This recipe is NOT related to “the cabbage soup diet,” although it’s very healthy, so if you are looking to stay slim and trim, this recipe will do the trick. Believe me when I tell you that this soup tastes incredibly delicious. When I tell people I am making cabbage soup, it usually invokes the that-doesn’t-sound-so-appealing facial expression, but those people couldn’t be more wrong!
This soup contains few ingredients, yet it is packed with flavor. I learned how to make this recipe back in 2004 when I was a freshmen in college and my aunt & uncle would invite me over to Staten Island to their house for Sunday supper. The prospect of not having to ingest another gross meal from the college cafeteria was pretty much my version of Heaven on Earth, especially because I knew that I was going to eat an incredible meal prepared by my Aunt Elena.
When I would arrive, all of my favorite dishes would be splayed across the table like eggplant parmesan, potatoes and eggs, vodka sauce, and cabbage soup. My aunt and uncle would encourage me to bring along whoever I wanted and Aunt Elena would make enough food to feed an army. She insisted that I take home all of the leftovers and would also send me home with a grocery bag filled with gourmet cheeses and pasta as well. I would come home and struggle to shove all of my goods into my sad little mini-fridge. My aunt’s generosity and delicious food, paired with my Super Nintendo setup, made me the most popular room to hang out with on the entire floor.
Back then, I was a novice in the kitchen, but I craved home cooked meals since I didn’t even have a kitchen on my floor in my college dorm. My Aunt showed me how to make her cabbage soup and it’s so easy, that even a beginner in the kitchen such as my 2004 self could handle. Aunt Elena uses only water in her version and it’s delicious, but I add some broth to mine. This is another old Italian dish that is considered to be “peasant food.” I guess I would have been a really good peasant when it came to eating because all of those recipes are my favorite!
According to The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Woods, “cabbage ranks as one of the healthiest of vegetables, with good reason. It supports chi circulation, clears heat, and tonifies the lungs, large intestine, and stomach.” Cabbage in general—but also Savoy cabbage in particular—turns out to be an especially good source of sinigrin. Sinigrin is one of the cabbage glucosinolates that has received special attention in cancer prevention research. The sinigrin in cabbage can be converted into allyl-isothiocyanate, or AITC. This isothiocyanate compound has shown unique cancer preventive properties with respect to bladder cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. Cabbage also helps treat contipation, poor circulation, mental depression and irritability. It was used by the Romans as a hangover cure, so maybe plan to have yourself a bowl of cabbage soup the day after your upcoming holiday party!
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 6 gloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups green or savoy cabbage (about ½ head), shredded
- ½-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained
- 1½ cups water
- Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- ½ cup nutritional yeast flakes (if making vegan) OR ½ cup parmesan cheese (if making vegetarian)
- Detach and discard the first few outer leaves of the cabbage. Slice the remaining head of leaves into very fine shreds. If you are going to do it by hand, cut the leaves into fine shreds, slicing them off the whole head. Turn the head after you have sliced a section of it until gradually you expose the entire core, which must be discarded. If you want to use the food processor, cut the leaves off from the core in sections, discard the core and process the leaves through a shredding attachment.
- Put the olive oil and garlic into a large pot, and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the garlic until it becomes vey pale gold colored. Then add the shredded cabbage. Turn the cabbage over 2 or 3 times to coat it well, and cook it until it is wilted, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add crushed red pepper, salt, pepper, white beans and water. Turn the cabbage over once completely, lower the heat to minimum, and cover the pan tightly. Cook for 50-60 minutes, or until it is very tender, turning it from time to time. If while it is cooking, the liquid in the pan should become insufficient, add 2 tablespoons water as needed. When done, add nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese and then taste and correct for salt and pepper. Add as much broth as desired. Allow it to settle a few minutes off heat before serving.