With or without ginger, red heads can be more fun

Heartier dishes are called for as we ease into the chilly season. Ergo, we tend to plan side dishes, as well as meat preparations, designed to warm the family cockles. Root vegetables come to mind. But leafy vegetables can play a big part in menu planning too.

Where in summer we purchase heads and heads of lettuce to use in all manner of cooling salads, in fall and winter, we tend to use other "heads" to create heartier fare. We're speaking specifically of cabbage.


Did you know that there are at least five different kinds of cabbage? There's "celery" cabbage, which resembles romaine lettuce, only is lighter in color and is a common ingredient in Asian recipes. There's Chinese cabbage, which resembles spinach in color but whose stalks look like celery; it's also known as bok choy.

Savoy cabbage grows in head form and tends to be dark green with crinkly leaves.

"Common" cabbage also comes in heads and is most often used for cole slaw and for stuffing.

And then there's red cabbage, whose head tends to be somewhat elongated and whose leaves are a cheerful deep red in color. This type of cabbage is also used in slaws and makes a traditional side dish in German households. Red cabbage purports to provide nutrients that help fight cancer and contains more vitamin C than its pale green cousin, the "common" cabbage. With only 16 calories per shredded half-cup, red cabbage proves it isn't just a pretty face. And, it's reasonably priced!

Here are some suggestions for adding color, and nutrition to weeknight meals. As is our wont, we begin with something relatively "familiar" to the darlings at our table, then move on to dishes that are a bit more "exotic."

Red and orange slaws

We present a pair of slaws, one "humble," one a bit more "upscale."

Saturday Night Slaw

Franks and home-baked beans were the menu du jour on Saturday nights when I was growing up. If you are into such humble fare, or even if you're still doing some grilling (burgers, barbecued ribs), this colorful, highly nutritious, extremely easy "salad" will stand you in good stead year round.

Most supermarkets carry some form of shredded carrots (usually in the salad bar) that can make this easy dish a whole lot easier.

4 cups shredded carrots

4 cups finely shredded red cabbage (we like to shred our own)

2/3 cup rice wine vinegar

4 teaspoons sugar


2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

Salt, if you must

In a large bowl, toss together carrots and red cabbage. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar, oil and pepper. Just before serving, add some of the dressing to cabbage mixture; toss, taste and add more dressing if desired. Makes about 6 servings.

Sunday Dinner Slaw

Nice with poultry or pork.

1/3 cup golden raisins

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons grated onion

1 tablespoon country-style (coarse) dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

Pinch of sea salt

6 cups finely chopped red cabbage

2 cups grated carrots

In a medium saucepan, combine raisins, vinegar, oil, water, onion, mustard, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil, boil one-half minute, then remove from heat. Cool slightly, then puree in a blender until dressing is smooth.

To serve, place cabbage and carrots in a large bowl, add warm vinaigrette, toss and serve. Makes about 6 servings.

Warm cabbage salad

This side-dish salad features a plethora of healthy and colorful ingredients, designed to be tasteful and warming. The dressing is good enough to become a classic at your house. And the salad itself could very well serve as a first course at a festive dinner party.

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon country-style dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

3 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon olive oil


1/2 cup pine nuts

3 ounces pancetta (Italian unsmoked, cured bacon), chopped (or use regular bacon, but cook it first, then remove most of the grease before toasting pine nuts in same skillet)

1 1/2 pounds red cabbage in 1/4-inch slices

8 ounces baby spinach, tough stems discarded

For the dressing, in a plate, with a fork, mash garlic to a paste. Place in a small bowl. Add mustard, honey and balsamic vinegar. Whisk well. Slowly whisk in olive oil in a steady stream, whisking until mixture emulsifies (thickens somewhat).

For the salad, in a large, non-stick skillet, over medium heat, toast pine nuts for about 2 minutes, stirring. Add pancetta and cook until browned and crisp, about 2 minutes. Add cabbage and toss to combine, cover and cook until just wilted and tender, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add spinach, stirring, just until spinach just begins to wilt, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat. Add vinaigrette and toss. Taste for seasonings. Serve immediately. Makes about 6 servings.

Cabbage 'n apples

This is a fancied-up version of the classic Oktoberfest side dish that goes so gloriously with a selection of wursts and German potato salad. It's colorful and presents that sweet-tart taste that goes so well with simply prepared protein sources. You might try it with roast chicken. Or roast turkey; makes an interesting holiday side dish. Or, make your own wiener schnitzel, using boneless chicken breast (pounded thin) or turkey cutlets if the "gang" gets all hyper when served veal.

You'll almost always find something acidic (e.g. vinegar) in recipes for cooked red cabbage; one reason is that the vinegar helps the red stay red.

1/2 pound bacon, in 1-inch pieces

1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 pounds red cabbage, cored, thinly sliced

1 small whole onion, peeled, studded with 8 whole cloves

2 large Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, quartered, cored, sliced 1/8 inch thick

3/4 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup red wine

3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 cup red currant jelly

In a large, heavy pot, over medium-high, cook bacon until brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add chopped onions and sauté 5 minutes. Add red cabbage, cover and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Mix in whole onion, apples, raisins, vinegar, red wine, brown sugar, caraway seeds and thyme, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage and apples are very soft, about 40 minutes. Add red currant jelly and cook, uncovered, until juices thicken, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes longer. Taste for salt and pepper. Remove clove-studded whole onion before serving. Serve warm. Makes 6 or more servings.