I have unfortunate childhood memories of cabbage and cabbage soup. When I was a kid, my mother’s boiled cabbage would send me running from the house — from the smell. Later, she and at least one of my older sisters spent many unhappy months on the then-trendy cabbage soup diet, complaining with every bite.
I’ve come to love the vegetable in adulthood, thanks to my discovery of other ways to cook it (or not), with my favorite still being to grill it in “steaks” until charred.
I’ve even come around to cabbage soup. Alana Chernila has a great method in her new book, “Eating From the Ground Up” (Clarkson Potter, 2018): You cook thinly sliced cabbage slowly with onions (and, my addition, a hefty dose of garlic), letting the cabbage get sweeter and sweeter (this time creating a gorgeous aroma) before adding thyme, then broth, and seasoning it generously with tamari and sea salt.
The crowning touch is little toasts you make from a stale baguette and grated Parm. Float a few in each bowl and they get soft on the bottom and chewy on top, adding a welcome sharpness. The dish is reminiscent of onion soup but much lighter — not diet-soup territory, perhaps, but that’s just as well.
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8 servings (makes 11 cups), Healthy
MAKE AHEAD: The soup can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.
Adapted from “Eating From the Ground Up,” by Alana Chernila (Clarkson Potter, 2018).
For the soup
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
10 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (from 1 medium-large head)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
8 cups homemade vegetable broth (see related recipe)
1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the toasts
Half long, stale baguette, cut into ¼ -inch slices (about 32 slices)
½ cup grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese or Gruyère
For the soup: Melt the butter over medium heat in a large pot or Dutch oven. Once the foam subsides, add the cabbage, onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, until the cabbage wilts, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender and has reduced (wilted) by at least half.
Uncover; stir in the 2 tablespoons of thyme, and cook, stirring often, until the liquid evaporates and the cabbage starts to lightly brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the broth. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pot and incorporate them into the broth. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 10 minutes so the flavors meld. Stir in the tamari, salt and pepper. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.
While the soup is cooking, make the toasts: Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiling element; preheat the broiler.
Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Sprinkle them generously with the cheese. Broil until the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes, and the bread has crisped and browned on the edges.
Serve the soup hot, in big bowls, with a few toasts floating in each one. Scatter some fresh thyme leaves in each portion.
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