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Savoy Cabbage and Caper Salad

Savoy Cabbage Salad recipe

Cabbage is not the sexiest thing to blog about. The whole group of vegetables that fall under the cabbage genus (is it a genus? I am guessing so) just conjure up images that are rather unappealing and the best of times.

My memories of cabbage really aren’t that good to be honest. The British have quite a history assaulting this group of plants, and quite honestly a lot of it could quite easily fall under the “war crimes” category, for it is that bad. I remember going over for Sunday lunch at my Grandparents a few times a year. Generally my grandmother was a great cook, she could knock a roast dinner like nobodies business. Cabbage however was another thing. The cabbage got boiled. Boiled for a very, very long time. “Fall apart tender” would be one polite description that could be used.

Judging by the smells in retirement villages, I reckon most grandmothers are the same. You walk in to one, and you smell three things: Pee, cookies and overcooked cabbage. So, I approach cabbage with a group of complexes that I am sure a psychologist would have a field day with.

Personally my taste is either for raw cabbage that has texture – like the Savoy featured here. Either that, or cabbage that is cooked over high heat and fast – in a wok, preferably with a somewhat spicy sauce. Either that, or fermented and/or pickled. Think saurkraut or kimchi.

Savoy Cabbage salad recipe

Here we go raw. Totally raw. This recipe is thanks to a couple of sources. The first is a truly excellent book on simple Italian Food. The book is called “Italian Two Easy”, and is by the lasses from the brilliant River Cafe in London. Most recipes have no more than 5 ingredients. Because of this you have to make sure your ingredients are first rate, otherwise the recipes fall flat on their behinds.

That brings me on to my second source. Scott at Sausage Debauchery. You might remember him from a previous post I did on Bottarga Pasta. He is a meat curing buddy of mine that just happens to have started an Italian foods imports company, and sells his stuff online.

Scott has salted capers. Not the brined stuff you find in grocery stores. Capers packed in sea salt. The difference really is quite incredible. The capers have their own unique taste depending on area, and give a far more complex and well-rounded flavor. A dish like a salad of cabbage, capers, olive oil, vinegar and parsley is exactly the right dish to use them in.

This cabbage salad recipe has 5 ingredients. Cabbage, capers, olive oil, wine vinegar, parsley. Best to make sure each of those ingredients is the very best you can find.

You will be surprised by this one. It is incredibly clean, salty with a good acidic pop. Enough texture and flavor complexity to keep it interesting enough to be a small starter salad to a casual dinner get together. Just make sure your guests are out the door before the well known side-effects of cabbage start to raise their ugly heads..

The only real change I have made to this salad is to throw a little radicchio in to the mix, just for a little more visual and textural personality. Oh, I have bumped up the amount of capers a bit too.


Savoy Cabbage salad recipe, with capers and parsley

(adapted from “Italian Two Easy” Rose Gray, Ruth Rogers)

1 head of savoy cabage

1 head of radicchio

6 tablespoons of salt packed capers

1 handful of finely chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon of wine vinegar

3 tablespoons of really darn good olive oil.

Cut the cabbage in half through the core. Remove the core from each side. Slice finely across the cabbage halves. Do the same for the radicchio. In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar and olive oil.

Rinse the capers under cold running water, then soak them in a couple of changes of cold water for 10 minutes, to remove some of the salt.

In a large bowl mix together the cabbage, radicchio, capers and parsley. Pour a little of the dressing over the salad. Toss. Add more dressing as needed, but don’t overdo it.

Have a taste, making sure to get all ingredients on your fork. Add salt only if required – those pesky capers can sure be salty.

In case anyone is interested.. here is the setup for the capers shot.

Capers shot camera setup

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23 Responses to “Savoy Cabbage and Caper Salad”

  1. Alli says:

    I have to agree with you completely on the cabbage experiences! And the only way to eat them is lightly cooked or pickled. Love your recipe, I adore capers. I use a similar set up for photographing too but now we are entering winter here in NZ I have less opportunity to use natural light and have been getting frustrated with my latest attempts, might be time for me to invest in lighting. Love you photos by the way.

  2. Y says:

    Yum! I especially love that picture of the two cabbages. I’m a huge fan of cabbage – usually raw or pickled. There’s rarely a time when our fridge doesn’t have a wedge or two of cabbage hiding somewhere.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing how you shot this pic! I have been working on food photography for a year now and find it super challenging and there are few resources out there. Your blog helps so much! You make cabbage and capers extremely exciting. :)

  4. What a coincidence – we randomly added capers to sauteed brussel sprouts (aka mini cabbages) last night, and I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

  5. Money Funk says:

    Mmmm… capers and cabbage. Two of my fav ingredients. Yet I never thought of putting them together. And its totally raw vegan. Right up my alley. Thx. ;)

  6. kitchenbeard says:

    This sounds great. I like sauteeing cabbage with capers and lemon juice and then reducing with white wine.

  7. nina says:

    First time I’ve seen salt packed capers and you cab bet that i will be hunting for them now!!! Lovely picture as always!!

  8. This salad looks great- love the simplicity. I’ve been meaning to seek out the salt-packed capers as well.

    I agree with your stance on boiled cabbage, but I urge you to try Molly Stevens’ recipe for long-braised cabbage- I think it could convert you from your preconceptions on “overcooked” cabbage. I took it to a potluck once and it was devoured, I couldn’t believe it! I’d even go so far as to call it luscious, insofar as a cabbage can be. It is a bit more of a wintry dish, but who knows, we may have some chilly days yet ahead. It’s killer alongside a roast chicken.

    If you’re interested:

  9. Dana says:

    Thank you Matt! Now I need to order some of those capers…

  10. dawn says:

    i pretty much do the same photo set up as you. what type of paper do you use to line the glass on door? interesting. there is a curved giant half bowl that is used to food photos (you place the food inside the bowl, it’s all white and very shiny, great for shoots, but can’t find where to get it–ever hear of it?)

  11. This is just what I needed: I have cabbage but have been uninspired. Your salad looks heavenly!

  12. Last fall I posted some cabbage recipes hoping to venerate this underappreciated cruciferae. Unlike you, I have very fond memories associated with this vegetable when cooked. However, I also dig it raw and like the tip on adding capers to the mix.

  13. hank says:

    With capers, once you go salted, you never go back…

  14. Heather says:

    I think Savoy cabbage is one of the most beautiful of all Brassicas (the genus, which indeed includes mustard, broccoli and cauliflower), if not of all vegetables. Entire lines of ceramic dinnerware have been inspired by it! I think you’ve done a fine job of honoring this humble vegetable.

    I’d like to try growing/preserving my own capers sometime. Maybe I’ll start fiddling around with that this summer.

  15. Janis says:

    You used here sunlight. Would you consider shooting this with a softbox? What would you use if you would need to do this during an evening?

  16. mattwright says:

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Hank – I totally agree salted are awesome.
    Heather – do it!! I would love to hear how that comes out
    Janis – Yep, sunlight. This time of year however I shoot about 50% of my shots using artificial light. I have a Tota Umbrella light that I really like – good wide soft light. What is more, it is big enough to light larger spaces if needed.

  17. Cabbage is indeed in the same genus as broccoli, cauliflower and kale. The family includes common radishes, horseradish, turnips, and wildflowers, among many other things. :)

    I was just wondering what delicious things I could do with this head of cabbage I got yesterday, and I love capers.

    Your make shift soft box is totally clever.

  18. tiina says:

    Oh, yes yes yes. This sounds so good. I’ve been using a lot of capers lately. I kind of always find myself making recipes with capers when the spring comes. My caper recipe favorite is a simple salad with peas, soft goat cheese, lemon juice, capers and salt&pepper. I’ll have to try this one soon too. Have a great weekend!

  19. Nick says:

    It’s worth noting – not all salted capers are amazing. I had some of the same brand in your pictures here, and they were great. Then the store that had them ran out, so I bought another, cheaper brand. These were only slightly better than the brined variety.

    Also, I have to take issue with the idea that long cooked cabbage is universally bad; red cabbage, braised in red wine with caramelized onions, vinegar and maybe a bit of apple or dried fig for additional sweetness (if one prefers that) is amazingly good, in my humble opinion. I love raw cabbage as well, however, and think that savoy is much better as the main ingredient in a salad than standard white cabbage is.

  20. Wow. wow. wow.

    What an incredibly thorough post. I especially love the set up shot at the end. Certainly does help all of us food styling-amateurs figure out how to get THE shot.

    Your ears should have been burning yesterday. Lots of talk about you at the Food Blog Forum via the ladies from Good Food. They mentioned you as just-the-kind-of-thing they’re looking for in a food blogger for their radio show.


  21. Love your blog, love your writing. You’re a funny, funny man! Fabulous photos, thanks so much for sharing.

  22. Andy Hurvitz says:

    I made a cabbage salad recipe a few days ago, one I got from Bon Appetit, January 2010:

    Red Cabbage Salad with Green Apple, Lingonberry Preserves and Toasted Walnuts.

    It was very good. I will try yours since I believe in the simplicity and quality of your ingredients.

  23. Anne Milton says:

    I like the way you think. I spent my childhood in Boston sharing a duplex with a numerous and delightful Irish family who were our landlords: scent memories (and fears) of overcooked cabbage haunt me to this day! Right now, I have a big, beautiful savoy cabbage sitting in the fridge, and can’t bring myself to do anything with it. Thanks for this recipe, which will help me break out of my cabbage-phobic paralysis.