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The Healthy Vegetable You're Not Using But Should Be

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Kale may get all the ink, but when it comes to greens, there’s a less popular plant to pay attention to: cabbage. We know, we know. But before you turn up your nose, hear us out. This humble (and inexpensive) vegetable is extremely low-cal. A cup of raw cabbage has just 18 calories! It’s also full of anti-cancer compounds, and if prepared the right way, cabbage can be just as—if not more—delicious than its show-stealing cousins like Brussel sprouts or spinach. “When you’re at the farmer’s market, ask for frost-kissed cabbage,” suggests Chef Robbie Wilson of Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos, CA. “When temperatures get close to freezing at night, it makes the cabbage sweeter,” he says.

And make sure to look for cabbage that is shiny, compact, and heavy. When you get home? Try one of Wilson’s five favorite prep methods.

Grill It
Green cabbage holds up well to a barbecue, says Wilson. Set the whole head of cabbage on a shelf above the heat source and cook until the leaves caramelize (they’ll develop a sweet and smoky flavor). If cabbage leaves burn, that's normal. You can peel them away when you're ready to prepare or eat. Let it cool to use as the base of a salad with pears, apples, blue cheese, and mustard vinaigrette. Tomorrow, chop it up and eat as a side dish.

Roast It
You can roast an entire head of cabbage (just make sure it’s a sturdy one, like cannonball cabbage) in the oven. Cut it in half and put the cut sides down into a seasoned cast iron pan. Cook at 425 degrees until it starts to look burned on the outside (about 45 minutes). Speed up the cooking process by putting some flavorful liquid in the pan, says Wilson. This way, the vegetable will steam and roast at the same time. Use a cake tester or paring knife to test for doneness—when fully cooked, there will be a little resistance when you cut into it.

RELATED: Detox Apple and Cabbage Salad

Braise It
In a Dutch oven or pan covered with foil, combine Napa or Savoy cabbage with onions, herbs, dry white wine, dried fruit, and some oil. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes and finish by drizzling with some high quality, full-bodied extra virgin olive oil.

Make a Slaw
Slice red cabbage thinly and combine with chopped raw green beans, shredded carrots, raisins, and chopped nuts. Dress with apple cider vinaigrette and stir in lots of fresh herbs like mint, parsley, or marjoram.

Slice It Up
Use raw, sliced Napa cabbage as the base to a salad inspired by Southeast Asian flavors. Add peanuts, carrots, chopped mint and cilantro, and edamame, and dress with a citrus vinaigrette that includes fish sauce, lime juice, ginger, and sesame oil.

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