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Lifting up the lowly cabbage


February 17, 2017

Chef Amber Michelle

Wild ride with sweet and sour braised cabbage

Cabbage is a commitment! It doesn't seem to matter how many people you're feeding, one cabbage will do it. This time of year, we seem to be at the end of our seasonal rope with fresh vegetables and the staples of winter, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, have been made every way possible. Enter the cabbage. Delicious, nutritious, sweet and savory, comforting cooked and crunchy raw cabbage.

The other phenomenon this time of year is the resolution break off point. It's do or die right now, spring is around the corner and that means summer is soon enough. Most people I know hit the health spa door, running, until the big food on Super Bowl. Of course a week later, there's Valentine's Day. With a cupboard full of chocolate, the return of cravings and the cold weather that screams for cream and butter, those same friends turn to the cabbage. The cabbage soup diet. This is the sulfuric savior, the squelching of anything fat or sugary. I've seen about fifty different versions. This usually lasts about three days.

Chef Amber Michelle

The beginning

Then what? Well first of all, don't blame the cabbage. Most of these recipes, after three days, smell like the pools of Pagosa Springs; great for bathing but you wouldn't want to drink it. The whole idea with this method of dieting is to cleanse the palate of any over stimulation, take away sugar cravings and cut the fat out of your diet. All good ideas, but I urge you to engage the cabbage otherwise. I have three things I make the day after Valentine's Day. Coleslaw, sautéed cabbage and onions, and sweet and sour red cabbage. I make one grain, today it's wild rice and one protein, usually chicken. The idea is to feed my body well, and slowly edge away from sugar and fat, while keeping my calorie content down and still feeding my soul. A whole head of cabbage is 218 calories, so the tablespoon or two of oil or butter for six to eight servings isn't going to hurt you. Another trick with sugar is to use something that digests slowly and has some nutrition. Sliced apples or pears, raisins or my favorite, chopped dates. I buy Medjools and slice them. One cabbage, two dates, vinegar and one tablespoon of oil, real salt and pepper, caraway if you like it. 355 calories divided by 6 is under 60 calories a serving. For the coleslaw, I shred the cabbage and mix one tablespoon of safflower mayonnaise, one tablespoon of sesame oil and about ¼ cup of apple cider and a good shake of rice vinegar. I sweeten with a handful of raisins and a tablespoon of coconut sugar. So it's a little more fat than you may think you should have, but your yield is higher and you can go crazy with other vegetables, red and green bell peppers, raw serranos, cilantro, parsley, carrots will make it even sweeter. Use your imagination. A full cup of slaw with 2-3 ounces of chicken is perfect. The sauté is actually a low poach. Chopped cabbage and onions in a little water. The trick is to season the water with whatever spices and fresh herbs you enjoy. I toast and grind coriander seeds and add one herb, usually basil. Cook until it's wilted, store it for a few days and dress it up occasionally; apples, Dijon mustard, a couple ounces of roast beef, or grate some parmesan on top of it and stick it under the broiler.

As much as I love the luxury foods of special occasions, I am equally enthusiastic about getting back on track and taking care of myself. Now if only I could find a good substitute for that glass of Riesling that pairs so well with these dishes. A votre santé!

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