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Simple Sides: Red Cabbage

While many of these recipes may seem very basic, this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will lay the culinary foundation necessary to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their confidence in the kitchen grows. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to decide the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where help might be especially needed.

The competing schedules of today’s busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can even be great fun. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach your children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your kids will build memories that remain in all of your hearts forever.

If you have not visited the red cabbage patch in awhile, treat yourself and your young sous chefs to these two recipe reminders of just how tasty and healthy this member of the Brassica family can be! The deep reddish-purple pigment is a sign that this veggie is extremely high in beneficial nutrients called Anthocyanins, which provides cancer protection, improves brain function and promotes heart health. In fact, research has identified 36 different Anthocyanins in red cabbage, eight of which can be found in no other fruit or vegetable!

Red cabbage is really not a very hard sell to kids. The cabbage has a pleasant sweetness to it and the texture remains firm even when sautéed. Plus the vibrant purple color just looks like fun, even before Recipe I adds in bright tangerine orange! Both of these dishes rely on just a few ingredients that your young kitchen crew can pretty much handle on their own with minimal help, except maybe coring the cabbage head and the actual stove top work in the second recipe. Parents are the only ones who can judge the ability of their kids to use sharp knives or hot skillets.

Both of these dishes rely on very contrasting salad dressings for a lot of their flavor. The dressings are easy for your helpers to prepare and will probably stick with them for decades, even if the details of these specific dishes fade. So make the preparation of these tasty condiments a big part of the cooking lesson; even a very young child can be the official bottle shaker to mix the ingredients in the first recipe!

If you do judge a child old enough to do some simple knife work, here’s a quick review of the coring and shredding needed for both of these recipes: Cut the head of a cabbage in half. Place each half, cut-side down and quarter it. Carefully cut out the thick white V-shaped core at the base of each quarter. Cut across each quarter in thin slices, then separate slices into shreds (this separating can be done by a very young assistant.

Recipe I
Do not underestimate the taste that can be had from such a simple salad. Plus, its simplicity allows for even a very young chef having a hand in providing the family’s dinner salad. This colorful dish can also be a very wholesome and fun lunch. Pixie Tangerines are just the right size for small hands to work with and are in full production right now. They have a taste like no other tangerine on the planet! The dressing lesson: a very traditional red wine vinegar-OJ-Dijon formula that equally enhances the flavors of both cabbage and tangerine.

Recipe II
Now what child could resist a ketchup dressing? The dressing for this recipe is a version of a ketchup vinaigrette that was very popular the 1950s, called Catalina Dressing. The vinegar also is a necessary ingredient when cooking red cabbage; without the acidity from the vinegar the red pigmentation will turn blue. The dressing also provides an opportunity for a review of the proper handling of the food processor, especially the process of adding the salad oil very carefully while the machine is running. But do not stop there; the proper cleaning of this essential kitchen appliance should also be a part of the curriculum! Two simple recipes that all members of the family can have a hand in preparing as well as several culinary lessons that your kids will carry with them into their own kitchens in the years to come. Happy forks!

Recipe I
Image of Red Cabbage and Pixie Tangerines
Red Cabbage & Pixie Tangerine Salad
Serves 6


4 cups very thinly sliced organic red cabbage
3 Ojai Pixie tangerines, peeled and segmented
1 package (3 oz.) Melissa’s Pine Nuts
Salt & pepper to taste

1-1/2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
6 Tbsp. olive oil
4 Tbsp. orange juice
3-1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar


What the kids can do:
  1. Slice and shred cabbage head, under supervision
  2. Peel and separate tangerine segments
  3. Mix the cabbage and tangerines in a large bowl.
  4. In a small jar with a lid, measure and combine the oil, vinegar, and orange juice, mustard and shake well
  5. Pour over salad
  6. Add in half the pine nuts and toss the salad to mix thoroughly.
  7. Plate individual servings, garnish each plate equally with the remaining pine nuts
What supervising adult should do:
Core the cabbage head. Supervise or slice of the cabbage depending on the ability of your helpers. Also, depending on age and ability, handle the salt and pepper before serving or risk over seasoning!

Recipe II
Spiced Red Cabbage and Apple Stovetop Casserole
Serves 8


4 cups shredded organic red cabbage
2 organic Granny Smith apples, chopped
1 medium organic red onion, sliced

Catalina Dressing:
½ cup ketchup
½ cup sugar
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup Perfect Sweet onions, chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup salad oil salt and pepper


What the kids can do:
  1. Make the dressing first as it is needed in the cooking.
  2. Dressing: Add the ketchup, sugar, vinegar, onion, paprika and Worcestershire to a food processor bowl and pulse until blended. With the processor running, slowly add the oil.
  3. Slice cabbage head and red onion, then chop apple - all under supervision
  4. In large skillet combine and cook cabbage, apples and onions in 2 Tbsp. of the dressing for 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Stir occasionally.
  5. Add in remaining dressing and cook an additional 10 minutes or until cabbage is tender.
  6. Serve family style in large serving dish.
What the supervising adult should do:
Core the cabbage head. Supervise or slice and chop of the main ingredients yourself depending on the ability of your helpers.

Of course the hot stove work should be a team effort; maybe the kids can add in the ingredients but you do the stir-cooking while they keep the time.
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