Cabbage is not a glamorous vegetable; the light green head certainly doesn’t evoke excitement like a voluptuous, juicy red tomato might. Homely and boring, the poor cabbage is often overcooked or just ignored completely. It got a little attention when the Cabbage Soup Diet came around, which advises dieters to “cook the soup for a long time-two hours works well”. Hmm…I wonder why that diet fell out of fashion. It’s only other real claim to fame is being the star ingredient of coleslaw and even then the mayonnaise-y dressing usually takes center stage.

Rich in vitamin K and C, as well as fiber, manganese, folate, potassium, B vitamins, and those trendy omega-3 fatty acids, (but low in calories) cabbage is definitely a worthy addition to anyone’s diet. However, it has been unable to shed its smelly, mushy, dull image. Some recipes calling for cabbage try to disguise it with other more flavorful vegetables or bacon, or they try to downplay the sulfuric odors that emerge during lengthy cooking with lots of vinegar.

But all cabbage needs is a second chance. Remember how you hated Brussels sprouts as a kid, but now you’ve come to appreciate their sweet and nutty undertones? Well, it’s time to give cabbage another try. Stop picturing sauerkraut and soup and imagine this: slowly caramelized cabbage that turns into a soft, yet complex and savory filling to be encased in a tender pastry crust and topped with a few knobs of creamy cheese. Forget the mini quiches or spinach dip, this is the winter appetizer. A little decadence from the crust, a little smoothness from the cheese, and a whole lot of sexy from the caramelization is just what cabbage needed.

Caramelized Cabbage Crostata

Serves 8 as an appetizer or 4 as a light main course

This crust recipe is a great alternative to traditional, all-butter crust recipes; not only is it healthier but is easier to make! The recipe can be made vegan if soy or rice milk is substituted for the milk in the pastry crust and the crostata is made without the cheese. If you do decide to add cheese, Gorgonzola, chevre, Brie, or Taleggio would all be tasty. So would an accompanying glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

For the pastry crust

½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil

For the filling

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 small green cabbage, cored and shredded
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, optional
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 ounces cubed cheese such as gorgonzola, optional

To make the pastry crust, whisk the flours and salt together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk and oil together until emulsified, and then pour onto the flour mixture. Stir together until the mixture forms a ball, then shape into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

To make the filling, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cabbage, onions, caraway seeds (if using), salt, and pepper. Cook until the cabbage and onions have started to soften and wilt, 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and stirring often, continue to cook for another 20 minutes until the cabbage and onions have reduced greatly in volume and are deeply browned (but not burnt). Leave the cabbage to cool in the pan.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Once the cabbage has finished cooking, take the pastry out of the fridge. Liberally dust a clean counter top with all purpose flour (the pastry tends to absorb the flour) and roll out the pastry until it is about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer the pastry to a cookie sheet.

Spread the caramelized cabbage out onto the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border. Gently fold the border over the filling to make a crust. Bake the crostata for 25 minutes, then sprinkle the cheese over the top and bake for another 15 minutes until the crostata is golden brown and the cheese has melted. Serve warm or room temperature.