Have we reached the point of kale overkill? Is kale over? Has it had its 15 minutes of fame? As a longtime devotee and advocate of kale, I think no, it's simply entered the category of permanently established favorite American vegetables. It's not reached the ubiquity level of corn, but it's come a long way from being a "Huh? What's that?" sort of vegetable.
As we launch into 2013 with kale so commonplace, the question is, what is the new kale? Going out on a limb, I nominate cabbage. The humblest of vegetables, it may be a hard sell. At least kale had the advantage of being little known. The wrinkle-your-nose reaction to cabbage is rather high. People think of mushy cafeteria food on a bad day in winter, or watery cole slaw.
But really cabbage has so much going for it. It is delicious in many forms, hot or cold, cooked or raw, in salads or stir fries or casseroles. It's good on its own, but plays well with others. It's incredibly healthy, abundant with cancer fighting properties, vitamins and minerals. It's extremely cheap, easy to find year round, easy to grow, not a chi-chi elitist food (remember the brouhaha about Obama liking arugula?), and keeps in the fridge a good long time. You don't have to run your food preparation life around worrying it'll go bad if you sleep too late one morning.
Of course, kale boasts many of these qualities as well, so to nominate cabbage as the new veggie fad is not to denigrate kale in any way. It's been my favorite for more than a decade, and that's not really changed. It's just that, like the second child in a family, cabbage is in my life now and I can't imagine life (or dinner, or lunch) without it.
There is much talk about Brussels Sprouts (which by the way, are not "Brussel Sprouts"), and I'd agree they are a strong contender for new fashion food of the year. What do you think? What vegetable will enjoy an explosion of popularity this year?
Coming soon, we'll have some cabbage recipes to entice you to venture into the world of the humble cabbage.