As the landscape changes from the bright greens of summer to the quintessential yellows, reds and oranges that harken the coming of Autumn, life changes pace. Here in Oregon, we begin to huddle indoors from the rain that also signifies the coming of this gloriously food-rich season and our bodies start to crave warmer, starchier, heartier fare...slowly simmered stews, rich sauces, gratins, casseroles and curries. Like the palette of colors that paints the countryside, some foods embody the soul of this season by their colors, taste and texture. This time of year we have the subdued pastels of winter squashes like butternut and green kabocha, tart yellow quinces, sweet bosc pears, and golden, earthy chanterelles. On the other end of the spectrum, there are vividly orange cinderella pumpkins, crisp heirloom apples and dark emerald green kale. It's easy to eat that "rainbow" of fruits and vegetables that "They" recommend in order to get the correct amount and type of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. You know who I'm talking about - the proverbial “They” – those that are “in the know” and watching everything we eat, drink and do (I imagine them as men and women in business suits up in the clouds, pointing at us and shaking their finger after we down an entire bag of potato chips or sneak in that extra crème brulee after dinner).
But even with the plethora of options available, there is one color integral to any rainbow (hint: it’s the base of the rainbow, people!) that can easily get lost amongst the easier to find, brightly shining colors of fruits and veggies in the market: purple. Around our farmer’s market this time of year, we have purple potatoes, purple beans, purple bell peppers, purple (concord) grapes and the often overlooked, purple cabbage (some people say this is red cabbage, but I contend that it looks purple to me and at no point – neither before nor after cooking, does it ever turn red).
(Side note: Believe it or not – and I didn’t at first – but concord grapes really DO taste like grape juice -- or, if you prefer, the other way around!! I was convinced for the first many years of my life that grape juice was like "cherry" flavor, “They” just made that flavor up!!)
But just what do you do with purple cabbage? Throw it in a salad, of course. Perhaps make yourself some coleslaw? Yes, yes, and then...
...yeah, just what the heck can you do with that head of purple cabbage? Especially in this cooler time of year when coleslaw and salad seem like the distant dishes of another time and place called, "Summer."
Well, peeps, I’ve found something delicious you can make with it. You can use that remaining half a head of cabbage you have left over after making your summer salad or your summer coleslaw, that has been dying a slow death of neglect in your vegetable crisper drawer over the last several weeks (my, cabbage does last a long time, doesn't it?). In fact, that just happens to be the perfect amount for this dish. And conveniently enough, you probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry – or at least something you could substitute in and have it taste just fine and be just as beautiful.
So, don’t forget the purple on your plate – it’s good for you, and tasty!
The original recipe called for braising the cabbage in red wine with tempeh bacon and agave nectar instead of maple syrup...I didn't have an open bottle of wine, but did have an open bottle of marsala (go figure) as we are attempting to clean out our cupboards, and we had turkey bacon, not tempeh. It also called for peeling the apples, but since the skin of fruit actually contains quite a few nutrients, I left the peel on them and I couldn't tell the difference. I actually think that I would use marsala again instead of the red wine as it gave it a slightly sweeter flavor (but not too sweet) that went well with the rest of the meal. I served this with grilled Trader Joe's chicken apple sausages (they have maple syrup in them too...), and it was a perfect compliment.
Braised Cabbage with Fuji Apples and Onions, Serves 6-8
adapted from Delicious Living magazine
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
3-4 slices smoked turkey bacon, minced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 cups chopped red cabbage (1/2 cabbage)
2 ½ cups chopped Fuji apple
½ cup marsala
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 bay leaf
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook through, until browned and the fat begins to render. Add the onion and cook until tender. Add cabbage, apple and remaining ingredients. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 35-45 minutes or until the cabbage softens. Uncover and cook for about 10 minutes until most of the liquid hass reduced. Remove the bay leaf and serve hot.