Updated: Sep 15
Today I'm making cabbage recipe that I grew up eating at least once a week, sometimes with meat and sometimes without depending on the time of the year. Fasting from meat was a big part of my eating habits growing up, and I still do it.
I'm sure you know that cabbage is a staple vegetable in Ukraine. In fact, depending on the time of year we categorize this vegetable as spring cabbage, summer cabbage, or winter cabbage. Each one has its own purpose in the kitchen.
Spring cabbage is very delicate, very juicy, soft, and great for making a slaw. That's about all you can do with that kind of cabbage. It's almost like iceberg lettuce; not for cooking, just meant to be used raw. I remember this slaw/salad would be a staple in my house during May and June.
Summer cabbage is more fun. You can still make salad with it, but my mom would often use it to make stuffed cabbage. I'll share one of my family's stuffed cabbage recipes soon, I promise! We've made a bunch of variations of stuffed cabbage depending on the season. As you know, seasonal eating seasonal is my goal, even living in the US where everything is available pretty much year-round.
The third type of cabbage is heavy winter cabbage. We use this cabbage mostly for sauerkraut. Every year in October or the beginning of November, my parents made a big batch of it. It would be stretched until May when new cabbage was available. I have to note that it wasn't just a topping for a pastrami sandwich; we ate sauerkraut like Americans eat Caesar salad. A lot of it. We also cooked it in various ways (braised, boiled, baked, fried, etc.) during those cold winter months.
I'm planning to share many ways to use this beautiful vegetable in the future. For a long time I had a real, deep-rooted complex about Ukraine's cabbage and potato dishes; all too often the only things people in the West associated with Eastern European cooking. Now I embrace them all - none more so than a delicious braised cabbage.
What's Good About This Dish?
This cabbage dish is great for everyone since it's vegan. It can be served as a main dish or a side. It has such great flavor and uses only a few ingredients that you most likely already have on hand. The mushrooms are beautiful and a yummy addition to the dish. Even my husband, who is a true American boy that's not big on mushrooms, enjoys this cabbage.
What is Zazarka?
Zazarka is a base for many Ukrainian dishes and consists of sautéed onions and carrots. Sometimes garlic can be added.
What is the Best Way to Shred Cabbage?
Either on a mandoline or by hand with a chef knife. Make sure you don't shred it too finely, like for coleslaw. I've learned it's too easy to overcook the cabbage this way, and then it turns into a baby food-type consistency. I've found people often overcook their cabbage or stuffed cabbage. Trust men, you don't want that. There's nothing worse than overcooked cabbage.
Are Caraway Seeds A Must?
I think I learned to add caraway seeds to my cabbage here in the US. Sometimes I like to add dill seeds as well. If you don't have it, skip it, and don't worry about it. If you know me by now from reading my blogs, you know I'm a big lover of spices. In the old days, spices were only affordable for rich people, and I can see why. We can receive so many health benefits from 1-2 teaspoons of spices. It's incredible. In fact, caraway seeds contain more than 50 healing compounds, which studies show can fight all kinds of health problems. Unlike most healing spices, caraway thrives in a moderate (rather than tropical) climate, and is grown in many parts of the world.
What Oil Should I Use?
My mom would always say that cabbage loves fat and that you can almost never overdo it with oil. It's like eggplant in that it can absorb a lot of oil. In the video I used a generous amount of olive oil, but not too much. If I have sunflower oil on hand, that would be my first choice.
How to Serve?
For best results, let the flavors melt together for a few hours before serving. It honestly tastes the best the next day or even the third day. When you're ready to serve it, drizzle with olive oil and top with some fresh chopped herbs. A nice slice of crusty bread would be a great addition to this rustic dish. It also goes well with poultry, fish, and sausage dishes.
How Long Can I Store Braised Cabbage?
This dish can last in the fridge a long time, and it's even better on the second or third day. It can easily be stored in the fridge up to 5-7 days, or you can freeze it for 3 months.
Why a Dutch Oven?
Long before kerosene and gas became popular in Ukraine, there was an oven that was more than an oven. Called "pich" in Ukrainian, this substantial masonry oven would be built into the structure of a house. A proper pich would be crafted by an expert mason, a trade that has almost died out now - you had to sign up well in advance for your pich to be built and wait your turn.
My mom used something called "kazan." It's a vintage cast iron cauldron that people used in the old days. It was made to cook in the "pich" on the open fire. I think she got hers from her mom, and she loves it. To this day, she still uses it (even on her gas stove). Since you'll be cooking this in your house and not over an open fire, I recommend cooking this dish in a Dutch oven.
Let's make this healthy dish...
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Autor: Inna of Innichkachef.com
1 small head of cabbage
2 cups roughly chopped oyster mushrooms
1 large onion, chopped
3 sprigs of green onions
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 red pepper, thickly chopped
1 big carrot, grated
1½ teaspoons caraway seeds
2 teaspoons pink salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black peppercorns
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes (or finely chopped fresh tomatoes)
1 tablespoon olive oil (for serving)
½ cup chopped parsley or dill (for garnish)
First we need to make zazarka (see note above). Add oil to the Dutch oven. On medium-low heat, add the onions, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. The salt helps the onions release their juices and stops them from burning. Cook for a few minutes until the onions look translucent. Add grated carrots and cook for two more minutes. Add the garlic. Stir occasionally.
While the zazarka is cooking, slice the cabbage into ½-inch wide strips and put it in a bowl. Add the chopped red pepper, chopped green onions (white part only) red pepper flakes, caraway seeds, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Mix all together.
Lower the heat and add the cabbage mixture to the onion mixture.
Add a few splashes of water and tomato sauce. Mix everything together.
Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Check once in a while, and add a little bit of water if needed.
On another cast iron pan heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then add chopped mushrooms, ½ teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. Let the mushrooms sauté until they're a nice brown color.
Add the cooked mushrooms to the cooked cabbage, and mix everything together.
Stir occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add your herbs (green part of the green onions and parsley or dill).
Serve right away with a little bit more drizzled olive oil and chopped fresh herbs (a slice of nice crusty bread on the side wouldn't be a bad idea either).