That was Auntie Esther’s response to my question asking her what special dish she would like me to prepare. I had just finished three months learning the fundamentals of French cooking at London’s Cordon Bleu School and was back in California. I wanted to create a lovely French meal for my extended family. I asked for a few requests, yet was rather humbled by my Aunt’s reply as “red cabbage and apples” wasn’t in my three-month Cordon Bleu repertoire.
It’s now been a number of years since that dinner so I don’t really remember the exact meal, though I do believe my Mother requested something typically French such as Duck a l’Orange (which we enjoyed along with a bottle of Dom Perignon that I brought back with me for the occasion). And I probably did serve red cabbage, even if not exactly my Aunt’s desired dish.
Fast Forward 40 Years
Today, Braised Cabbage and Apples has become one of my favorite vegetable dishes. Each time I make it I’m thrilled anew with its beautiful violet color and its complexity and depth of flavor from such basic ingredients. Paul and I find this dish so nurturing and satisfying that we enjoy it on its own. Though, of course it can also serve as a tasty and colorful side dish for a more typical meal.
Thank you, Auntie Esther!
You were the inspiration behind my learning more about red cabbage and apples. By the way, this is her 1929 wedding portrait. So very lovely, I wanted to share it with you.
A thank you is also due my sister, Sharon, for going way out of her way to scan the original wedding photo and send it to me so that I could crop out my aunt’s portrait. Thank you, Sharon!
Something to Ponder
And why is it called “red cabbage” when it is obviously purple? Just like red onions are obviously purple. I have wondered for years why there is this seeming colorblindness in the vegetable world. If anyone knows or suspects a reason, please feel free to write and educate us all.
Another Cruciferous Vegetable
Just realizing that we’ve had a series of recipes these past couple of weeks featuring cruciferous vegetables in many guises—Greek Cauliflower & Chickpea Stew, Slow-cooked Broccoli & Potato Soup, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and now Braised Purple Cabbage. Cruciferous vegetables all, and healthy and delicious, too! I couldn’t have planned it any better if I tried. Which I didn’t—these are just the veggies in season and how we, and perhaps you, too, enjoy eating.
Braised Purple Cabbage and Apples
Inspired by my Auntie Esther
Gluten-free and vegetarian
1 small purple cabbage, 2-2½ pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced pole to pole
2 medium green apples, peeled, cored and cut into matchsticks
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon umeboshi paste, optional
1/3 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese, optional
Heat the oil in a large soup pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add the onion and cook, covered, over medium heat about 5 minutes till translucent. Uncover and cook another couple of minutes till the onions are beginning to color.
Lift the cabbage out of the water and add it, along with the water clinging to it, to the pan. Stir in the apples, vinegar, honey, salt and fennel seeds. Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat until the cabbage is very soft (meltingly tender) about 60-75 minutes.
Check on the cabbage and give it a stir every 15-20 minutes. Add 2-4 tablespoons of water if needed to keep the cabbage from becoming dry.
When the cabbage has finished cooking, stir in the optional salty/sour umeboshi paste and crumbled goat cheese. Serve as a meal in itself, or as a colorful and tasty side dish.
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