GREAT QUICK VEGETABLE SIDES: Caramelized Corn; Patty Pan Squash Sauté; Alta Brussels Sprouts with Apple, Pistachios, and Creme Fraiche; Garlic-Rosemary Mashed Potatoes; Roasted Fennel; Spinach with Bacon Bits
The thing about cabbage is that it’s just such an ideal, quarter-lifey vegetable. It’s inexpensive and serves a crowd. Best of all, it keeps almost forever in the fridge, making it what we call a “pantry” vegetable: there for you to eat when you need food the most and are feeling least enthusiastic about shopping for and preparing it.
One way to approach a cabbage is to chip away at it, to cut quarters of a cabbage into slivers and use them to top a taco dinner for two, or to add some crunch to a sandwich for one. You can take an opposite tact, slicing a whole cabbage and mixing it with carrots, onions, herbs, and a briny dressing to make a slaw–perhaps our favorite summer salad.
But as summer ends, it’s possible you’ve had enough slaw. That’s when (if not before) you want to cook cabbage, turn it from crunchy garnish to sweet, rich braise. This dish has minimal ingredients and requires virtually no skill. But the result is a mild-flavored, exceedingly tender and tongue-pleasing vegetable side that can be eaten hot or room temperature, at a picnic or inside, as the weather slowly but surely starts to turn.
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Cabbage with Mustard Seeds
This dish is saucy enough to be tossed with pasta, if you want to turn it into a main dish
2 teaspoons neutral oil
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 small cabbage, cored, trimmed, and sliced thinly
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste.
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the oil and make sure it’s shimmery, then sprinkle the mustard seeds across the surface and cover immediately. Cook until the mustard seeds stop popping, about 1 minute. Remove the cover, add the cabbage and onion, and turn the heat to medium. Cook, tossing the vegetables as you go–they’ll quickly start to wilt. Add the butter and the salt and toss to combine.
When the vegetables have just released their juices, after about 3-4 minutes, turn the heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until the cabbage is tender. Taste for salt and remove from the heat. Serve hot or room temperature. This is great as a side, tossed with pasta or rice, or as a filling in quesadillas.