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The greens of winter

Cabbage or kale? If your family’s origin is European, chances are your great-greats survived the dark, cold months eating a whole lot of one or the other.

Our ancestors couldn’t explain it, but they knew both kept strength up and sickness away in the days of extremely meagre diets. Today we know cabbage and kale are nutritional workhorses, as sources of many health-giving minerals and vitamins, including vitamin C.

Kale was hardy enough it grew year round in dreary but less-frigid winters of northern Europe too. The Scots kept “kale yards” in fenced enclosures, where they protected it as best they could during the coldest months. Likewise, stashed-away cabbage was also survival food.

A certain nose-turned-up-ness developed for both in time, as potatoes supplanted kale toward the end of the 18th century, and cabbage was dissed as poor people’s food.

Yet both, hung on in cultural dishes too, in our much-loved cabbage rolls and the delicious, hearty soups of countries such as Portugal and Holland.

Back “in style,” kale and cabbage are nowadays endlessly written up in fine culinary magazines, with recipes galore to accompany. Not merely their nutritional value gives kale and cabbage their staying power on our dinner plates. Well prepared, both are delicious ingredients in a whole range of meals and dishes.

Here are several recipes selected from the website of Peak of the Market (www.peakmarket.com) you might like to try. Kale isn’t so readily found in smaller grocery stores but I do see it in regularly in Safeway and Superstore.

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Linguine with Kale

You can cook this up in no time!

  • 1 lb. kale, stems removed, leaves cut into bite-size pieces3/4 lb. linguine2 tbsp. olive oil6 cloves garlic, minced1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, gratedSalt and pepper to taste

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add kale. Simmer one minute or until kale begins to wilt. Add pasta. Cook eight to 10 minutes or until al dente. While pasta is cooking, heat oil and garlic in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring two minutes until heated through. Remove from heat. Drain pasta and kale. Transfer to serving bowl. Add oil and garlic. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Toss before serving. Serves 4.

Portuguese Caldo Verde

“Green soup” from Portugal that tastes as delicious as it smells.

  • 1 lb. kale 6 oz. Portuguese chorizo sausage, sliced2 tbsp. olive oil1 large onion, finely chopped 1 tsp. salt 1/4 tsp. black pepper2 large garlic cloves, minced or puréed4 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin2 qts. cold water

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage and fry until lightly coloured; about 10 minutes. Remove from pot with slotted spoon and reserve. Add remaining oil to pot; add onions, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about five minutes. Add garlic and potatoes, turn heat to medium high; sauté three to five minutes until onions and potatoes begin to colour. Add water, cover and simmer over low heat until potatoes can be mashed easily, about 25 minutes. When potatoes are soft, turn off heat and use a potato masher to thoroughly crush and blend. Add sausage, return to heat, and simmer five minutes to bring the flavours together. Stir in kale and cook five minutes until bright green and tender. Serves 6.

Braised Cabbage and Apples

A delicious side dish.

  • 4 tbsp. butter1 large onion, sliced2 tbsp. sugar2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar2 lbs. red cabbage, chopped2 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced1-1/2 c. chicken broth 1/2 c. dry red wine1 bay leafSalt and pepper to taste

In a large pot; melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook for about four to five minutes, stirring, until softened. Reduce heat to low and stir in sugar and vinegar. Add cabbage and apples. Stir to coat well. Stir in broth, wine, bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium and let come to boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and let cabbage simmer until tender, 40 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf before serving. Serves 8.

Pork and Cabbage Casserole

Here’s a satisfying meal sure to please someone in after a long day working outside in cold weather.

  • 1/4 c. butter1 onion, chopped8 c. green cabbage, shredded1 c. light cream1/2 tsp. dried sage, crumbledSalt and pepper to taste4 pork chops, fat trimmed1/2 c. dry white wine1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated

In large skillet; melt butter over medium heat. Cook onion and cabbage, stirring often, until cabbage is wilted, about seven minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 5 minutes longer. Stir in cream, sage, salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium. Simmer, uncovered, for five minutes or until cabbage is tender and sauce is thickened. In another skillet, lightly sprayed, cook pork chops over medium-high heat until brown on both sides, about 15 minutes. Remove and set aside. In pork chop skillet; stir in wine and bring to boil over high heat. Stir into cabbage mixture along with parsley. In shallow casserole large enough to hold chops in single layer, spread half of cabbage mixture. Arrange pork chops on top and cover with remaining cabbage mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, in preheated 350 F oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and chops are tender. Serves 4.

Traditional Cabbage Rolls

These take a little extra care and time but good food is always worth the work!

  • Sauce:1 can (28 oz./796 ml) tomatoes1/2 c. tomato paste2 tbsp. brown sugar1/4 tsp. salt1/4 tsp. pepper
  • Rolls:12 large green cabbage leaves3/4 lb. ground beef3/4 lb. ground pork1-1/2 c. white rice, cooked1 onion, finely chopped1 tsp. fresh dill, chopped1 tsp. salt1/2 tsp. pepper

Grease 13×9-inch baking pan. Set aside.

To make sauce: In a three-quart saucepan; combine tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes.

To make rolls: In a four-quart saucepan; heat three inches water to boiling. Cook cabbage leaves, one or two at a time until leaves are pliable, about two minutes. Drain leaves well on paper towels.

In a large bowl; combine beef, pork, rice, onion, dill, salt and pepper. Place well-drained cabbage leaves on counter. Spoon four tablespoons meat mixture near the base of each leaf. Fold bottom of leaf over filling and fold each side over the centre. Roll up from the thick end of each leaf. Place rolls, seam-side down, in greased baking pan. Pour sauce over rolls. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake cabbage rolls 40 to 45 minutes at 350 F or until mixture is bubbly and rolls feel firm when pierced with a fork. Serves 12.

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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