The Great Soup Battle of 2010 (Pasta Fagioli, Cabbage Soup & Szechwan Carrot Soup)

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Hear those distant drums? A great battle is about to begin: the Great Soup Battle of 2010.

As readers may remember, last week I announced a big contest on my blog. Submit your favorite soup recipe–it didn’t have to be original, just a soup recipe that you love–and the best one would win a $450 VitaMix blender. Then 325 of you, that’s right 325 of you, submitted recipes. And little old me had to wade through them to pick the best. It was hard work, not for the faint of heart, but I wound up choosing the three most intriguing; recipes that, for whatever reason, grabbed my attention and made me hungry to try them. Then I invited my friends Diana Fithian (an enthusiastic home cook) and Leland Scruby (who works at the French Culinary Institute) over to help me make them. The three of us, plus Craig, would sample these soups and carefully choose the winner.

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Braised Cabbage

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Last week, on a chilly night, I wanted a healthy, inexpensive dinner. I popped open one of my top five favorite cookbooks ever, Molly Stevens’s “All About Braising,” and re-read her recipe for braised cabbage. I’d read it a few times before but was never quite convinced that braised cabbage could taste all that good.

Boy, was I wrong! There’s a reason she calls it “World’s Best Braised Green Cabbage”–it’s tender, flavorful, and, paired with Rachel Wharton’s Bodega Beans, a deeply satisfying, cold-night vegetarian dinner.

Here’s the quick version. Preheat your oven to 325. Oil a 9 X 13 baking dish. Cut a 2 lb green cabbage into 8 wedges. Lay the wedges in the dish. Then scatter one thickly sliced yellow onion over the top, along with 1 large carrot cut into 1/4 inch rounds. Drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil over the top, and 1/4 cup chicken stock or water. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes; cover TIGHTLY with foil and bake 1 hour. Remove, flip the cabbage over, re-cover with the foil, and bake another hour. Once the cabbage is tender, remove the foil, increase heat to 400 and let the vegetables brown, another 15 minutes more. That’s it! Sprinkle with fleur de sel and serve.

As a nice corollary to this recipe, I wrote a piece a few months ago about my grandmother’s boiled cabbage from childhood. I didn’t have the stamina to submit it everywhere for publication, so I’ve decided to publish it below. Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed Molly’s cabbage.

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