Powerhouse ingredients deserve special attention


Lemon-Garlic Israeli Couscous with Cauliflower. (Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post)
December 31, 2012

Even in the bright new days of the new year, cabbages, cauliflower and rutabagas are nutritional powerhouses in need of a little PR. They can bring new and unexpected flavors to the table, but ho-hum ways of cooking them fail to inspire all but the most loyal fans.

For large cabbages like savoy, take a page from what has happened to Brussels sprouts, which are being roasted or shredded, then quickly sauteed. With similar treatment, savoy cabbage could become filling for ravioli or mashed into potatoes with caramelized onions. Stir-fried Napa cabbage pairs beautifully with shiitake mushrooms as egg roll filling or in fried rice.

Roasting yields great results for cauliflower, as does pan-steaming. Pair it with acidic ingredients such as citrus or vinegar, and don’t forget to think about using blanched or steamed bite-size pieces in mixed winter salads.

Humble, homely rutabagas tend to be overlooked altogether. They’re covered with a thin wax, which makes them hard to peel. This is the year to enjoy them without the crutches of cream and butter; try roasting chunks of rutabaga, then glamorize with a sweet-sour dressing.

Kale had quite a run in 2012, as it was worked into Caesar salads, massaged with tahini vinaigrettes and folded into casseroles. If its bitter taste or toughness is a stumbling block, a brief blanch in boiling salted water should do the trick. Or you can add baby kale to softer, sweet vegetables such as winter squashes and carrots.

To get you started, our annual week’s worth of healthful dishes lends cooking love to all those ingredients.

Sedgwick’s Nourish column appears weekly in the Food section. She’ll join today’s Free Range chat at noon: live.washingtonpost.com.

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