“Ma che cavolo?”, i.e. “What the hell is this?” is heard in Italy when the other, much more vulgar C word is to be avoided. Germany can pack its bags with its equally vegetal, but much more innocuous expletives, such as the cucumber troop and the turnip nose. Cavolo, cabbage – or rather: cavolo nero – is found in Italy during the winter months but also far from any hassle, especially in the pot.
Black cabbage is considered a classic winter vegetable and can certainly be found in every Ribollita. The secret of this vegetable soup, a classic of Tuscan cuisine: the more often it is boiled (reboil to boil again), the better. The ingredients are not very mysterious, but rather basics of the poor kitchen, the simple cuisine: onions and carrots, savoy cabbage and potatoes – and of course the Cavolo Nero. It is not only called black cabbage – because of its dark green, almost black leaves, which are reminiscent of savoy cabbage with their curly structure, but also saw palmetto. After all, it looks like a small palm tree with its leaves slightly curled on the stem. Such a vegetable palm cuts a good figure in any winter garden, but not necessarily in ours: black cabbage does not really have to withstand sub-zero temperatures – unlike green or Brussels sprouts, varieties that like the gel for even more taste.
Young black cabbage shoots are considered a delicacy because they are so tender that you can put them raw in a salad or in a smoothie, because of course: Superfood! Black cabbage also lends itself to pesto, as an accompaniment to polenta, in wrappers, as is usually the case with Greek vine leaves, or in crispy oven-baked vegetable crisps (seasoned with salt, pepper, chilli in powder and a little olive oil). In any case, black cabbage belongs to the Ribollita like the daily “che cavolo” on the streets of Italy.
Food journalist and cookbook author Emiko Davies, who came to Italy from Australia in 2005 and fell in love with a Tuscan sommelier, cooks ribollita for four people in her cookbook ‘Florence’ (Dorling Kindersley) as follows (although her classic recipe differs from which does not really differ from traditional Italian cooks): First, she cooks 250 grams of cannellini beans and purees half of these beans with about 125 ml of water cooking until smooth. Finally, in a large saucepan, brown a small onion, a clove of garlic, half a stalk of celery, 5-6 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley and 30g of pancetta (or bacon) – all finely chopped and diced – over low heat for 10 minutes. When the onion pieces are translucent, add 1 tablespoon of tomato puree and heat everything for 2 minutes. Then add the chopped savoy cabbage, chard, black cabbage (about 125 g each) and a diced potato, pour 1 liter of water over everything and season with salt and pepper. Then add the mashed potatoes and whole beans and simmer the soup uncovered for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.
At the end, remove the pan from the heat and add 125g of bread cubes (orthodoxy recommends stale, salt-free white bread, but other things work too). Let sit for at least 20 minutes with the lid closed. To better spread the soggy bread, stir once so the ribollita is thick like porridge. Feel free to reheat gently, again and again, and serve with a drizzle of good olive oil. Best new crop oil that is currently arriving fresh on the shelves.
Black cabbage goes well with soup and pasta
But black cabbage can also be used in pasta: sauté it with garlic and onions, add white wine and broth and add potatoes, carrots, canellini beans and tomatoes, as well lots of parsley, sage, pecorino and roasted pine nuts and a few finely chopped pieces of an unwaxed lemon. Plus, there are thick noodles and definitely a loud “Delicious!” at the table.
Black cabbage may not have ended up in every kitchen in this country, but you should definitely make up for it in this dreary winter. Only his brother is a bit more versatile Brassica oleracea longata. Cabbage, with its trunk up to three meters high, has long been used as cane on the island of Jersey after being dried, sanded and varnished. Che cavolo!