BATTLE CABBAGE with La Diva Cucina!

Traditional Polish design by Rejke

Darlings!  Because of my Italian last name of Lafata (which means "The Fairy" in Italian!) and the Italian name of my company (La Diva Cucina means "The Diva Kitchen!"), many people think that La Diva is a nice, sturdy girl with Italian blood lines, and they are not wrong.   But equal to my Italian heritage, my genetic make up and bloodline also comes from Polish roots, along with German (Bohemian) and Scotch-Canadian.  An interesting mix to be sure, especially when it comes to cooking!

And it is from these humble roots that helped La Diva decide on her dish for BATTLE CABBAGE!!!

When I was a kid growing up in Michigan, Easter was one of the holidays I spent with the Polish side of our family, usually at my Great Aunt Irene's place outside of Detroit.  Each year, our cousins, great aunts and uncles would fill my Aunt's tiny home and celebrate Easter and Spring with traditional Polish food, drink and loads of laughter and merriment!

The dessert table would be laden with dyed Easter eggs and sweets including my great Aunt Alice's delicious and buttery tea cake, which was really a divine walnut roll in the shape of a ring encased in a bread-like dough.  Smeared with creamy butter and not overly cloying, it was my favorite offering on the sweets table! Auntie Alice would make it on other occasions as well, but only if I begged her to!  Also on offer was a huge tray of light as a feather angel wings or chrusciki and prune filled kolaczki cookies with chocolate Easter egg candies scattered in between.  Easter at my Auntie's was always a holiday my siblings and I really looked forward to.

 The butter lamb is a Polish Catholic tradition and symbolizes the Lamb of God.   It graced Auntie's table each year and I always loved seeing it, her lamb always had eyes made of cloves.   Click HERE to learn more about Catholic Polish Easter meal and see loads of butter lamb photos!

But the real feast was the dinner table, always overflowing and always with the same traditional Polish dishes, year after year:  a large ham, Kowalski Polish kielbasa sausage, pork chops, pierogi of cheese, cabbage and meat with sour cream and my Aunt Barbara's kapusta, my very favorite dish of all!

Kapusta means simply "cabbage" in Polish (AND Hungarian, Russian, Ukrainian and Slovakian!)  but kapusta is also the name of a classic Polish dish.  Just like many traditional ethnic dishes, every family has their own version.  But one thing is for certain, kapusta always has two ingredients:  some sort of  cabbage, either pickled as sauerkraut, fresh or both and smoked sausage, usually kielbasa.  The dish was hearty, filling and full of nutrients to warm  and nourish the hard working Pole through the cold winter months.

When I was thinking of a cabbage dish for Battle Cabbage, the first one to come to my mind was a favorite stir fry using Chinese cabbage with mushrooms, snow peas, bean sprouts and carrots encased in a flavorful Asian omelette.  Sadly, I realized I had POSTED IT BEFORE back when I first started my blog!  As I thought hard about some of my favorite ways to use cabbage, I remembered my Aunt Barbara's kapusta.  Since I knew cabbage was in season at the Farmer's Market, I wanted to try my Auntie's recipe using fresh cabbage instead of with the usual pre-made sauerkraut.  Darlings, I give you....

La Diva's Warm and Comforting Kapusta

Serves four

1 head fresh cabbage
1 lb. Polish kielbasa
1.5 lbs of pork chops (this time I used boneless  pork loin country style ribs, just make sure the meat is not too lean)
2 large tomatoes (or small can diced tomato)
2 large peeled, potatoes cut into bite size chunks
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1 T caraway seeds
2 bay leaves
sprig dried marjoram or thyme (optional)
cooking oil
salt and pepper
butter (optional)

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil and when very hot, add seasoned pork.  

Brown meat on all sides, throw in a couple of bay leaves.

Take washed cabbage and core and chop evenly.  Toss into pot with the meat.

Add two chopped tomatoes (you can certainly used canned, Florida tomatoes are in season now and they are sooo good!)

Then add:  a dash of salt, caraway seeds and vinegar, the herbs and a half a cup of water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook until pork is just tender, 1.5-2 hours, making sure to stir occasionally.

When the pork is fork tender, add peeled and cubed potatoes.  If the stew is drying out, keep adding small amounts of water and DO NOT let it scorch, but keep stirring occasionally.  Cover and continue cooking another hour until meat begins to fall apart easily when pulled and potatoes are soft.  Adjust the seasonings but remember, you will be adding kielbasa, which has a lot of salt, so don't over salt, you can always add more!

Slice the kielbasa into 1/4 inch disks and stir through kapusta.  Do not add the kielbasa until everything is cooked, you are adding flavor and don't want to take all the good juices from the sausage by adding them too early and boiling it to death!  Kielbasa is already cooked so all you are really doing is warming up the sausage and allowing its fat to melt into the stew.  Bring to a boil again (if necessary) and add more water if needed.  (The kapusta should not be dry.)  Once the kielbasa is warmed through, taste again and adjust seasonings if needed.  

Put the kapusta into bowl and add small dollops of butter over the top.  Serve with fresh rye bread or simply as is.

RESULT:  Oh dear!  I think I did my Auntie Barbara proud!  Even though her original recipe calls for sauerkraut, I think that the fresh cabbage simmered with the vinegar was wonderful as the cabbage's texture was retained.  The tomatoes adds a really mellow flavor, not too sharp or acidic, which is surprising considering the vinegar that's in the dish as well.  The pork is fall apart tender, the keilbasa gives that hit of smoky, saltiness and then you bite into a buttery potato with the caraway!  *sigh*  This is a delightful dish that even cabbage haters would enjoy....there is no strong cabbage taste or bitterness, just comforting, warm deliciousousness!  La Diva is wondering if my Polish great grandmother Cashmira would approve?

To check out all the other uber creative entries to BATTLE CABBAGE, go to Hostess with the Mostest and TOFU battle winner GRUMPY GRANNY to check out the entries, there are some really talented people out there!  Good luck to the other competitors and for now, La Diva wishes you DOBRANOC!


Velva said...

Damn! What a great way to use cabbage...As always, love it.

Grumpy Granny said...

Ahhh, La Diva Polska! What a wonderful, warm and comforting dish that also looks incredibly delicious. There were a lot of Polish folk around when I worked for the circus and I came to know many forms of keilbasa and cabbage and enjoyed them all1 Thanks so much for sharing your Aunt Barbara's wonderful dish with us!


Marian said...

My background is Lithuanian. Cabbage is called kopustas, and the dish is very similar to what your Auntie prepared. Might give your version a try, thinking to mix in some sauerkraut with fresh cabbage to give it some bite.

Boxer said...

Oh, I'm in love with the butter lambs. Those pictures are fabulous and you have me only thinking about butter and lambs. BUT the dinner you created is also (as always) wonderful. You just squeaked this one in didn't you pal? And I'd say you is a condendah.

Now, back to those lambs. The butter llama was also my favorite and I'm fascnitated with this tradiiton. I had no idea.

I'm thinking.... butter dogs? cats? no?


LaDivaCucina said...

Thanks, Velva! I'm amazed that you grew your own cabbage! When do we see garden piccies?!

GG: You worked for the circus? MUST know more, how very intriguing! I have such fond memories of my childhood with the Polish side of my family, there was always so much love and food and my Auntie Irene always brought out her guitar and sang funny old songs!

Marian, do you have family in Chicago? I remember a very large Lithuanian population there (along with one of the largest Polish communities outside of Poland!) The funny thing about this dish is it is usually made with sauerkraut and honestly, I made a mistake with the vinegar. I went to add a dash but the lid had come off and a lot poured in! I thought I'd ruined the dish but it ended up being just perfect with a nice bite! (now you know my secret!)

I know, Boxer, I always loved the lambs too. I don't know why. One part of me didn't want anyone to use the butter to ruin it while the other part of me couldn't wait to lop off its head! haha! I am fascinated too.....I wonder if they sell butter cat or dog molds? I think you have to get these at a Polish good shop, of which I know NONE in Florida but I am going back to Michigan in June....

Thank you all for your kind comments and stopping by! May the best cabbage contender win! xoxoxo

Buzz Kill said...

Anything with keilbasa is just awesome. That has to be my favorite sausage. I think I've mentioned before that we have a Polish order of nuns that live around the corner and they have an annual festival that features Polish food. They do a stuffed cabbage called Golabki, but they don't make this dish.

It looks pretty doable (although time consuming) and I think the cabbage and cider vinegar basically makes sauerkraut, right? I think I could talk The Mrs into this one (she likes sauerkraut).

My sister-in-law always makes chocolate around easter and she uses that lamb mold to make solid chocolate lambs. hmmmmmmmm.....chocolate lamb.

Very nice meal Diva.

Boxer said...

hmmmm chocolate lamb.

Jen said...

This is totally something my father, who comes from a pig farming German family, would totally get down for, except they would have left out the cubed potatos and served this over mashed potatos AND buttery noodles. I love this!

eatdrinkandbemarried said...

Mmmmmm. Yum! Love the recipe -- thanks for sharing. I'm learning all kinds of great new ways to use cabbage!

Stephie said...

Oh God this looks divine!

Your post just took me back to childhood days vising with my grandmother who would make something almost as delicious looking as your kapusta. She used saurkraut too just like your Auntie Barbara.

Intuitive Eggplant said...

Wow, Diva! Your auntie’s Kapusta is similar to a Polish dish I thought about making called Bigos. Have you ever had it? The architecture school where my father was dean had an exchange program with a Polish university and colleagues through that shared their Bigos recipe. I’ll bet it’s one of those traditional dishes where every family has their own recipe, but the one we came upon calls for beef chuck and ham in lieu of pork, plus kraut, kielbasa, caraway, and tomato (paste) – like yours. No potatoes, but additions of thick-sliced mushrooms, red wine and a little vodka, plus sour cream stirred in at the end. It is a heavenly stick-to-your-ribs peasant dish!

I never knew about the Polish butter lambs. But I wonder if there is something iconic about that particular lamb-in-repose silhouette in Polish culture. My parents brought back textile lambs from a trip in Poland in the exact same shape.

So glad you were able to join in the Smackdown, my dear! I always learn so much from you – about cooking, and the big wide world :)

xoxo, eggy

Jill Mant~a SaucyCook said...

Yum Diva, I can smell this dish at my house!! I love cabbage and I will definitely try this dish. Thanks!

Thombeau said...

I suppose it's redundant, but: YUM!

Jill said...

I can never have too much pork! Looks wonderful. And the first image is so happy and vibrant.

Diana said...

I love cabbage and kielbasa, one of the best ways to make it if you ask me.

We are Hungarian, so when I was growing up the great aunts and my grandmother went to the local hungarian deli to get Kolbasz, the hungarian version with lots of bright red Hungarian Paprika. Lots of great memories.

Diana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roses said...

I'm not a huge fan of cabbages, but I'm going to track down the sausage and give it a go.

I will let you know how it turns out.

But seriously, it looks so yummy, I could lick the screen.

Melissa said...

yummy! It looks fantastic. I love cabbage.