In Defense of Cabbage

I eat a lot of cabbage these days. It’s just so easy to roast and delicious as a vegetable base for a lot of dishes that I like to make a big batch in the oven to use throughout the week whenever I need some extra veggies. But I didn’t always feel this way.

The first time I can truly remember eating cabbage was around the age of 12 or 13. My aunt was hosting Christmas Eve dinner and told everyone not to worry about a thing! She had it handled.

Looking back, I don’t know why everyone agreed to this. My aunt is a notoriously bad cook. Like, this is a well-known fact.

Anyway, we drive four hours to her house where she’s made—of all things—stuffed cabbage.

Let me explain something to you. That side of my family is Portuguese. My grandparents immigrated straight from Portugal. My mother’s side is from Puerto Rico. We’ve eaten some pretty weird stuff from childhood, including sardines, rabbit, and paella with clams and squid that still had their tentacles attached.

I’m pretty sure not a single person in our family had ever eaten stuffed cabbage in our goddam lives—and for good reason. It was horrible.

I am not and have never been a picky eater in my life (see squid with tentacles). I remember exchanging glances with my parents and siblings in utter panic like, “What do I do?! I can’t eat this.”

I watched helplessly as my parents did their best to fake their enjoyment. My mom was fine because she’s a dainty eater who took small, slow bites and one of the sweetest humans to walk this earth. My dad did his best to conceal the faces he was making while he pushed his now un-rolled cabbage around in the runny, pink sauce on his plate.

We followed suit, making such strong eye contact that we seemed to communicate telepathically, “It’s OK, we can load up at dessert.”

Except dessert was just as bad with nothing served except cookies that tasted like bread, but crumbled like cookies.

We left late, planning to grab fast food on the way home. Except it was Christmas Eve and there is nothing on the four-hour drive between Valrico and Port St. Lucie, except a few solitary gas stations.

My dad pulled us over at the first gas station he could find, hoping for some stale hot dogs. But this was the most basic convenience store attached to a gas station you could find. All we could do was load up on Slim Jims and the nasty kind of chips like Funyuns.

It made my stomach hurt so badly that I haven’t eaten a Slim Jim since.

When we got home around 3 or 4 a.m., my dad made everyone grilled cheese sandwiches before we went to bed. That was one of the only Christmases during adolescence that I can remember we slept in on Christmas morning.

ANYWAY, I started buying cabbage because it’s in the same family as Brussels sprouts—which I love—but the grocery store kept running out of them. Guess I’m not the only one.

I found the best way to make it is to roast it with some simple spices to combat the natural bitterness in it.

I make a huge batch of roast cabbage and keep it in the fridge to use over the course of a few days. Roasted cabbage makes a great vegetable base for plenty of dishes or a solid veggie snack, but I love it in breakfast or lunch grain bowls. I typically throw in cabbage, farro, and two spiced over-medium eggs, but I opted for chorizo to make this more of a lunchtime meal.

Roasted Cabbage
Makes a lot, but varies

Head of mild cabbage like Napa cabbage
Olive or grapeseed oil
Adobo (white folk, you can find this in the Hispanic/ethnic foods aisle)
Light brown sugar

Cut cabbage into ribbons. Spray or oil down one to two lined cookie sheets. Load it up with cabbage. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of oil over each baking sheet. Season generously with Adobo. Sprinkle about 1-2 tablespoons of light brown sugar over the cabbage. Massage gently. Bake at 350* for 15-20 minutes or until some pieces have gotten toasty (usually when you can smell it).

Jessie Da Silva

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