The mere mention of cabbage soup in my household makes my husband a little stressed, and with good reason.
He remembers all too well the cabbage soup diet fad that I talked him into trying before our wedding. To be fair, I wasn’t alone: Everyone was making this magical cabbage soup, and eating it multiple times a day, with the hope of nourishing our bodies while also making them bikini-beautiful. I’m not proud to admit, I was caught up in the hype. But a week or two in, I couldn’t stand the soup for one more minute — the way my apartment smelled like a dirty sock, the taste of the soup itself, and according to my husband, my personality went from general pleasant to downright cranky.
Nearly 20 years later, I decided it might be worth trying to concoct a tastier version of cabbage soup, not as a diet, but just as an addition to our soup rotation. After all, cabbage is incredibly healthy, and I’m definitely a fan of veggie soups to boost nutrition. It took some major convincing for my husband to try any cabbage soup at all. In fact, he didn’t even want it cooking in the house — olfactory memory is powerful. So, I tinkered one week when he was out of the country for work. And I discovered a genius way to sidestep the strong smell and taste of the boiled cabbage of yesterday: leave the cabbage raw. It was so simple, but would it work?
It worked perfectly! The key is to cut the cabbage very thinly, or shred it on a grater or in a food processor. Or, simply buy the slaw already sliced for coleslaw. Whip up a simple vegetable broth with onions, garlic and ginger and pour the steaming broth over the cabbage just before serving. (You could even use store-bought broth and it would be fine.) The cabbage softens just enough to be pleasant — almost noodle-like — but stays fresh, light and tasty, absolutely zero hint of the old boiled soup days. Even though it’s truly delicious (my husband agrees), I’m glad we aren’t stuck eating any cabbage soup for weeks on end.
Cabbage Soup in Ginger and Garlic Broth
Start to finish: 25 minutes
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into 5 or 6 slices
5 cloves of garlic, smashed
4 1/2 cups of water
2 teaspoons mild yellow or white miso paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup shelled edamame
4 cups shredded or very thinly sliced green cabbage
1 cup shredded carrot
Chopped green onion
Chopped fresh cilantro, mint, and basil
Hot chili sauce, optional
Make the broth: In a large sauce pan, cook the onion and ginger in the olive oil, stirring, over medium heat until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional couple of minutes until very fragrant. Add the water and bring to a boil. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and then simmer on medium until the broth takes on a mild flavor, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, divide the edamame, cabbage and carrot among four serving bowls. Once the broth is ready, remove the onion, garlic and ginger with a slotted spoon and discard the aromatics. (Or strain the broth through a sieve.) Return the broth to the heat, and whisk in the miso paste, soy sauce and lime juice.
Taste the broth and adjust seasoning, adding more miso, soy sauce or lime juice if desired. Pour the steaming broth on top of the cabbage in the bowls, and top with sliced green onion, fresh herbs (cilantro, mint and basil mixed together are perfect), and a dash of hot sauce, if desired. Cabbage will soften slightly as it sits.