For lovers of Southern cuisine, soul food means one thing: dishes whose rich flavors date back to the old South and Africa, writes Celia Barbour in Oprah magazine. Soul food incorporates cheap vegetables, inexpensive meats and simple spices. Such is the case with soul food cabbage. With just a few ingredients, you can make a satisfying vegetable dish flavored predominately by the fat in which it's cooked.
Dice one large onion into about 1/4-inch pieces. Cut up a few strips of bacon, which gives the dish a salty pork flavor characteristic of many soul food dishes. Rough chop a small head of cabbage.
Place a saute pan over low to medium heat and render the bacon, meaning let the fat melt off until only the meaty part of the bacon is left. This may only take a few minutes, depending on how much bacon you plan to render. You can remove the bacon pieces from the fat with a slotted spoon. or leave them in the dish for texture and taste.
Saute the onion in the fat until it’s soft, about 5 minutes. Move the onion around constantly for the first 2 minutes to ensure that it's completely covered with oil, which helps the pieces cook evenly. Spread the onion evenly with a spoon, and stir it around the pan every 30 to 45 seconds to keep it from burning.
Add the cabbage to the pot, and adjust the heat to medium. Mix it well with the sauteed onion. Add some liquid to the pot -- just enough to moisten the cabbage, but not so much that you’ll end up with soup. The liquid can be water, but stock -- vegetable, chicken or beef -- adds more flavor to the dish.
Cover the pan with a lid, and let the cabbage cook for about 15 minutes. Then, stir the cabbage, turn the heat back up to medium-high and let it cook for an additional 15 minutes. Monitor the dish as it's cooking; turn the heat down to medium if the cabbage starts to stick, or add a bit more liquid to the pot. Generally, keep the pan covered, so that the steam from the vegetable can aid in its cooking.
Remove the pan from the heat when the cabbage is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste, or if you prefer more flavorful soul food cabbage, sprinkle on some seasoned salt -- a spice blend commonly used to flavor soul food consisting of spices and dry herbs such as onion powder, paprika, thyme and celery salt -- while the cabbage is still hot. Serve the soul food cabbage warm with macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and your choice of meat.