“You feel refreshing as a salad and can take a good deal of heat in the kitchen. You are healthy and stand up to a ‘healthy’ amount of ranch dressing...Cabbage, don’t tell your vegetable sisters, but I’ve always loved you the best.”
Berens, a former farmer, gives as thoughtful a treatment to all the vegetables in “Ruffage,” a book simultaneously practical and whimsical, by offering variations on handling and cooking each one. She also lays out instructions for buying and storing. Her pages on cabbage, however, may make you rethink this humble vegetable more so than any other in the book.
It’s cabbage’s reliability and versatility that make the brassica her favorite, after all. You might already have a slaw recipe ready for summer (try our Thai Coleslaw with Cilantro and Mint), and Berens’ shaved cabbage salad with chili oil, cilantro and charred melon sounds like one to bookmark. But her suggestion for cooking the brassica—not your typical braise—is what caught our attention.
Grill your cabbage, Berens suggests.
She’ll cut a head of cabbage into six wedges, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and grill on both cut sides until lightly charred. (Keeping the core in tact will hold the leaves together.) Then she’ll dress the wedges. In the book she calls for topping with pears, pecans and goat cheese; or sunflower seeds and salsa verde.
It’s the same method we loved at Firedoor restaurant in Sydney, where cabbage—and everything else—cooks over wood flames. In our adaptation, we roast the cabbage in the oven for a year-round dish, and Berens calls for doing the same when grilling isn’t an option.
In the oven or on the grill, the takeaway is the same. High heat is the way to go. Low heat steams cabbage, leaving it vulnerable to one of its most notorious pitfalls: “Boiled cabbage’s sulfuric aroma is the smell most evocative of bad dining halls,” Berens says. Cooking quickly over high heat will avoid this problem.
Check out “Ruffage” to try her variations, or try topping your grilled cabbage wedges with one of these great sauces:
Stay up to date on free recipes, new radio episodes, classes, events and more with our newsletter. Sign up here.