I made up this new way of preparing cabbage last week and had to make it again today. It is that good. Roasting brings out the cabbage's natural sweetness and the mellow flavor is enhanced by the fruity richness of the coconut oil, the salt of the soy, and the smoky sweetness of the maple syrup.
I had two thoughts on tasting the first bite. The first was, "This is GOOD!" and the second was, "Thank goodness! Now I can stop leaving those heads of cabbage at the CSA pick-up site every week!"
The idea was inspired by some roasted cabbage wedges my mom-in-law served a year or two ago as part of one of the many dinners she's made for us. I'd been well and truly surprised by the delicate flavor, sweetness, and appealing softness of those wedges and had had it in the (very) back of my mind to try roasting cabbage ever since.
So when we started getting cabbages from our CSA (community supported agriculture share), Hearty Roots a few weeks ago, the idea floated up from the murky depths of my mind. Our friend, Liza (the one who introduced me to these wonderful gluten-free muffins), who was over for dinner when I made this told me that the flavor brought her back to her time in the West Indies. Whatever culture it fits with, the flavor is really good.
As with all my favorite recipes, this one is simple and easy. Start with a big head of cabbage. Give it a rinse. Peel off any limp or damaged outer leaves. Cut the head of cabbage in half. Remove the core from both halves. Slice it up. You're not going for paper-thin strips here – it needs to be able to stand up to the heat of the oven and still have something left to show for itself at the end.
Mound it up on a thick baking sheet. You may need to use two if it's a big head of cabbage. Pour coconut oil, soy sauce, and maple syrup over it and use your hands to mix it all up and ensure that it's all well-coated. You can also do this step in a mixing bowl if you'd prefer but that's one more bowl you'll have to clean and it's not necessary.
Put it in the oven. Set a timer for 15 minutes and go clean up whatever mess you made so far. When the timer beeps, take the sheet(s) out and stir them up to give any bits that weren't in contact with the metal a chance, and put them back in the oven. Set the timer for another 15 minutes and repeat. And repeat one more time after that. Roughly 40 minutes in the oven total.
Serve warm or cool (but not cold.) I served it with these ginger-soy baked tofu squares, a big bowl of my favorite peanut sauce which is a variation on Deborah Madison's quick peanut sauce in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and a pot of short-grain brown rice. In addition to being delicious, this cabbage is also gluten-free, dairy-free, and completely vegan so you should be able to serve it to pretty much anyone, regardless of their dietary restrictions.
Salty sweet roasted cabbage
Serves 4 as a side
1 large head of cabbage (red or green, no matter)
2-3 tablespoons coconut oil – if the coconut oil has solidified, heat it briefly to get it to a liquid state
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 teaspoons soy sauce
1. Turn the oven on to 325 degrees F. Rinse the cabbage, remove any wilted outer leaves. Cut it in half and remove the tough inner core and stem from both halves. Slice into 1/4-inch strips and mound on a thick baking sheet.
2. Pour the coconut oil, soy sauce, and maple syrup over the mound and use your hands to mix it up, making sure all the cabbage is well-coated in the mixture.
3. Put it in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes to ensure even cooking, until the cabbage is soft and tender and some of the thinner strips have turned brown and crispy. If you slice it thinner, it will cook more quickly, thicker strips take a little bit longer – hence the range in cook time above.