Weeknight cabbage skillet suppers

Cabbage and Lamb skillet (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,

“To talk of many things:

Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax.

Of cabbages — and kings –.

And why the sea is boiling hot —

And whether pigs have wings.”

– (Lewis Carroll in “The Walrus and the Carpenter”)

Labor Day brought us the unofficial end to summer and the start of the school year. September, with brisk, sunny, shortened days, is harvest time – and our garden is teeming with all types of cabbage planted in early summer.

Most Americans know cabbage only from coleslaw and the traditional St. Patrick’s Day feast. Many disdain it as lowly, cheap, and stinky. Since it’s one of the least expensive vegetables in the supermarket, cabbage has been referred to as the “poor man’s vegetable”. Yet cabbage is a delicious, healthy staple in many countries from the Orient to most of Europe, and a main ingredient in many ethnic dishes. In 1984, it obtained the endorsement of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which listed it as one of the top 20 vegetables sustaining world population.

Cabbage belongs to the Brassica or cruciferous family (so called because its flowers are suggestive of a Greek cross). Numerous studies have documented that the sulfur compounds and indoles in cabbage protect against many cancers, including colon, stomach, breast, prostate and lung. In the 1950s, Garnett Cheney, M.D. demonstrated that fresh, raw cabbage juice could speed healing of gastrointestinal ulcers.

Cabbages are also known to stimulate the immune system, improve circulation, lower cholesterol, and kill harmful bacteria. A study published in Food Science and Technology (March 2006) shows that the antioxidant polyphenols, such as anthocyaninis, can protect brain cells from neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. High in fiber, low in carbs and calories, and fat free, it is a good source of vitamin C, is high in vitamin A and several B vitamins, and contains ample amounts of the minerals iron, calcium, and potassium

Hardy, strong, and abundant, it thrives in cool weather and can withstand mild frost, so it is an ideal garden crop for our region. There are now more than 400 varieties of cabbage which vary in color, shape, and texture. In addition to the common green and red head cabbage, these include milder crinkled heads of Savoy and Oriental versions like Napa and choy. Look for solid, compact heads that are shiny, crisp, and heavy for their size. At home, store the heads in a cool, dry place. While fresh heads of cabbage will keep fairly long, cabbage loses much of its sweetness and develops a stronger flavor as it ages, so fresh is best.

To prepare, remove the outer leaves, rinse, then quarter it and remove the core. Once this is done, it is easy to slice or shred. It’s best to start with chilled cabbages, because they retain their crispness longer and the strands separate more easily. Try using different types of cabbage, such as Savoy or Napa.

Properly cooked, cabbage is a sweet, mild, delectable treat. In European countries like Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, cabbage is braised, sauteed, stuffed, stewed and simmered in a myriad of ways. It can also be sliced or shredded in salads, cooked as a side dish, baked in a casserole, stir-fried in Oriental dishes, added to soups and stews, or used to wrap a variety of fillings.

These two skillets — one with apples and ham, one with tomatoes and lamb — are easy and fast to prepare even for a weeknight supper. They can also be made ahead and reheated.

Cabbage, Ham and Apple skillet


1 Tablespoon oil or butter

1 onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 head cabbage

1 apple

2 cups diced cooked ham

1 cup applesauce

1/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese


Heat oil in large skillet. Peel and dice the onion; add, sprinkle with salt, and cook on low heat about five minutes. Chop and add the cabbage. Cook another five to 10 minutes. If it gets dry, moisten with broth, apple cider or water. Core peel and dice the apple; add with diced ham and applesauce. Cook until everything is desired tenderness. Sprinkle with cheese; stir and cook until cheese melts. Serve with boiled potatoes, grain, or pasta. Serves two to three.

Cabbage and Lamb skillet


1 Tablespoon oil or butter

1 onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound ground lamb

1 clove garlic

1/2 head cabbage

1 to 2 large tomatoes or 1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes (1 can)


Heat oil in large skillet. Peel and dice the onion; add, sprinkle with salt, and cook on low heat about five minutes. Add the lamb, and stir to break up pieces and brown. Peel and mince garlic, and add. Chop cabbage coarsely, add, cover, and cook over medium low heat until tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Add tomatoes, and cook five minutes longer. Serve over pasta or a grain like millet or rice. Serves two.

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com, yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook as

Author Yvona Fast.