Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, "There is no love sincerer than the love of food." And in recent years, the cooks in Ireland have begun to agree with him. Cooking has enjoyed a major renaissance in Ireland and fine dining now is the rule, rather than the exception.

But the lowly cabbage has held its place as a staple in Irish cuisine. So it is always appropriate at a meal celebrating St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick's Day is the only national holiday in Ireland and is celebrated in church as well as with parades and parties. And cabbage always has a place on an Irish table on St. Patrick's Day.

Cabbage is the ancestor of many of its more contemporary relatives, like Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. The word "cabbage" comes from the French word caboche, a colloquial word for "head."

The ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all prized cabbage as a healthy food, and the modern world thinks the same. Cabbage is one of nature's most nutritious vegetables.

Cabbage comes in many forms. It can be flat or round, compact or loose, curly or straight. When buying cabbage, look for a head heavy for its size and with leaves that look crisp and firmly packed. Tightly wrapped, cabbage will hold in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale contain a compound called sulforaphane, a natural substance that scientists think helps fight cancer. These vegetables also contain a good amount of vitamin C and some vitamin A.

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So welcome cabbage to your St. Patrick's Day feast and you may have the luck of the Irish.

St. Patrick's Cabbage Soup

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Makes 5 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 1-lb. cabbage, cored and quartered
  • Boiling water
  • Canola oil spray
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup peeled, cubed potato
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg, or to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups reduced-fat (2%) milk
  • 2 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Place cabbage in a large bowl. Pour enough boiling water over to cover. Let stand 5 minutes. Drain well. Pat dry with paper towels, then cut into thin slices.
  2. Spray large heavy saucepan with oil. Saute onions until tender but not brown (about 10 minutes). Add cabbage and potato and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Add nutmeg and flour and stir 2 minutes. Gradually add milk and broth. Bring to a boil, stirring often.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. Puree vegetables in batches in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to saucepan, season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parsley, chives and Parmesan.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

121 calories
3 g. total fat
2 g. saturated fat
18 g. carbohydrate
7 g. protein
3 g. dietary fiber
334 mg. sodium