An Ode to Cabbage, My Most Beloved Vegetable
Though it doesn't receive nearly the attention it deserves, cabbage is one of the most versatile (and tasty) vegetables to cook with. On top of that, it's incredibly cheap to buy, lasts a long time in your refrigerator, and it's super low in calories. If you're not familiar with all the wonderful things you can do with this fibrous veggie, it's time you stepped out of your comfort zone and experienced the deliciousness of cabbage.
I have a confession to make: I eat cabbage every day. I do not do this because I think it will save me money or make me a healthier person (although I’d argue that it does both); I do it because it brings me joy—unabashed, fibrous, and cruciferous JOY. Does that make me a vile, uncultured excuse for a human? Honestly, maybe. However, I stand by this personal choice, regardless of what society tells me. I have opted to proudly own my self-imposed title of “Cabbage Patch Queen.”
Sure, there are plenty of other vegetables that are much prettier and offer a more exciting flavor experience, but I will come to bat for cabbage any day of the week. It’s cheap, versatile, easy, healthy, stays fresh for a long time, and goes great with everything. Can you name literally any other food that fits into all of these categories? *I’ll wait.* So please, grab a step stool and get down from your high horse for a minute while I make a case for my absolute favorite leafy veggie.
For all of you cabbage virgins out there (ha ha YUP it’s that good), allow me to walk you through the basics. The average grocery store sells three main varieties of these spheres of greatness: green, red, and savoy. Green cabbage, typically the cheapest of the three, offers the mildest flavor, whereas red cabbage is just a little bit sturdier and provides a slightly deeper, earthier flavor. Lastly, savoy (which is also green), boasts sweet, crinkled leaves that are perfect vessels for any sort of “boat” situation. Both savoy and red cabbage are also a little bit more expensive, but we’re talking cents here, people.
All three varieties can be eaten raw (shredded in slaws and salads) or, as mentioned above, used as vessels for a variety of tasty fillings, but cooking these leaves is an effective way to further sweeten and intensity the flavor of your cabbage. TBH, raw cabbage has too brittle of a texture and too peppery of a taste for me to enjoy, but if slaws (or gnawing on rough fibers) is your style, I’m not here to “yuck” your “yum.
When it comes to this crisp hunk of lovin’, whether it’s roasted, sautéed, or grilled, I’ve never met a warm bite of cabbage that I didn’t like. If you’re still scratching your head as to how on earth I manage to consume cabbage every day of my luxurious existence, it’s typically at breakfast. I sauté whatever cabbage I happened to buy that week with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and top it with a fried egg and chili flakes. I know it doesn’t sound all that ~glamorous~ (in fact, if Fergie herself saw me eating this she would assuredly tell me to take my broke ass home), but it’s something that I look forward to every morning.
There’s something really victorious to me about paying almost nothing for something, lazily chopping it up, and seasoning it with the absolute bare minimum, and still thoroughly enjoying it. Afterwards, I feel and like I have just done something good for my body, without paying an excessive amount of money for some freakish fad health food, or despising each bite of my meal with every ounce of my being. If I’m really having one of those days, I’ll throw small strands and wedges of it on a sheet pan with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast it in a hot oven for 35 minutes or so and nibble on that with whatever else I’m having for dinner.
One quality that I especially appreciate about cabbage is its ability to agree with whatever other ingredients you’re using. A go-to use that I rely on often is tossing it in a stir-fry with some Asian-inspired components like toasted sesame oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and hot chili peppers. However, if I had to pick my absolute favorite way to enjoy this prized vegetable (GAH BUT I LOVE THEM ALL SO MUCH), I’d have to go with roasting it until it’s so crispy that it’s just shy of being burnt, and then hitting these crackly strands of cabbage with a generous drizzle of tahini. I’m salivating just thinking about it.
Listen, I hear you. We live in a world where if you can’t Instagram it, then what’s the point? I don’t disagree—your Buddha bowl filled with roasted sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and avocados looks much more appealing than my plate of cabbage. You’re just going to have to take my word that this is a situation where looks don’t matter, because it’s what’s on the inside that counts (should I put this sentence on my Tinder bio?). Now what are you waiting for? Be gone with the haters and get yourself that cabbage you deserve.