These days, when you enter a hip restaurant, you can expect the menu to offer at least one trendy take on kale, Brussels sprouts or even cauliflower. But cabbage? Cabbage is still waiting for its moment in the sun. We encounter this leafy green, rich in vitamins K and C, most often as a co-star in sauerkraut, slaws and old-fashioned stews. We celebrate with cabbage just one day a year — on St. Patrick’s Day — and even then it’s overshadowed by fatty cuts of slow-cooked corned beef. But from a chef’s perspective, cabbage has a lot to offer: It usually clocks in at around $1.24 per pound, whereas kale or Brussels sprouts might cost you double at some marketplaces. It’s also highly abundant around this time of year, when produce supplies start to thin out.
At New York City’s Eataly, Executive Chef Fitz Tallon is shaking up the vegetable hierarchy by turning to these compact, flowerlike bundles to create locally-sourced salads for his fall and winter menus. “There’s this problem on the East Coast where after October, we go into vegetable purgatory and only have access to root vegetables and select greens, like cabbage,” Tallon says. “It’s important to use those products throughout the fall and winter and not have to rely on stuff from 3,000 miles away.”
His new salad at La Birreria, Eataly’s rooftop restaurant, combines blanched cabbage with crisp celery root — another underutilized vegetable — Gala apples, juicy Concord grapes and some sliced speck, for a savory counterpoint. Pickled mustard-seed vinaigrette unites the dish.
Tallon first had the idea to experiment with cabbage after a recent trip to Morning Glory Farm on Martha’s Vineyard, where he managed the field crew for about two years before coming to Eataly. “They happened to just have picked some Savoy cabbage. I thought, ‘I rarely see salads based on cabbage,’” he recalls. “It’s sometimes a part of a salad but never the main ingredient, yet the leaves are incredibly tender. People should be using a lot more of it.”
1 head Savoy cabbage (roughly 2 to 2 1/2 pounds), leaves separated, stems removed
3/4 cup (or 1/2 head) celery root, cut into 3-inch-by-1 1/2-inch rectangular shapes, shaved thin on Japanese mandoline along the long side
2 apples, preferably Gala, cut in half, shaved same thickness as celery root
3 slices speck
1/4 cup whole parsley leaves
1 cup Concord grapes, split and de-seeded
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided between vinaigrette and for salad
Salt, to taste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon pickled mustard seeds (recipe below)
Pickled Mustard Seeds:
1/2 cup mustard seeds
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
Combine all ingredients in saucepan and boil quickly until seeds are plump and liquid is syrup consistency.
Yield: 1 cup pickled mustard seeds
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and season with salt until it tastes like the sea. Prepare an ice bath with salt and stir to dissolve. It will be used to shock (stop the cooking process) the blanched cabbage. Begin by blanching the thick, dark outer leaves for 1 minute, or until slightly tender. Remove and shock in ice bath. Blanch the middle and inner leaves for 30 seconds each, or until slightly tender. Remove and shock in ice bath. Cut the separated blanched leaves into bite-size pieces of your choice.
Mix the cabbage with the shaved apples, celery root, speck, grapes and parsley. Dress lightly with olive oil and season with salt to taste. Once plated, drizzle vinaigrette on salad until dressed to your desire.
Per serving: Calories 309; Fat 16 g (Saturated 3 g); Cholesterol 8 g; Sodium 657 mg; Carbohydrate 36 g; Fiber 10 g; Sugars 24 g; Protein 9 g