Red Cabbage (October 20, 2011)

Heartier dishes are called for as we ease into the chilly season. Ergo, we tend to plan side dishes, as well as meat preparations, designed to warm the family cockles. Root vegetables come to mind. But leafy vegetables can play a big part in menu planning too.

Where in summer we purchase heads and heads of lettuce to use in all manner of cooling salads, in fall and winter, we tend to use other "heads" to create heartier fare. We're speaking specifically of cabbage.

Did you know that there are at least five different kinds of cabbage? There's "celery" cabbage, which resembles romaine lettuce, only is lighter in color and is a common ingredient in Asian recipes. There's Chinese cabbage, which resembles spinach in color but whose stalks look like celery; it's also known as bok choy.

Savoy cabbage grows in head form and tends to be dark green with crinkly leaves.

"Common" cabbage also comes in heads and is most often used for cole slaw and for stuffing.

And then there's red cabbage, whose head tends to be somewhat elongated and whose leaves are a cheerful deep red in color. This type of cabbage is also used in slaws and makes a traditional side dish in German households. Red cabbage purports to provide nutrients that help fight cancer and contains more vitamin C than its pale green cousin, the "common" cabbage. With only 16 calories per shredded half-cup, red cabbage proves it isn't just a pretty face. And, it's reasonably priced!

Here are some suggestions for adding color, and nutrition to weeknight meals. As is our wont, we begin with something relatively "familiar" to the darlings at our table, then move on to dishes that are a bit more "exotic."

Red and orange slaws

We present a pair of slaws, one "humble," one a bit more "upscale."

Saturday Night Slaw

Franks and home-baked beans were the menu du jour on Saturday nights when I was growing up. If you are into such humble fare, or even if you're still doing some grilling (burgers, barbecued ribs), this colorful, highly nutritious, extremely easy "salad" will stand you in good stead year round.

Most supermarkets carry some form of shredded carrots (usually in the salad bar) that can make this easy dish a whole lot easier.

4 cups shredded carrots

4 cups finely shredded red cabbage (we like to shred our own)

2/3 cup rice wine vinegar

4 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

Salt, if you must

In a large bowl, toss together carrots and red cabbage. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar, oil and pepper. Just before serving, add some of the dressing to cabbage mixture; toss, taste and add more dressing if desired. Makes about 6 servings.