If you’re tired of the same old vegetable side dishes, here’s a recipe that promotes the lowly red cabbage from side dish to protein partner. All you have to do is cook it up sweet and sour and — voila! — your side dish is now ready to walk down the aisle arm in arm with pork in any form: chops, smoked chops, roast, ham, Canadian bacon, kielbasa, Italian sausages. Really, there’s nothing required — no sauces, no extras — other than cooking the pork and lowering it onto the cabbage. What makes this dish such a good partner for pork? Its sourness cuts right through the meat’s natural fattiness.
Consisting of just six ingredients, this recipe is a snap to make — and the balance of sweet and sour is up to you. My sourpuss family isn’t a fan of sugar in savory dishes, so I added just a single tablespoon of brown sugar to the cabbage. But if the dish then strikes you as too tart, by all means add a second tablespoon or even a tad more.
And by the way, combining red cabbage with an acid — balsamic vinegar, in this case — turns its color from dull blue-ish red to jewel-like pink. All of a sudden, this veggie is scoring an A-plus in visuals — a welcome bonus even if it’s not a very cabbage-y thing to do.
Finally, sweet and sour cabbage can be made a few days ahead and is equally good served hot or cold. In other words, it’s not just a wintertime food. Try it in the summer as a tangy alternative to coleslaw. Grilled hot dogs topped with sweet and sour cabbage anyone?
Sweet and sour cabbage
Start to finish: 1 hour (25 active)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar (light or dark), or to taste
4 cups shredded red cabbage
One 14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
In a large skillet cook the garlic in the oil over medium heat, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the vinegar and sugar and cook, stirring until the sugar is melted. Add the cabbage, tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover tightly and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is very tender, about 30 minutes. If there is still a lot of liquid in the pan, increase the heat to medium-high and simmer, uncovered, until most of the liquid is reduced. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Sara Moulton is host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows including “Cooking Live.” Her latest cookbook is “HomeCooking 101.”