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Leftover cabbage? Smother it in tomato gravy and pile it on grits.

Charred Cabbage Smothered In Tomato Gravy Over Grits

Total time:40 minutes

Portions:4 to 6

Total time:40 minutes

Portions:4 to 6


A few weeks ago I wrote about a coleslaw I love to make, and it was fun reading the feedback on it. Most of the responses have been pretty positive, but human nature being what it is, I want to talk about one that was…less. It wasn’t really negative, but it was very critical.

The email didn’t object to the recipe itself, but the writer said they would never make the salad because of something they see in many recipes. It called for a portion of a head of green cabbage and a portion of a head of red cabbage.

The point was short and sweet: What should I do with the rest of this cabbage?

Food waste is a theme that I am always working on. I’ve written a lot about farmers and I consider it a moral failing if I have to throw away something that has gone bad during my shift. And food insecurity is a parallel issue that means a lot to me. So the email resonated.

But honestly, that’s one of the reasons I like to always have some cabbage in my vegetable drawer. I’ve found it has a pretty forgiving margin of error as far as longevity is concerned.

Before I delve too deeply into my personal practices, I’ve poked around to look for an official guideline on how long sliced ​​veggies are expected to last in the fridge. I haven’t really found one.

The FDA has a general rule that says leftovers can be safely stored for four days. When it comes to details, it is not about fresh produce, but mainly about meat, dairy and processed foods. Several sites I found suggested that sliced ​​cabbage can be stored anywhere from two days to several weeks. Which didn’t feel like an answer either.

Whole cabbage is a cold storage crop, meaning every head you buy at the grocery store was probably harvested weeks, if not months, before. How quickly is it likely to deteriorate once cut?

I spoke to Rachael Jackson, founder of EatOrToss.com and a Washington Post contributor on food safety issues, who said she was unaware of official guidelines. She said that once you cut into a vegetable, it becomes more susceptible to spoilage, and a number of variables (moisture content, temperature, how it’s cut) can affect the rate at which that happens.

So where does that leave us?

Here’s my strategy: If you bring home a fresh cabbage, use it for raw preparations first. Wrap it up and keep it in the fridge, and if you want to use it raw again, do it within a few days. After that, use it only in cooked applications to kill any problems that have grown in the meantime. (Experts say leftovers should reach a temperature of 165 degrees or come to a boil.) If you notice it’s slimy, smelly, or soggy — in other words, unappetizing in any way — pitch it (or, ideally, compost it).

When I got that e-mail from the reader, I was already thinking about a tomato gravy over grits dish, and considering ways to make it more solid without the bacon fat that would traditionally be the base. Then I saw the leftover cabbage in my vegetable drawer and realized I could solve two problems at once by braising the cabbage in a tomato gravy flavored with a tablespoon of smoked paprika.

Then I added cabbage to my grocery list since I was away.

Charred Cabbage Smothered In Tomato Gravy Over Grits

Feel free to add more cabbage to smother in the gravy; the recipe accommodates as much as double without increasing the amount of tomato. It’s a great way to use up extra cabbage and expand the dish into more servings.

Storage: Refrigerate the cabbage for up to four days. The grits are best the day they are made, but can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days. If they are too stiff when reheating, add a splash of water or broth.

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  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 cup grits (not quick cook or instant)
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 pound green cabbage (½ medium head), thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small red or yellow onion (4 ounces), thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
  • One (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cup no-salt vegetable stock, store-bought or home made
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, dairy or vegan
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Slowly add the grains, then ½ teaspoon salt and stir. Bring the water back to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Partially cover and cook, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking, until thick and tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering and just beginning to smoke. Add the cabbage, arrange it in an even layer, and cook without moving it until it begins to char, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir and let more of the cabbage char, another 2 to 3 minutes. There should be blackened spots. Add the vinegar and mix to coat. Transfer about 1 cup of cabbage to a plate and reserve. Push the rest of the cabbage to one side of the pan.

Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, paprika, stock, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat so mixture is at a simmer and cook until crumbly and pliable, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in butter to incorporate.

Divide the grains among wide, shallow bowls and form a well in the center. Fill each well with the tomato sauce and top each portion with some of the reserved cabbage. Season with pepper and serve hot.

Per serving (¾ cup of grits, a scant 1-cup tomato gravy), based on 6

Calories: 230; Total Fat: 7g; Saturated fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 10mg; Sodium: 617mg; Carbohydrates: 39g; Dietary fiber: 6 g; Sugar: 10 g; Protein: 6g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietician or nutritionist.

From staff writer Jim Webster.

Tested by Jim Webster; email questions to voracious@washpost.com.

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