About Beth

Beth
Beth, along with her husband, Mike, is co-owner of two Italian Deli/Markets in St. Louis - Viviano’s Festa Italiano. When not creating yummy new menu items for the deli, she’s the pediatric research lab supervisor at Washington University School of Medicine. Read more out about Viviano’s Festa Italiano.

About Irene

Irene
Irene loves to think, read and dream about food. She enjoys cooking & eating in general. Although she demures about her talents, Irene has a finely-tuned palate that her friends envy. She bakes on occasion. The rest of the time she's creating memories with her family and friends. . . or she's learning a new needlecraft technique.

About Deborah

Deborah
Deborah is a wife, mother, grandmother, traveler, bootlegger, and a very poor speller! As Victor Hazan so eloquently puts it, Deborah has chosen Umbria to be the home of her soul. When she can’t be there in body, she spends her free time cooking & reading about Italy. She blogs mostly about food and about trips – past and future – here: Old Shoes New Trip.

About Doug

Doug
Doug lives in Eastern Ontario in a farmhouse built in 1903. He is a retired teacher with four adult children, a wife, a son-in-law, two Irish step-grandchildren and one grandson who he is lucky to hang with a lot. He has way too many books. Doug also blogs at To Slow Time Down.

About Cindy

Cindy
Cindy lives in Eagle River, Alaska where her freezer is always full of salmon, halibut & shrimp. Cindy participates in several regular cooking challenges. You can read more about her cooking and life in the last frontier on her blog, Baked Alaska.

About Sandi

Sandi
Sandi is a true Southerner, but a traveler & Italian cook at heart. She lives in Alabama and knows more about fried green tomatoes than fricassees. Her family owned the WhistleStop Café for many years. Sandi also blogs at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking.

About Jan

Jan
Jan, a serious home cook, has owned “Essentials” since 1992. She is passionate about all things Italian, especially the cuisine & the language. Jan blogs about her travels (next trip Italy May/June of 2010) at: Keep your Feet in the Street.

About Jerry

Jerry
Jerry is a food obsessed Canadian. He learned to love Italian food as a child while eating the meals prepared by his Napolitano uncle. He learned to cook Italian foods by watching his uncle cook these feasts for the family. This love of Italian food has been honed through serious personal experimentation in eating and cooking. Willing to try most anything once, Jerry isn't so sure about tripe! Jerry also blogs at Jerry's Thoughts, Musings, and Rants!

About Palma

Palma
Palma is a Marriage & Family Therapist in Palm Desert, CA. She’s an Italian-American with a passion for cooking, entertaining, & travel to Italy. She’s always planning her next culinary adventure to Italia on her blog, Palmabella's Passions

About Kim

Kim
Kim is our permanent sub and the image above gives you a good idea of the look on her face when she realized she was drafted. Kim loves to eat, drink, travel and cook - probably in that order. When she's not here, you can find her organizing and leading food, wine and beer tours in Europe as co-owner and operator of GrapeHops or blogging at What I Really Think.

« Fried Broccoli Florets | Main | Braised Carrots with Parmesan Cheese »

Smothered Cabbage, Venetian Style

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A nation's menu is an ever changing thing; largely impacted by the geopolitics and/or economics of the day. Waves of immigration brought European cuisines to North America. Construction of the cross-continental railroads and the various gold rushes brought Asian workers who introduced Chinese food to North American tables. The fall of Viet Nam brought refugees with a penchant for certain foods that were unheard of 40 years ago but we now love. One of the things I most enjoy about Toronto is the cluster of restaurants in the city's so-called 'ethnic neighbourhoods' where one can eat and drink and be transported thousands of miles away.

I see it happening here in Burlington of all places. A local strawberry farm, needing a supply of workers for the farm started to hire Mexican workers. Within two years our local farmers' market featured tomatillos, hot peppers, and a shop opened up where you can buy corn husks, masa, and dried peppers. Happily I no longer need to bring these things back from trips to California. I am sure a good Mexican restaurant won't be far off. *fingers crossed*

Italy is no different. It seems strange to us but the Italian food we think of as quintessential 'Italian' didn't exist years ago. Tomatoes were brought to Italy by the 1530's where it was widely thought that they were poisonous thus were grown only for decoration. It wasn't until people were starving in the Naples area that the poisonous tomato became commonly used as food for the poor. While many schoolchildren are taught that Marco Polo introduced pasta to the nation's diet it was more likely Arab traders in the 8th century who brought dried pasta to Italy. Gelato is another Italian staple that Polo is thought to have brought to Italy - this too is unlikely but there is evidence to suggest that he did bring the concept of an ice cream maker - something the Chinese had perfect thousands of years before Polo ever trekked to China in search spices, silks, and gemstones. Intermarriage among the wealthy families either imported dishes to Italy or exported Italian culinary strengths to other countries (as was the case when Catherine De Medici of Florence married the man who was to become Henry II of France).

I am sure you're sitting there saying 'this is very interesting Jerry but what the hell does this have to do with the smothered cabbage you're supposed to be writing about?'

Patience, gentle reader, patience.

This dish, to my addled brain at 7 am on a snowy Saturday morning, seems to not be what one would think of as Italian food at all. Cabbage is a vegetable that tolerates the cold well - one passes field after field of cabbage throughout central and northern Europe. Marcella writes, and the name itself suggests, that this is a dish common in the Venice area - an area known for the movement goods both in and out of the city due to the talents of the people in seafaring.

I've had similar dishes before. Over on my own blog you'll find posts about braised cabbage with apples, meatballs with braised cabbage, and so on. The dishes are generally from the Alpine regions of Europe. Braised cabbage also features widely on Russian, Polish, and Nordic menus.

Families intermingle with families from the next village. Traders move to set up shop in a large city. Invaders stream down from the Alps to try and seize the Pearl that is Venice . . . years later a recipe for smothered cabbage, a dish that seems positively Germanic in sensibility, gets featured in a cookbook on Italian cooking. You see how it works.

Happily I looked ahead in the fall and noticed that I had this coming up in the rotation. As I mentioned last night on my own blog, cabbage is one of the foods that screams 'fall' to me. This was added to the menu where I made the praised pork with vinegar and bay leaves (pork also says 'fall' to me for some reason - clearly I am food obsessed when the seasons 'talk' to me about food) and the sunchoke gratin that I wrote about two weeks ago.

Marcella writes that you can use any variety of cabbage for this dish - I had a red cabbage on hand so that was what I used. The cabbage is shredded finely - a critical step - given my shoddy knife skills I used a mandolin. Onions are sautéed in olive oil. Garlic added to the golden onions. Followed by the fine shards of cabbage. Once the cabbage is well coated with the onion/garlic/oil mixture it cooks until wilted, at which time the remaining ingredients are added. Now the pot is covered and left on a low heat for at least 90 minutes – it takes patience to cook something that smells so good for so long . . . . but you won’t regret it when you taste your first mouthful.

The slow cooking method softens the cabbage flavour that some find harsh. The addition of vinegar, garlic, and onion provide for sophisticated layers of flavour that is very appealing. The splash of vinegar (this is one area where the recipe is quite different than other slowly cooked cabbage dishes that I have made - generally they require far more vinegar) truly transforms this dish.

Here is the complete meal - what a perfect cool weather feast this was!

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Comments (7)

Amy:

Lovely post, Jerry. I have several heads of cabbage in storage from my farm share, now I have another great use for it.

I adore slowly cooked cabbage and after reading this, I think I will have to have some this weekend!

Ray Anne:

I don't even eat cabbage, but your glorious writing inspires me. Thanks. And Happy New Year to all.

Marcella Hazan:

If it weren't my recipe already, you'd have me trying it! Incidentally, Venice is in an Alpine region, don't you know? Ever hear of Cortina?

Jerry, you transported me all the way back to the beginning of this odyssey and the soup chapter. My assignment was Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup. And like Pavlov's dog, my mouth is watering.
Now I MUST go make it again.

I am making this dish as I write, but my cabbage turned to almost mush like consistency in the food processor. I'm making it anyway because I believe it will still taste good. Here's hoping!

Marcella Hazan:

@ Joni: Forget the food processor when shredding cabbage. Of course it's going to turn to mush. Use machines as little as possible to make good food. If you are afraid of knives, find someone who is good at it and who will teach you and then practice.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 15, 2011 6:24 AM.

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