If the fashion sensibility “peasant chic” were translated to food, this would be a runway highlight. It’s a melange of the penniless pantry, but manages to come out vibrant with flavor, and chock full of nutrition. A little funky, offbeat, and very magenta (is that an “in” color?), it’s what I call making the best of the least — and the cheapest — ingredients. It’s also filling enough for a one-dish dinner alone, but plop in a poached egg and have with a crust of bread the next day for a hearty breakfast, too.
I thought I was coming down with a cold a couple days ago, so I bought a head of red cabbage. I’m a believer in eating my way back to health — eating a lot, that is, of mostly healthy food. After a couple salads of shredded red cabbage, green apple slices and nuts (more or less like this recipe, with quince), I began to grow tired of the cold crunchiness. And, it was getting Arctic outside.
My plan was to make a soup that was more or less minestrone (probably my favorite soup) but with cabbage instead of leafier greens. Would the sweeter taste of the cabbage, and considerably tougher texture of it, work well in the same manner as, say, kale? I wondered. To give the soup a thin, tomato-based broth, I simmered the cabbage and basic mirepoix with my last jar of tomatoes that I put up in the summer, added herbs and bay leaves, and a rind of parmesan.
The herbs, tomatoes and especially the parmesan seemed to turn the soup in the direction of the flavor I was seeking. But the cabbage definitely stands out in the end, as its wilted state is still pretty firm. It gives you a little more to chew on, rather than sip.
There is no reason why another type of bean can’t be used in place of black-eyed peas, by the way. I just thought they were kind of attractive with their spots. Nature’s “it” pattern of the week for me.
Red Cabbage & Black-Eyed Pea Soup
(makes about 6 servings)
1/2 small head red cabbage, shredded (about 2 cups)
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery with any leaves, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can crushed or whole plum tomatoes, crushed up by hand (if not using a home-canned jar of tomatoes)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup cooked black-eyed peas
fresh thyme bundled in a bouquet garni with any other fresh herbs as desired
1 bay leaf
1 parmesan rind
salt and pepper to taste
about 2 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
Sweat the onions, carrot and celery in olive oil over low heat in a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and sweat another minute. Add the tomatoes, bouquet garni, bay leaf, parmesan rind, beans and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil. Add the cabbage and let boil over medium-high for a couple minutes. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for at least 30 minutes. Check and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as desired. Remove bay leaf and parmesan rind and serve.
(for about 6 servings)
1/2 head red cabbage: $1.00
1 cup cooked black-eyed peas (from dried and soaked beans): $0.50
4 cups homemade vegetable stock: $2.00
1 jar tomatoes (home-jarred from bulk tomatoes): $2.50
1 carrot: $0.35
1 onion: $0.40
1 celery: $0.35
4 cloves garlic: $0.20
bunch fresh thyme: $1.00
parmesan rind: $1.00
bay leaf, salt and pepper, olive oil: $0.25
One brownie point: I don’t really have anything bad to say about this one. I suppose fresh cabbage and other vegetables are more plentiful in the vitamins they do provide, but once cooked, you’ll get to shovel much more of them your mouth at a time, because they’ve cooked down a lot. Though there is significantly less Vitamin C in cooked cabbage than fresh, it’s still a nutrient jungle, with calcium and fiber included. The light, tomato-based broth gets a little flavor as well as sodium and fat from the parmesan rind, but you won’t regret it. Drizzle a little olive oil on top for serving, too.
Five maple leaves: This was about half-and-half in terms of locally, sustainably sourced ingredients. The coldness (and slight illness) has made getting myself to the farmers’ market less a charm, so I can only imagine how rough it must be for the farmers and staff who must stand there all day. Fortunately, most of the ingredients used here (except the cabbage, actually) were found there at one point, and keep well stored in the fridge. Or, in the case of the jarred tomatoes, in the pantry. It’s that holed-up, staying in time of year.