Jan 27, 2013

What To Eat During The Winter Months

The culinary excesses of the Holiday season hopefully now but a distant memory, the issue still remains:  what’s good and good for you to eat during these dark and cold months of Winter? 

One obvious answer: Cabbage.

A member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, cabbage, in all its forms, is a nutritional miracle, with so many health benefits that the list seems almost unbelievable: cholesterol reduction, cold prevention (lots of vitamin C), regulation of the digestive tract, and, oh yes, let’s not forget, cancer prevention, and much more.

Those of Irish descent remember cabbage in colcannon or boxty; the Northern Europeans among us remember cabbage soup, stuffed cabbage, or cabbage rolls.  Those of Chinese descent remember stir fry cabbage.

Cabbage is such a ubiquitous Winter food that even during the darkest days of the Cultural Revolution in China when many starved the government would mound cabbage on street corners in all the major cities and citizens could help themselves.

I remember back in the middle 80’s when I “commuted” from Bangkok to New York every six weeks on Aeroflot, the Soviet airline, that cabbage was the staple at every meal. For sure the smell wasn’t pleasant but that was mitigated by the fact that along with the cabbage came the endless small glasses of ice-cold vodka. Nobody complained.

Kids, however, do complain about the smell of cabbage, especially when it’s boiled or pickled, such as in sauerkraut.  The solution is to cook it (or not) differently. There are wonderful recipes for Asian- style slaws with cabbage, carrot, and green onion all dressed in a sesame-soy dressing. Kids love that. Or how about stir fried with chicken and other vegetables such as bean sprouts, pea pods, and served over brown rice. Stuffed cabbage has always been one of my favorites. Because the leaves are blanched ahead of time the smell is gone. Whether stuffed whole or in rolls (rouladen in German), stuffed cabbage is wonderfully satisfying and your aspiring chefs can help you assemble the dish.

We’re going to include cabbage in our Winter Cooking for Life program over the next few weeks. Be on the lookout for the recipes your chefs bring home and ask them what they think of cabbage…..now.