First of all, happy new year to everyone! It’s January 2nd, which means most of us have just barely recovered from the stresses of the holidays and this week’s celebrations. Regardless of what you’re bouncing back from, I doubt I’m alone in my readiness to eschew all things “holiday.” That means no more cloves, cinnamon, allspice, winter squashes and cranberries, at least for the time being. Adios rolling pie dough, goodbye feeding 8-10 relatives, sayonara washing dishes. For me, this week is about getting back to simplicity, back to cooking in a single pot.
I’ve talked about cabbage before, about how it’s an underappreciated vegetable that’s both incredibly cheap and an amazing vehicle for all kinds of flavors and presentations. This Greek preparation, like many others, takes advantage of a cabbage’s sugars as it slowly caramelizes in a heavy-bottomed pot. The result is a deep and complex sweet and smoky flavor. Add to that cooked down red onion and celery, chiles and deep, concentrated tomato paste and you have yourself some pretty incredible layers of flavors using some very humble ingredients. The addition of rice makes this a vegetarian one-pot meal.
This recipe might seem overly simple, and I think many people let cabbage’s unsophisticated image get in the way of cooking with the vegetable much. But I’m not exaggerating when I say this dish is like cabbage candy. I made this for a weeknight dinner and I could not stop filling my bowl with just a little bit more. No one was watching, but I was almost embarrassed at how fast I was inhaling a humble bowl of cabbage.
So whether you’re sticking to a 2015 eating resolution or just taking a much needed break from holiday overindulgence, I encourage you to give this dish a try. You can make it as written or play with the recipe; it’s definitely one that is a great canvas for improvisation (hello bacon or country ham?).
I wish you a restful and restorative New Year. This also marks the one year anniversary of the start of this little fledgling blog, and I thank you for making the journey with me! I think there are even better things to come.
- 2/3 cup / 160ml extra-virgin Greek olive oil
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1 hot chile pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 small cabbage head, shredded
- 1 cup / 200g long-grain rice such as Greek nihaki or basmati, or Carolina, a medium-grain variety
- 4 medium firm, ripe tomatoes, grated, or 2 cups / 350g peeled, seeded and chopped canned tomatoes (keep some of the juices)
- 1/2 cup / 120ml water
- Salt and pepper
- Hot paprika, for garnish
- In a large, heavy, deep sauté pan or a wide pot, heat 1/3 cup / 80ml of the olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion and celery until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chile pepper and stir for 2 to 3 minutes to soften. Add the cabbage and the cayenne, stir to combine and cover the pot, and cook until wilted. Add the rice and stir to coat in the oil. Pour in the tomatoes and water, and season with salt and pepper. Cover, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer until the rice and cabbage are tender and the rice has absorbed all the liquid, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Pour in the remaining 1/3 cup / 80ml of olive oil and serve, sprinted with paprika. Serve immediately.