I’m just back from the market with five bunches of daffodils along with the groceries for the week. The daffodils are as much a sign of my readiness for spring as well as a sign of winter’s cold clutch on our soil that should be sprouting green shoots and the first flowers of spring. Instead the landscape is gray and punctuated by stubborn heaps of dirty snow that just won’t leave.
If the daffodils and crocus blooms are still weeks away, then early spring local vegetables such as tender green peas and verdant asparagus are still months away. That means we’re still eating cabbage, beets, and other winter vegetables. It also means that it’s time to get creative with these winter stalwarts. It’s time to say enough with the buttered broccoli, the mashed turnips, and the boiled beets.
It’s time to open the spice cabinet and it’s time to combine these sturdy vegetables of winter with some sultry cream and exotic spice.
Here’s a recipe for baked cabbage that’s a cinch to make.
1 medium-sized head of green cabbage
1 Batard or loaf of crusty bread
1 dozen eggs
1 pint sour cream
1 pint half and half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoons cardamom
½ cup almond slivers
Core and slice the cabbage into thin wedges that are no more than ½ inch thick. Slice the batard into thin slices. In a blender, mix the eggs, sour cream, half and half, milk, and spices. In an unbuttered casserole, layer the bread and cabbage until the casserole is full. Press it down and add another layer of cabbage and bread. Pour all but a cup of the egg mixture over the casserole. Sprinkle the almond slivers on top, cover, and bake in a 400 F oven for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour the remaining egg mixture on the almond slivers. Bake uncovered for another 40-60 minutes. You’ll know that the casserole is done when the egg custard has set.
This is a sophisticated cabbage casserole. The spices give it a fragrant, complex and rich flavor while the egg custard is sultry and the bread absorbs all the flavor and liquid from the custard and cabbage. All the while, the cabbage leaves steam gently, retaining their structure and absorbing flavor from the rich spices.
This baked cabbage casserole is the main event with the right balance of protein, green vegetable, and starch that will take you far from the cold and gray winter that has overstayed his welcome.