulgence that goes into their consumption (I am not claiming to be above loving crème fraîche mashed potatoes). This one, however, stands strong in its unadulterated manner and offers a celebratory jolt with its vibrant purple contrast to the brown shades that dress most tables over the holiday season.
Stove-Top Braised Red Cabbage with Sherry Vinegar and Fresh Dill
Although more expensive, organic cabbages are encouraged with this dish; I recently read an old study claiming that the outer leaves of cabbages possess twenty times the amount of calcium than the inner layers. But money being the issue that it is for many of us, non-organic is absolutely acceptable, just peel away the outer layers and consider garnishing the dish with some goat cheese.
3 T olive oil
1 medium head (8- 10 cups) red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (see note below for a good technique)
1 1/2 t salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 T sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar, if sherry is unavailable)
3 T fresh dill, rinsed and chopped (or 2 T dried dill)
freshly cracked pepper
goat cheese (optional)
The best way to core a cabbage is to halve it lengthwise (top to stem) and then halve the halves one more time so you have a quartered cabbage. The core will also be quartered so you'll be able to trim it out easily from all four pieces. Discard the core pieces and prepare the cabbage by thinly slicing it width-wise.
In a large skillet or heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the cabbage and salt, stirring to combine. Stir occasionally for five minutes until it begins to soften. Reduce the heat to low, place a lid on top and let cook for another five minutes.
Removing the lid, taste a piece for texture -- it should be quite soft. Add the garlic and vinegar, stir a bit, and let cook for another three minutes. If using dried dill, add it now. If there seems to be a more liquid in the skillet or pot, turn up the heat to encourage evaporation.
Remove from heat and taste of salt, sprinkling more if necessary. Place on a serving platter, garnish with dill and freshly cracked pepper and serve promptly.
Yields: enough cabbage for six, as a side dish
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes