Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sometimes the side is the star -- Braised Red Cabbage with Fennel and Apple

In my head, I know it is winter. Mornings have been frosty and I actually have had to defrost my windows before heading down the driveway to work. But bless my soul if the brilliant blue sky and sun doesn't try to deceive me in thinking otherwise. Days have been in the mid-to-high sixties and even broke seventy degrees this week. We are experiencing a weather phenomena call La NiƱa that has given our California central coast an extremely mild and dry winter so far, and we're all just loving it, knowing if it continues we will pay for drought conditions and risk of wild fires. But if you live in the moment, then these are the days you want to be outside in nature and breathe in the beauty. Sunsets have been spectacular and the winter sun on the ocean just sparkles like so many diamonds fracturing the light like a day-time firework.

Tiny fisherman -- big dreams

So, for me, conventional winter foods have not quite seemed just right. How connected we humans are to weather, food, comforts and hankerings. Have you noticed that yourself?  On days like this I've been thinking it is time to barbecue, but darkness setting at 5:30pm and temperatures chilling in the thirties this is not likely. But I can grill some goodness in my cast iron pan. This time I seared ahi tuna and paired it with this sweet and savory braised cabbage. Amethyst, ruby and garnet tendrils soaked up in the combined aromas of fennel and apple made this side the star of the meal. Red cabbage elegance and not just for token color in slaw or salad mix.

Red Cabbage with fennel and apple.

Braised Red Cabbage with Apple and Fennel
Serves  6
Cook Time: about 30-45 minutes

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 3-4 cups)
½  savory cabbage, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 granny smith apple, peeled, quartered and sliced
¼ cup brown sugar
⅓ cup red wine
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup sweet fruit wine (exp. Honeywood Logan Berry Wine from Oregon)
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon Ground black pepper

Wash and prep your cabbage, fennel, apple and onion.

Cabbage has a lot of volume so you need a very large saute pan with cover or use a enameled 7 qt dutch oven.
  1. Heat your pan to medium high and toast the fennel seeds for 15-30 seconds to release flavors. Remove and set aside. Add butter and olive oil, when butter stops foaming add onions and saute for 5 minutes until soft.
  2. Add in thinly sliced cabbage, fennel, stir and toss (tongs work well for this) and coat with butter/oil.
  3. Add apple to mixture, stir to incorporate evenly with the cabbage. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, sprinkle with allspice.
  4. Cover and cook over medium low for about 20 minutes until soft -- but not soggy.
  5. Increase heat to medium high and deglaze pan with red wine, cook uncovered until liquid is reduced by half.
  6. Add in brown sugar, cider vinegar and sweet wine, sprinkle in fennel seeds, toss to stir and coat continue cooking until liquids are reduced by a third. You don’t want this soupy.
  7. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to your liking.
  8. Remove from heat and serve warm.

January 1, 2012 Twin Lakes Beach, Santa Cruz, California


  1. I love fennel and cabbage together. This sounds really good! And looks pretty too!

  2. Oh - that cabbage looks and sounds amazing! Love the bowl too - prop envy!) And I am totally jealous of your view on new year's day!! :o)

    1. Hey Jeanne! You're one to talk prop envy after your adventure to the Swedish Christmas Market! And, it's ok that you are a bit jealous of my NY's view... I know when I am blessed, for sure.

  3. Gorgeous, luminous post! I love the amazing photos, beautifully descriptive text: the description of the winter sun on water is fantastic...lovely recipe, too. Sigh!

    1. Hi friend! Looks like we both had red cabbage on our minds lately. Love it and your take with tangerines and lingonberry sounds so wonderful.

      Bless you for your kind comments, as always. Hope your house sells well for you soon.

  4. We really enjoyed this recipe. I would like to share it with our CSA members by providing a link back to your website in our newsletter. Would that be OK? Thank you for your response. Robin


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