Cabbages are wonderful vegetables for the winter.They typically maintain a low price when the popular summer favorites (tomatoes, cucumbers) have either disappeared from the shelves or jumped in price (these out of season crops are shipped from farther away or grown in pricey greenhouses). So cabbage is a great vegetable for these long months after the fall harvest and before you can even start to think of spring vegetables. Cabbages do pose a few challenges, though. The biggest problem is often, well, how big cabbages are–particularly if you often cook for small crowds. So I find it helps to have a couple of easy cabbage recipes on hand, that way you can throw together a quick salad with whatever you have left over, rather than letting half a cabbage wilt and turn gray in the fridge.
To prepare a cabbage:
First peel off the first outside leaves and discard. Cut cabbages in half lengthwise and then cut out the center with two slashes, resulting in a v-shaped trench. Then you can slice your cabbage leaves according to the demands of your recipe. Cabbage trimmings are a vegetable excess that does not work well for making vegetable stock (I don’t like to boil anything in the cabbage family, as they take on a bitter, medicinal flavor). But don’t toss them, they’re still plenty useful in other preparations.
Cabbage, Broccoli & Cauliflower Stems
With any member of the cabbage family (brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli to name a few) you typically want to remove the fibrous stems from the tender leaves. One way to deal with all of this tough, fibrous vegetable matter is to shave the stems thinly against the grain. (A broccoli stem would produce round shavings.) This breaks up the tougher strands of vegetable cells into small, pleasantly chewable pieces. I use a Japanese mandolin to cut these stems into paper-thin slices. Then you need only throw together a quick dressing and you’ll have a tasty slaw. Slaws will keep for several days in the fridge.