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It's a great time for cabbage in the North Bay, as freezing temperatures sweeten it. It also seems a bit crisper after a freeze. We have good cabbage year round but it is particularly welcome right now, as we await spring crops. The best is available, of course, at farmers markets and farm stands.

Cabbage is a brassica, a large classification that includes mustard, broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, rapini and turnips, to name just a few of cabbage's cousins.

These foods, we are told, are good for us. They are low in calories — a cup and a half of sliced cabbage has just 24 calories — and high in vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients. There's a lot of Vitamin C in cabbage and a substantial quantity of folacin or folic acid, too.

Cabbage is one of the great workhorses of the vegetable kingdom. Raw in cole slaw and other salads, it is delicious, just as it is grilled, braised and even boiled in, say, New England Boiled Dinner or corned beef and cabbage. Fermented, it is transformed into sauerkraut, which has become increasingly popular to make at home.

One of the easiest ways to enjoy cabbage is to cut it into thick wedges, grill it and top it with Italian-style salsa verde or one of the Italian herb spreads (my favorite is the one with lemon) from Rainbow's End Farm. It is so simple and yet remarkably satisfying.

For cabbage recipes from Seasonal Pantry's archives, visit Eat This Now, the column's companion blog, at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

On a cold winter night, this salad is just the thing, either as a simple main course or alongside almost any kind of grilled or braised meat.

Hot Cabbage Salad with Bacon, Black Pepper and Vinegar

Makes 4 to 6 servings

? medium white cabbage

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

6 to 8 bacon slices, diced

? cup best-quality red wine vinegar

3 ounces fromage blanc, creme fraiche or fresh chevre

4 to 6 baguette slices, toasted

Using a sharp knife or a food processor fitted with its thinnest slicing blade, slice the cabbage into 1/8-inch thick slivers, put it in a large bowl and season it with salt and several very generous turns of pepper. Set aside.

Cook the bacon in a large frying pan over medium heat until it is very crisp. Reduce the heat to medium-low, carefully add the red wine and deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to loosen any bits of bacon that stick to the pan.

Add the cabbage, cover the pan, and cook until the cabbage just wilts, about 5 minutes. Uncover, toss the cabbage with the bacon, taste and correct the seasoning. Divide among individual soup plates. Spread cheese or creme fraiche over each baguette slice, set one on each plate and serve immediately.

Variation:

For a main course, cook about a pound and a half of sausages — I recommend Franco Dunn's One World Sausages — and cut them into diagonal slices. Toss with the cabbage before covering the pan.

If you love Thai flavors and heat, you'll love this salad. But be warned: It's hot, though the heat is balanced with sugar, which takes the edge off.

Thai-Style Cabbage Salad

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 Napa cabbage, cut in lengthwise quarters

2 tablespoons kosher salt

— Thai Dressing (recipe follows)

1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted, optional

Set the cabbage on a clean work surface and use a sharp knife to cut out the thick stem at the bottom of each quarter. Set a piece, cut side down, on the work surface and use a sharp knife to cut it into thin crosswise slices. Repeat until all the cabbage has been cut.

Put the cabbage into a large glass or stainless steel mixing bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Using your fingers, massage the salt into the cabbage until the salt dissolves and the cabbage begins to release a bit of liquid; this will take about 5 minutes. Transfer the cabbage to a large strainer or colander, set it over a large bowl or sink and let drain for about an hour.

While the cabbage drains, make the dressing.

Rinse the cabbage under cool water and either wrap it in a tea towel or put it in a salad spinner to remove as much water as possible.

Transfer to a serving bowl, add the dressing, toss, add the cilantro leaves and toss again. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top, if using, and serve.

Variation: To make a light main course, grate a large carrot, toss it with the cabbage and add a pound of quickly sauteed squid or Gulf shrimp before adding the dressing.

Thai Dressing

Makes about ? cup

1 shallot, minced

5 garlic cloves, minced

5 Thai or serrano chiles, minced

2 tablespoons fish sauce

4 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lime juice (from about 3 limes)

1 tablespoon sugar, plus more to taste

Put the shallot, garlic and chiles into a small bowl, add the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar and stir gently until the sugar is dissolved. Taste and adjust for sweetness to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

This simple salsa is delicious with fish tacos, carnitas tacos, sweet-potato tacos, bean and cheese burritos and alongside kalua pig and grilled chicken. You'll also enjoy it with beans and bean soups.

Cabbage Salsa

Makes about 2 cups

2 cups (about 8 ounces) very thinly sliced Savoy or Napa cabbage

8 radishes, very thinly sliced

6 scallions, white and pale green parts only, cut into very thin rounds

1 serrano or jalape?, minced

— Juice of 2 limes

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

? cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

In a medium bowl, toss together the cabbage, carrots, radishes, scallions, and serrano or jalape?. Pour the lime juice, vinegar, and olive oil over the vegetables, toss gently but thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper, add the cilantro, and toss again.

Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM.

E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com.

You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.