Activities with Eva

Kitchen Time

February 24, 2023

As I write this article, we are experiencing the coldest day of this winter. The sound of the wind is sharp and threatening, and I am grateful for a warm house. Sipping a cup of tea that carries the memory of my summer herb garden, I consider the day’s cooking project.

This is one of those days that begs for something warm, substantial, and comforting.

One option would be to put up a pot of soup or stew and wait while it simmers on the stove for hours, filling the space with aromas and clearly hinting the flavor of the upcoming dish long before mealtime.  The cozy day at home could be used to tackle a new and complicated baking recipe (and risk the possibility of a less than a great outcome). We could prepare something that is both simple and fast but complements the cold day with its wholesomeness and warmth. There is a head of red cabbage in the fridge. It will become the focus of the meal.

February happens to be the month of the cabbage. The name of the month we use today is of Latin origin and derives from Februa, a Roman festival of purification, but one of the Old English names of the last winter month was kale-monath, meaning “cabbage month”. Late winter and early spring had been, before industrialized agriculture, times of scarcity. Food supplies from the previous growing season were dwindling, and the new harvest was far away. There wasn’t too much in the pantry or in the root cellar to choose from. Cabbage was often one of the few available choices.  Stored in cold, moist conditions, it could last for months. It was a traditional winter staple, used either fresh or preserved by the process of lacto-fermentation (sauerkraut is the European version, kimchi the  Asian).

We will make a spiced roasted cabbage today. I do my best to make the kitchen an inviting space for the kids and involve them in the process. Our social and emotional well-being revolves partly around food and eating. I like to see the kitchen as a gathering place, a place of intimacy and sharing, a space that is much more than an area designated for food preparation.  Today we will elevate the humble cabbage with a mixture of warming spices. The warming cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, nutty cumin, and fruity coriander come out of the spice drawer. For a kick of heat, we are considering black pepper and maybe a little bit of chili. The children open the jars and smell the spices one by one. We talk about how we perceive these spices through our sense of smell; we make decisions about what to use and how much as we create our spice mix that will be used to season the cabbage.

I feel a sense of responsibility to create meaningful food memories for my children. For me, taste memories can be memories of love, deep intimacy, and source of comfort, joy and strength. Of course, as a parent, I have no control over what will stay with my children.  For now, I aim for joyful moments in the kitchen and at the table, hoping that memories of these moments will one day connect us through space and time.


Spiced Roasted Cabbage

  • 5 cups of thinly sliced red cabbage (one 2 LB head of cabbage)
  • 2 teaspoons spice mix
  • few pinches of salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the spice mix:

  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • few pinches of chili powder (or substitute sweet Hungarian paprika)
  • few pinches of nutmeg

Ground spices can be used to make the mix, but if you have time and own a spice grinder, it is worth starting with whole spices and toasting them before grinding. Toasting will deepen the flavors and aromas.

If you are using ground spices, measure them out and mix them to combine.

For the roasted cabbage:

  • 5 cups of thinly sliced red cabbage (one 2 LB head of cabbage)
  • 2 teaspoons spice mix
  • few pinches of salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • cilantro and toasted almonds for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a bowl, toss the sliced cabbage with olive oil, salt, and spices. Make sure the cabbage is evenly coated in oil and seasoning. In a large baking pan, spread the cabbage into an even layer. It is important not to overcrowd the cabbage. Overcrowded cabbage won’t crisp up. Roast for about 20-25 minutes, tossing halfway, until tender and slightly charred. Serve sprinkled with cilantro and toasted nuts of your choice.

The spiced cabbage could be served as a side dish, part of a grain bowl or a sandwich.

We enjoyed it with oven-baked potatoes.