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Cabbage isn't the sexiest ingredient—no way around it. Sure, there's the suddenly ubiquitous coleslaw (thanks to the NYC barbecue craze); and the wondrous choucroute garnie (a great gift to mankind, but terrifyingly high-maintenance to cook); and good old sauerkraut (unimpeachable, but a little goes a long way). And then you have the various wintry braised and rolled-up concoctions of German/Middle Eastern/Scandinavian origin. That about covers it.
But thanks to my CSA membership, cabbage has been in my life in a big way lately: a head or two in my fridge every week. Something needed to be done about this, and you weren't going to find me in the kitchen laboring over any of the aforementioned recipes—except maybe coleslaw, but I've been eating too much of it at this or that barbecue spot.
Then the other day, as I was sifting through assorted DVDs that had piled up—unsolicited and unwatched—in my office, I found a disc of cooking shows from Scandinavian TV chef Tina Nordstrom, the Mario-meets-Giada-meets-Rachael (don't try to picture such a thing) of Scandinavia. One episode finds sunny blonde Tina cooking Christmas dishes, one of which is sauteed cabbage with onions, balsamic vinegar, honey and apple juice. Score: Here was a new (to me) cabbage dish; plus it sounded incredibly fast and easy, and for once I had every single ingredient I needed right in my fridge. So I tried it. And now I think I'm in love.
I ate my apple-and-vinegar-spiked cabbage with brown rice, and December or not, I couldn't have been more pleased. (Unlike my test-kitchen colleagues, I haven't been o.d.'ing on winter-holiday recipes all week.) I can only imagine how insanely good this dish would be with pork.
Here's the recipe straight-up, although next time I make this I'm using a tad less honey and apple juice, or finishing it with apple cider vinegar to cut the sweetness —per a tip from my friend, Eleven Madison Park sous-chef Joseph Margate.
Scandinavian Sautéed Cabbage
1 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 cup honey
Butter for frying
Salt and pepper
Sauté the cabbage and onion over medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the apple juice, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon sticks and honey. Cover and let simmer until the cabbage softens, about 15-20 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8.