Holy cow, this was such a wet week for us in SLC! I’ve been cozied up in all my favorite sweaters and boots all week, and I’m so surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed the cool weather and rain puddles. I had spent last weekend and the beginning of this week preparing for our Eat Local Cooking Class. Eat Local Week began this past Saturday, and our class was part of the festivities taking place all over the valley in celebration of our fabulous local food farmers and artisans. I had the menu set weeks in advance, local produce purchased, and a hoard of local products from the Caputo’s shelves that I couldn’t wait to share. Then, the rain came, and it changed the whole menu.
One of my favorite recipes comes from one of my favorite women, Marcella Hazan. I don’t think there will ever be another person or collection of recipes that I will admire more than her and hers. Smothered cabbage—it may sound bland or boring, but this is the base to the most comforting soup I’ve ever made. Caramelized onions, browned garlic, shredded cabbage, and light seasoning slowly cook over low heat for hours. This transforms the cabbage into a sweetened, complex, and totally craveable dish. On its own, it is the perfect side for roasted and braised meats. When I’m sick, however, this is the foundation for the soup that has entirely replaced the ol’ standby, chicken noodle.
I make a double batch of smothered cabbage as soon as I begin to feel a cold coming on. The cabbage will last for about two weeks in the refrigerator, and it only takes 25 minutes to make a new bowl of soup to snuggle up to. Cabbage is just beginning to make its fall debut at our local farmers markets, and this is the perfect recipe to add to your wintertime arsenal.
Marcella Hazan’s Smothered Cabbage, Venetian Style
• 2 pounds green, red, or Savoy cabbage
• ½ cup chopped onion
• ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
• Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
• 1 tablespoon wine vinegar, white or red (I use sherry vinegar)
Detach and discard the first few outer leaves of the cabbage. The remaining head of leaves must be shredded very fine. If you are going to do it by hand, cut the leaves into fine shreds, slicing them off the whole head. Turn the head after you have sliced a section of it until gradually you expose the entire core, which must be discarded. If you want to use the food processor, cut the leaves off from the core in sections, discard the core and process the leaves through a shredding attachment.
Put the onion and olive oil into a large sauté pan, and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it becomes colored a deep gold, then add the garlic. When you have cooked the garlic until it becomes colored a very pale gold, add the shredded cabbage. Turn the cabbage over 2 or 3 times to coat it well, and cook it until it is wilted.
Add salt, pepper, and the vinegar. Turn the cabbage over once completely, lower the heat to minimum, and cover the pan tightly. Cook for at least 1 1/2 hours, or until it is very tender, turning it from time to time. If while it is cooking, the liquid in the pan should become insufficient, add 2 tablespoons water as needed. When done, taste and correct for salt and pepper. Allow it to settle off the heat for a few minutes before serving.
Marcella Hazan’s Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup
- 3 cups homemade meat broth or 1 cup canned beef broth diluted with 2 cups of water, or 1 1/2 bouillon cubes dissolved in 3 cups of water
- 2/3 cup Arborio rice
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano
- Freshly ground black pepper
Put the cabbage and broth into a soup pot, and turn on the heat to medium. When the broth comes to a boil, add the rice. Cook uncovered, adjusting the heat so that the soup bubbles at a slow but steady boil, stirring from time to time until the rice is done. It must be tender, but firm to the bite, and should take around 20 minutes. If while the rice is cooking, you find the soup becoming too thick, dilute it with a ladleful of homemade broth or water. The soup should be on the dense-ish side when finished.
When the rice is done, before turning off the heat, stir in the butter and the grated cheese. Taste and correct for salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into individual plates and allow it to settle a few minutes before serving.
Note: The smothered cabbage can be prepared 2 or 3 days ahead of the soup, or served as a side dish from here. It also freezes well.