Cabbage has become my favorite winter vegetable: It's earthy, filling and a bargain. I started making cabbage this way a few years ago. I got the idea from an Indian friend, who one holiday quickly sauteed cabbage in butter and black mustard seeds for a last-minute side dish. Here, I opt for slower cooking to yield more umami flavor and silkier results. Plus, the transformation of a heaping pile of raw shards into something manageable and yummy requires mindless attention. It's a good meditation, tending the cabbage as it melts. If you can't get to yoga, get out the butter and a sharp knife and try this. —Teri
large Savoy or green cabbage, sliced into ribbons
stick unsalted butter
(heaping) of cumin seed
kosher salt (or to taste)
or so of sliced leeks or fresh onions (optional)
Get your widest and deepest saute pan. On medium heat, melt butter, slowly.
Start slicing the cabbage. I prefer to do this by hand. I cut off wedges, slice into strips, avoiding the core.
As the butter melts, add the cumin and salt. When the cumin starts sizzling, start piling in the cabbage. It's easiest if you lay it in the pan sliced but still together, like soldiers. Your goal is to get it all in at once. If your using onions, layer them in as well. Turn the heat down a little, if it's cooking too fast. The goal is not to brown the butter or the cabbage, but to let them slowly melt together.
Now comes the tending. Every few minutes, try to turn the cabbage over. It's ok if your efforts aren't uniform. I use tongs and work from the middle, lifting and turning slowly as if the cabbage were pasta. Some cabbage will fall out; just heap it back in.
After about 30 minutes, most of the cabbage should have wilted to varying degrees. From here, just keep going until the vegetable is melted to your liking. The dish usually takes me an hour, from start to finish. Toward the end, some pieces of the cabbage are just getting golden brown but, overall, the veg stays toothsome. Adjust the salt if you like. (I don't use pepper for this, but if you want, go ahead),
I serve this as a side dish with pork or, some nights, by itself over a bowl of rice.