Pairing cabbage and onions

Pairing cabbage and onio

During the cold months, mounds of green and red cabbages and brown, white and red onions are displayed prominently at the markets and remind me of the value and versatility of these healthy vegetables. Cabbage and onions are easy to find all year, but I treasure them even more during this season because they are perfect for preparing warming, wholesome dishes. Sometimes I simmer cabbage and onions with beef in a large pot to make hearty borscht or wrap cabbage leaves around a meat-and-rice mixture to make stuffed cabbage. For faster meals, I concentrate on a quick saute of cabbage and onions and treat this mixture as a wintertime kitchen basic. To make my saute, I heat olive oil, vegetable oil or butter and add sliced onions, then brown them over medium-low heat. Next I add plenty of shredded or roughly chopped cabbage, salt and freshly ground pepper and continue cooking the mixture for a few more minutes until the cabbage is tender but still has some crunch. If I want a small amount, I adapt the recipe to a super-easy microwave version. I microwave a sliced onion with a little oil in a covered container and when it is nearly tender, I add some cabbage and seasoning, stir, cover and microwave a few more minutes. Both versions come out tasty and are a good way to include the nutritious cruciferous vegetable in menus. To this basic recipe I might add strips of sweet peppers of any color, or some chopped hot peppers, garlic or gingerroot. When I put a dish of the quick-cooked cabbage-onion mixture on the table, it quickly gets eaten. The other day Yakir, my husband, came across a container of my cabbage-onion saute and browned the vegetables further in a frying pan with a little olive oil. Next he gently poached some eggs in the mixture. We enjoyed the eggs and cabbage as a lunchtime main course, with toasted whole-wheat flatbread. Another popular use of the onion-cabbage pair comes from the Hungarian kitchen. You simply combine the saute with hot cooked noodles; for a dairy meal, you can enrich the pasta with a little butter. I also like the cabbage-onion mixture as a savory filling for blintzes or crepes, which I heat with butter or top with a mushroom sauce or with a little creme fraiche and a sprinkling of chives. The cabbage-onion duo takes well to spicy preparations too. My friend Nancy Eisman used it to make vegetarian enchiladas: She prepared a cabbage-onion saute with sweet and hot peppers and fresh coriander, then wrapped it in tortillas and topped them with black bean tomato sauce and soy cheese. A popular Indian vegetarian restaurant makes a similar cabbage-and-onion-based dish with a completely different taste. They spice it with ground and toasted whole cumin seeds, turmeric, coriander and a generous amount of hot pepper flakes. The first time we tasted it, Yakir said it reminded him of his mother's Yemenite kitchen. BASIC CABBAGE AND ONION SAUTE To use a minimal amount of fat, I often cover the pan after sauteing the onion for a few minutes so it slightly steams and doesn't scorch. You can also prepare this dish with red cabbage but it will take a few more minutes to soften and may need to be moistened with several tablespoons of hot water, red wine or vinegar as it cooks. 2 Tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil 1 large onion, halved and sliced 1 small head cabbage (450 to 500 gr.), shredded, or 7 or 8 cups shredded cabbage salt and freshly ground pepper Heat oil in a large saute pan. Add onion and saute over medium heat for 5 minutes or until softened, or longer if you would like it browned. Add cabbage and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until softened to taste but with a bit of crunch. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings. MICROWAVED CABBAGE WITH ONIONS In this dish the onion does not brown but it softens and acquires a pleasant, sweet flavor. If you'd like to include a sweet pepper, cut a small one - green, red or yellow - in strips and add them together with the cabbage. 1 large onion, halved or quartered and sliced 2 to 3 tsp. olive oil or vegetable oil salt and freshly ground pepper 5 or 6 cups cabbage, cut in strips the size of medium or wide noodles Put the onion slices in an 8-cup microwave-safe dish or baking dish. Add the oil. Cover and microwave on full power for 5 minutes. Add cabbage, salt and pepper and mix with onions. Cover and microwave for 5 minutes. Stir, cover and microwave for 2 to 4 more minutes or until cabbage is done to your taste. Taste and adjust seasoning. Makes 3 to 4 servings. CABBAGE FILLING FOR BLINTZES Russian and Polish Jews use cabbage to make savory fillings for blintzes, piroshki and other pastries. I flavor my cabbage with caraway seeds and plenty of sauteed onions; sometimes I add grated cheese or a small amount of vegetarian soy meat in thin strips. Serve the blintzes topped with sour cream and paprika or chives. You can also use the mixture to fill omelets. If you've already prepared Basic Cabbage and Onion Saute, heat it briefly with the seasonings and combine it with the sour cream. 1⁄2 large green cabbage, (700 gr.), cored and rinsed 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil 1 or 2 Tbsp. butter, or more oil 2 large onions, chopped Salt and freshly ground pepper 1⁄2 tsp. paprika 1 tsp. caraway seeds 1⁄2 cup sour cream, room temperature Finely shred cabbage. Heat oil and butter in a large skillet. Add onions and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes or until very soft but not browned. Add cabbage, salt, pepper, paprika and caraway seeds. Cook 5 minutes, stirring often. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until tender. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Cool to room temperature. Stir in sour cream. Taste and adjust seasoning. Use to fill blintzes, then heat them by sauteing or by baking them dotted with butter. Makes enough to fill 12 blintzes, for 6 servings. CURRIED CABBAGE WITH RICE, MUSHROOMS AND PEAS I like to use brown rice in this hearty, Indian-flavored entree for its extra nutrition but you can make it with basmati or other white rice for a faster dish; when using white rice, cook it for 12 to 15 minutes before adding the peas and mushrooms. If you've already prepared Basic Cabbage and Onion Saute, heat it with the seasonings and cook it with the rice, following the second paragraph. Hard boiled eggs and yogurt are good accompaniments. 1 or 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil 1 large onion, halved and sliced 1 small head cabbage (450 to 500 gr.), shredded, or 7 to 8 cups shredded cabbage 1 tsp. curry powder 1 tsp. ground cumin 1⁄4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes salt and freshly ground pepper 11⁄2 cups brown rice 13⁄4 cups vegetable broth 225 gr. mushrooms, quartered 11⁄2 cups frozen peas, thawed a 400-gr. can tomatoes, drained, diced (optional) 1 or 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill or 1 tsp. dried (optional) Heat oil in a large wide stew pan. Add onion and saute over medium heat 3 minutes. Add cabbage and sprinkle with curry powder, cumin, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat 3 minutes; cabbage will wilt. Mix well. Add rice, stock and 11⁄4 cups hot water to pan. Stir once and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and cook over low heat without stirring for 35 minutes. Add peas and mushrooms without stirring. Cover and cook about 5 more minutes or until rice is tender. Add tomatoes and toss lightly with a fork. Add 1 tablespoon dill. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings. Faye Levy is the author of the award winning Faye Levy's International Vegetable Cookbook.