Braised Cabbage: A Comfort Food Like No Other

chopped cabbage with knife

I can’t think of anything more satisfying this time of year, while we’re still waiting for the snow to melt, than indulging in the warm and nostalgic flavors of home cooked comfort foods. After all, what other season is better suited to hovering over a hot stove and enjoying the flavors and scents of a robust slow cooked meal? Give me a fireplace, a gas stove, a fine bottle of red, and I’ll happily thaw indoors until snowdrops and daffodils start sprouting. Growing up in Romania the comfort food of choice, as pretty much all over the Balkans and Eastern Europe, revolved around one of my favorite vegetables: cabbage. As a matter of fact, braised or meat stuffed cabbage rolls served with a side of creamy polenta is the equivalent of the all-American comfort food of choice, macaroni and cheese.

I can count on one hand the few times I’ve had slow cooked cabbage in a restaurant, or anywhere else outside of my own kitchen. Most cabbage is eaten as coleslaw — a mere side dish — or shredded and tossed sparsely in a salad. That’s a shame because the health benefits of cabbage are gargantuan, particularly when this cruciferous vegetable is sautéed or slowly braised beneficial lycopene compounds are released, just like tomatoes. Cabbage has long been recognized as a superfood due to its high level of polyphenols, the most powerful of phytonutrients or antioxidants, with high doses of Vitamin C, which is found at even higher levels in red cabbage. It turns out that this cruciferous plant is especially potent in preventing cancer of the colon, bladder and prostate, and is superior in lowering cholesterol and helping with weight loss. Europeans and Asians have been preserving, fermenting, pickling and drinking cabbage juice for millennia, well aware of these benefits. I think it’s time we catch up!

Here is my own super healthy braised cabbage recipe, with added turmeric, smoked paprika and fire roasted tomatoes, in place of the smoked bacon traditionally used. Also, I’ve found a way to eliminate pretty much all of the prep work by using pre-shredded coleslaw mix you can find in your local supermarket. Buy the shredded coleslaw cabbage mix that comes with carrots for extra flavor and health benefits. Serve this boldly savory dish on top of polenta, and you will have people begging for seconds.

Braised Cabbage Served Over Creamy Polenta
Serves 6
3 pre-shredded coleslaw mix bags (with carrot), or 1 large cabbage shredded
2 large onions
1 large can of Hunt’s fire-roasted tomatoes
1/2 cup of organic chicken or vegetable stock
2 T tomato paste
2 dried bay leaves
1 t smoked Hungarian paprika
½ t cumin
½ t turmeric
1 t sea salt (add more to taste)
3 T olive oil
4 carrots shredded (if not using coleslaw mix)

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