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C is For Cabbage

Vegetables from A to Z

By Hannah Marcotti

c-is-for-cabbageWhen someone hears that I am gluten-dairy-soy-corn-and-mostly-grain-free, they usually ask, “So what do you eat?” Sometimes I forget how odd my personal food pyramid must look to others. To me, it is overflowing with choices.

We live in a country whose dietary guidelines are built around most of the things I have eliminated from daily consumption. The bewildered looks are therefore no surprise. These are, after all, beloved foods we all grew up with. But the truth is, I eat well–better than well, in fact–my meals are beautiful, satisfying, and healthy. I eat consciously and am trying to raise children who will grow up doing the same. Foods that don’t work well with one body can be fine for another. If we spend a little time really listening to our bodies, our bodies will let us know. Corn chips hurt my stomach. I can’t tell you how many times I retest this to see if maybe something has changed. My body always comes back with the same response, “Hannah, corn chips are making your stomach hurt.” Ouch!

If there is a food I love but it doesn’t fit into my food pyramid, I think about how I can transform it to meet my family’s needs, while also boosting its nutritional value. In the case of this week’s recipe, I wondered how I could make spring rolls without the rice wrappers and with a tasty sauce to accompany them that doesn’t include sugar? Cabbage leaves are a fabulous vehicle for almost any filling. You can cut down on calories and add anti-inflammatory goodness to a sandwich by replacing your bread with these crispy leaves. Try some egg salad or curried chicken salad rolled up in cabbage leaves for your next picnic.

But back to the spring rolls. I have one child who loves them. I have another child who won’t touch them but loves to help with the preparation. So I deconstruct them for the latter child (with his help, of course). I fill a plate with shrimp, cashews, and the vegetables he likes (in this case sprouts and cucumber). That way, there are no fights at the table or hungry little children after dinner time.

Can you think of a meal that you love that may need a little makeover?

Cabbage Spring Rolls

Makes 8 generous spring rolls.
8 savoy or nappa cabbage leaves for the wrappers

2 cups mung bean sprouts
1 red or orange pepper, julienne cut
¼ English cucumber, julienne cut
1 green onion or scallion, sliced thinly (green and white parts)
1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped or torn
½ cup raw cashews
20 medium pre-cooked shrimp*, tails removed, cut in thirds
* If you don’t eat shrimp or want a fun summer version, use a diced ripe mango instead.

Almond Yum Sauce:
¼ cup almond butter
¼ cup tamari soy (I use wheat free)
¼ cup apple cider vinegar (preferably raw)
¼ cup agave or honey
Juice from ½ lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
¼ cup olive oil

Assemble all the filling ingredients in a large bowl. Squeeze a little lemon juice on the mixture, add a pinch of salt, and toss together. To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients, except the olive oil, in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. While whisking, slowly pour in olive oil until emulsified. Stir half of the sauce onto the filling and toss gently. Put the remaining sauce in a small bowl for serving.

To serve, I like to put the bowl of filling and a platter of cabbage leaves, more basil, lemon wedges, and the remaining sauce on the table. Each person can assemble their own spring roll by putting some filling in a cabbage leave, adding garnishes, and gently rolling up the cabbage leave like a burrito. This is messy but great fun! For a more formal gathering, roll the cabbage spring rolls, arrange them on a platter, and keep refridgerated until ready to serve.

Hannah Marcotti is a holistic health counselor who loves creating exciting recipes and inspiring others to get into their kitchens and cook with whole foods. Through her counseling business, Hannah’s Harvest, she hopes to create a ripple effect of health and happiness in Providence and beyond. She shares her musings on life with three children and searching for that next perfect meal on her blog, Hannah’s Harvest Thoughts.

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  • I loved the YUM SAUCE. I have a big ole Fluff jar full of it, ready for more rolls. Thanks for this!

  • Thanks for the great idea! Cabbage leaves will work so much better than the lettuce wraps I have tried in the past. I am adding cabbage to my grocery list for tomorrow!

  • Thanks again for all the wonderful words! You can also blanch the cabbage leaves if it is to much to eat them raw. If you try the recipe let me know how it comes out, feedback would be great!

  • keep the recipes coming. We are a gluten free family due to Celiac Disease. I totally agree that the choices are bountiful. They do take homework and preparation, but it’s so worth it to watch healthy kids grow!

  • i know that i consume way too many carbs. i am thinking cabbage leaves would make a great wrap for tuna. i am going to give this a try. thanks!

  • i really appreciate this hannah.

    my younger child was struggling with dairy last year and i had such a hard time admitting and accepting that that the milk we love so much (which we get fresh and raw from a neighbor) was not working for him.

    at this point he can a small amount of milk (but very little cheese) as long as it is served with some fruit or other fiber but the whole experience has been very powerful. once i finally stopped resisting what his body was clearly telling us things got SO much easier.

    can’t wait to try your recipe!! thanks for the inspiration, as always!!!

  • i am lining up the ingredients for yum sauce right now. i’m going to use leftover cooked broccoli and cashews for the filling and red cabbage leaves for the wrappers. i might even make the 101 cookbooks caramelized tofu–i can make an elaborate lunch for myself if i want to, right?