Lentils and Cabbage: Hearty & Healthy

I’ve been on a cabbage kick lately, partly because it’s winter and cabbages still abound, fresh and tasty, but also because of this inspirational quote from Johnny Bowden, a nutritionist, who claims that cabbage is “the most important [vegetable] in the world from the point of view of nutritional benefits and cancer-fighting ability.”  For more healthy benefits of cabbage see below and explore here.  This recipe comes from Martha Rose Shulman’s Eating for Health column for The New York Times.


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, half of it chopped, half sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 lb lentils
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 dried red chile
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 oz waxy potatoes, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 lbs green cabbage (1 medium head), cut into 3/4 inch wide ribbons
  • 1 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmesan (optional)


  1. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the chopped half of the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add 2 of the garlic cloves and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds to a minute.
  4. Add the lentils, water, chile, and bay leaf, and bring to a simmer.
  5. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Add 1 tsp salt and the potatoes.  Continue to simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils and potatoes are tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. While the lentils are simmering…
  8. In a wide skillet heat the remaining olive oil over medium and add the sliced onion.  Cook, stirring, about 5 minutes.
  9. Add 1/2 tsp salt and the remaining garlic.  Stir and cook about 1 minute.
  10. Add the cabbage and turn the heat to medium-high.  Cook, stirring, until the cabbage begins to wilt.
  11. Add 1/4 cup water, lower the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the cabbage is tender and sweet, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  12. To serve: spread the cabbage over the bottom of the pan, top with lentils and potatoes, sprinkle with parsley (Parmesan optional), and serve in soup bowls.

Nutrition Information

  • Cabbage protects the body from cancer-causing free radicals and helps metabolize estrogens.
  • Cabbage is also an excellent source of vitamins K and C and a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, folate, manganese, and Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Lentils are high in fiber and protein-rich.
  • Lentils are an excllent source of manganese, iron, phosphorous, copper, vitamin B1, potassium, and molybdenum (a mineral important in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and iron.

Source: Martha Rose Shulman, The New York Times, Recipes for Health

Cabbage with White Beans and Shallots

This is now a go-to recipe.  It’s quick, easy, and (a very big plus in my book) it reheats really well.  You can make it as a light meal or a side dish and my husband is always after me to add a little meat to it (bacon or ham would probably pair beautifully).  The cabbage offers a sweetness, the potatoes provide texture, the entire plate is insanely healthy (we’re talking nothing but beans and veggies here with 4 ounces of white potato), it’s just a great dish.  That said, I have yet to make it look even relatively appetizing.  Heidi Swanson uses a photo of it on the cover of her book, Super Natural Every Day, but mine always looks bleached out, a tad crispy brown, and rather unappealing.  Don’t serve it to anyone who will judge their food before they taste it.


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz potato, unpeeled, cut into tiny cubes
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 can white beans, rinsed
  • 3 cups cabbage, shredded
  • salt, sprinkle liberally at appropriate intervals
  • [optional] Parmesan cheese on top


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skilled over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the potatoes and a pinch of salt.  Toss, cover, and cook until the potatoes are cooked through, 5 – 8 minutes.
  3. Stir in the shallots and beans.  Let the beans brown a bit in a single layer without tossing too frequently.  Toss, brown, repeat; this takes a few minutes.
  4. Add the cabbage and cook for another minute or so.  Done!

Bulgur Pilaf with Cabbage

True confession: I haven’t actually cooked this dish yet.  It’s (another) snowy day here in New York and I want to try something new, but writing out a recipe helps me once I start chopping and cursing (err, I mean cooking), so I thought I would organize it here first.  I’ll follow up with feedback on my level of success.  The plan is for the pilaf to accompany a well-tested roast pork with dry rub.

UPDATE:  Both my husband and I ate this pilaf and we both had seconds.  That said, I’m not sure I would cook it again.  The pickling spice was a bit intense for both of us, but perhaps that could be countered by adding a bit less.  


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • a small leek, chopped
  • 1 cup cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup bulgur
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 2 tsp ground pickling spice (see below)
  • a squeeze of lemon
  • a dash of Worcestershire Sauce


  1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet, then add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the cabbage and bulgur and cook, stirring, until coated with oil.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, add the pickling spice, and the pre-heated stock.  Be sure that the stock is boiling.
  4. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat and let sit until the bulgur is tender, about 15 minutes.
  6. Adjust season.  Sprinkle with lemon juice and Worcestershire Sauce.  Serve.

Pickling Spice (for 1/2 a cup)

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1/2 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 cup mustard seeds
  • 1 Tbsp allspice berries
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 1 Tbsp dill seeds


  1. Break the cinnamon stick and bay leaves into pieces.
  2. Roughly chop all the other ingredients, leaving most of the seeds whole.
  3. Stir to combine the spices and store in a tightly sealed container for several months.