Some dishes that we associate with the dark days of winter from storage crops become transformed when made with the season’s first harvests, becoming lighter, more flavorful and maybe even more nutritious. I think of minestrone from early carrots, spring onions and tiny zucchini. Or fresh pea soup made in the style of its dried split pea counterpart.
Here’s another, a light cabbage stew from an early harvest. To accompany the small cone-headed cabbages we get from our CSA – perfect for quartering into individual portions – I used spring onions and first-of-the-season, tomatoes, fresh-dug potatoes and multi-colored carrots along with a small handful of thyme from my garden. Stewed gently with homemade chicken stock and white wine, this made a simple supper served with spicy hot mustard and a light but flavorful chicken sausage. In the winter, I would stew a spicy pork sausage – andouille or chorizo — with the vegetables, which imparts incredible depth to the liquid. However, served lightly here, the delicate flavors of the vegetables themselves are allowed to shine.
Summery Cabbage Stew
1 small cone-headed or spherical green cabbage (about 1-1½ lb)
2 spring onions, sliced
2 tsp olive oil
6 carrots, sliced if small, diced if large
2 small tomatoes, diced
4 small potatoes, quartered
4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme
4-6 black peppercorns (or freshly ground pepper to taste)
1½ c white wine
1 c chicken broth, preferably homemade
Pre-cooked or dried sausage (optional)
Remove any tough wrapper leaves from the cabbage and set them aside for another use. Quarter the cabbage if small (or cut into wedges of large) and slice out the core.
Slowly sauté the onion in oil until just translucent, about 2 minutes at most. Place the cabbage wedges on top, and add the carrots, tomatoes and potatoes, then the wine and broth. Bring the stew to a simmer on top of the stove, cover tightly, and let cook slowly until everything is tender, about 40 minutes. Check periodically to make sure the stew is simmering, not boiling. If you want to cook smoked sausage with the stew, cut it in chunks and add it part way through the cooking process. (Adding it earlier could dry out the sausage. Adding it later doesn’t allow it to contribute to the broth.)