I’ll admit it – sometimes it’s hard to get excited about cabbage. I think this recipe will change your mind a little bit. Roasting the cabbage provides for a subtly sweet flavor, and slicing it into thick steaks gives them an unexpected heft.

That’s not to say that cabbage is without merit. For starters, it’s very affordable, and mildly-flavored. Next, it’s easy to prepare: this dish literally takes seconds to prepare, and then you toss it in the oven until it’s ready to be devoured.

Cabbage has a long history in Europe, traced back at least 3,000 years as a cultivated vegetable. Its English name is derived from the Latin word caput (“head”); ironically, the actual Latin word for cabbage is brassica, derived from the Celtic word bresic. Quite a journey for one word to make!

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When one blogs about their food experiences, some patterns start to show. For example, over the past 5+ years writing for this blog, I’ve only posted four salad recipes. That’s not because I think salads aren’t worth making, but rather, it’s an indication of how I view salads: as something you throw together using the vegetables available in your crisper, or on your counter.

In truth, there is still some merit to writing salad recipes. Sometimes, it’s good to have a solid blueprint for future cooking endeavors. Case in point is this Winter Slaw, modeled after European-style cabbage salads.

Out of the countries who count their cabbage intake, Russians consume the most – about 40 pounds per person, compared to 9 pounds per person in the United States. Cabbage often carries a bad reputation, since some folks experience a negative response after eating it; this is due to the trisaccharide raffinose, which is found in cabbage, beans, broccoli, and asparagus. That gassiness is caused by the trisaccharide fermenting in your lower intestine.

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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are often considered the most comforting of dishes, so much so that every Eastern European country wants to stake claim on owning the original recipe. While there is no definitive origin story, the prevailing story is this: members of the Russian aristocracy, visiting France in the mid-1700s, became enamored with their dishes of stuffed and roasted pigeons. Upon returning home, they ordered the dish to be recreated, and the closest they could come were the stuffed cabbage rolls we know and love today. This is evidenced by the similarity between the Russian words for stuffed cabbage rolls (Golubtsy) and pigeons (Goluby).

In recent years, a new phenomenon has sprouted up: Lazy Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. Regular cabbage rolls require you to par-boil the cabbage leaves and roll each wrap before roasting or simmering everything; the whole process can take hours. Instead, home chefs have been simply chopping up the cabbage and adding it to the filling, cooking everything at once in about 1/4 of the time. This is the variation we’re going to tackle today.

Be sure to check out the video after the recipe; now that we’ve relocated to a house with a larger kitchen, I filmed a short cooking demonstration of the dish. I’m still working out some production kinks, but if you like the video I’ll keep cracking at it!

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A few years ago I spent a winter in Bavaria, the Southeastern state in Germany. One of my favorite dishes there was Blaukraut, a simple simmered red cabbage. The dish has three different names in Germany – Blaukraut (“blue cabbage”) in the South, Rotkraut (“red cabbage”) in Central Germany, and Rotkohl (also “red cabbage” – kohl is a Northern word for kraut).

It’s believed that the different names stemmed from the fact that the cabbage can take on different colors depending on the acidity of the soil it was grown in and its method of preparation. Some contend that the variation comes from the fact that there wasn’t a German word for the color purple until after the cabbage had been introduced. Since red cabbage has a tendency to turn a blueish color when cooked, adding acid (in this case, apple cider vinegar) helps retain its redness.

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A reader recently tipped me off about the idea of pan-frying rice papers (bánh tráng) to make a quick snack. Not only was it a great idea, it served as a unique way of making a quick serving “dish”; in fact, they acted not unlike tostadas in that sense. So to keep with the theme of rice papers, I decided to make some deconstructed spring roll “tostadas” as a quick and easy meal.

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NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Cabbage rolls are found all over Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. They are staple dishes in Croatia, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, and Sweden; in Russia, they’re called голубцы (golubtsy) and make regular dinnertime appearances in most homes.

There is some controversy over the origin of the dish. One common theory is based on its name, which could be linked to the word Russian word for pigeons (голуби). Russian cuisine and culture was heavily influenced by the French in the 17th and 18th centuries, and these stuffed cabbage rolls could be an attempt to recreate roasted pigeons, a popular French dish at the time.

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