Local Sweetheart Cabbage & Fennel with Parsley-Lemon Butter

Sweetheart Cabbage… what is it?

Pointed, hispi, hearted or sweetheart cabbage as it is sometimes known is a type of green cabbage with green leaves and a pointed head. The leaves are more open than those of a green cabbage and they have a softer texture and sweeter taste. When buying pointed cabbage look for crisp, bright looking leaves and avoid any that are wilting, yellowing or have discoloured patches or holes*. (*taken from the ThinkVegetables website)

Don’t worry… I had no idea either! I just happened to get one of these pointy-little babies a week or so ago as part of my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share that we are getting from Powissett Farm in Dover, MA. I looked at it, stuck it in the produce drawer and thought to myself… “Hmmm… better find something to do with that...”

And as luck would have it, I just happened upon a great farmers market cookbook at — drum roll please — our local DUMP. Yes, I said dump. And as I flipped through the cookbook, trying to decide if I should swipe it from our “swap shop” or walk away as my husband would have preferred, I just happened to land on a page displaying a recipe for sauteed cabbage and fennel and low and behold…  BOTH had arrived in my share that week. Done. It was serendipitous. Fate, as you will. The cookbook is now mine.

The original recipe (see bottom of post) looked great, but as you know by now if you’ve been following this blog at all, I RARELY follow recipes to a tee. I’m a non-conformist. And a control freak. So I used what I had, improvised a bit and was very happy with the outcome.

The original recipe called for leeks and I didn’t have them, so the first substitution I made was swapping the leeks for garlic scapes… which also came with my share that week.  Truth be told, I have been obsessed with using garlic scapes as long as I can remember… but have never bought them because I had no idea what to do with them. This was the perfect opportunity to jump on the bandwagon. So I did.

Not sure what garlic scapes are either? Well, that’s the beauty of signing up for a CSA or buying all your vegetables from local farmers markets in the summer. You get exposure to things you wouldn’t normally… including scapes. They are kind of standard fare in the local vegetable world. That said, in a nutshell garlic scapes “…are “flower stalks” of hardneck garlic plants, although they do not produce flowers.” 

They look like this (though, I have already trimmed off the flower end):

They smell intoxicating, taste like raw garlic and are a bit tough, so cooking them helps to soften the texture and lessens the potency (just like with fresh garlic).

I cut them into 1/2 inch pieces and sauteed them in some pasture-raised, grass-fed butter (a must-have for anyone following a Paleo-friendly diet — lots more on that in future posts).

Once they were tender, I threw in the shredded cabbage and fennel with some Hawaiian red sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper.

Hawaiian red sea salt  is awesome. Made red by the addition of red alaea clay (which adds trace minerals and iron oxide), this salt is coarse in grain size and brittle, for an interesting crunchy texture.

And instead of melting the butter and following the steps you’ll find in the original recipe, I let my butter warm up just a tad at room temperature and then I mashed the parsley directly into the butter, making a paste that I formed into a ball.

I added the parsley butter, some lemon juice and the zest of 1 lemon into the fry pan.

And sauteed everything, on medium-high heat, until the butter was melted, the juice had cooked down to a thicker texture and until the cabbage and fennel were completely wilted and cooked through.

I finished the meal by grilling whole trout (recipe to follow in the future) and served one of the fillets on top of the cabbage & fennel saute. Delicious.

This is the final version of what I came up with….

BFW’s version of Local Sweetheart Cabbage & Fennel with Parsley-Lemon Butter
Gluten-free, Paleo, Vegetarian

1 small sweetheart or other green cabbage
1 small fennel bulb
8-10 garlic scapes, flowers removed
4 tbsp unsalted butter (or ghee/clarified butter if you are following a strict Paleo plan)
Hawaiian red sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Juice and zest of 1 lemon (save 2-3 wedges for garnish)
3 tbsp fresh parsley leaves

  1. Thinly slice/shred the cabbage and fennel.
  2. Cut the garlic scapes into 1/2″ pieces.
  3. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large, wide, skillet. Add the garlic scapes and saute over medium-high heat until they start to soften, about 3-5 mins. Leave the remaining butter at room temperature.
  4. Leave the heat on medium-high and add the cabbage and fennel and sprinkle with a hearty pinch of salt (1 tsp maybe) and a few turns of fresh ground pepper. Cover the pan and cook gently for 5 minutes, so the veggies start to wilt. Continue to toss/stir as needed.
  5. Meanwhile, finely chop the parsley and combine it with the softened butter to create a paste. For ease of use, you can form it into a little ball.
  6. Cut the lemon in half. Using a microplane zester (a tool you cannot live without), zest half of the lemon directly into the fry pan. Squeeze the juice out of the half (also directly into the pan)… be sure to catch or retrieve any stray pits. Slice the remaining half into quarters. Squeeze them into the pan as well and throw the quarters in for additional flavor.
  7. Add the butter/parsley ball to the pan.
  8. Cover and continue cooking for about another 5 minutes until the lemon juice has reduced, the butter has melted and you’re left with enough sauce to coat the vegetables.
  9. Toss well, taste for salt and season with pepper.



The original recipe, from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison:

Savory Cabbage & Fennel with Parsley-Lemon Butter

1/2 small Savoy or other green cabbage
1 large fennel bulb, quartered
1 large leek, white part only
4 tbsp unsalted butter
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon
3 tbsp fresh chervil or parsley leaves

  1. Cut the cabbage, fennel and leek into very thin slices and wash. Don’t dry though.
  2. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large, wide, skillet. Add the vegetables and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt. Cover the pan and cook gently for 10 minutes. Check after 5 minutes and make sure there’s a little moisture so that the vegetables steam and don’t brown. Meanwhile, simmer the lemon juice in s mall skillet until only 1 tbsp remains. Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining butter.
  3. Finely chop the lemon zest with the chervil (or parsley). Stir half into the butter and add the other half to the vegetables. Toss well, taste for salt and season with pepper.



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