Whether you're making cabbage soup for its value as a hearty and nutritious vegetable, or making it as part of a diet plan, you can use a variety of seasonings to enhance the flavor of this comfort food. Turn cabbage soup into a hearty German dish, or flavor it with spices for a Cajun-style soup. Cabbage is nutritious and mild-flavored, so it lends itself well to creative seasonings for a variety of dishes. According to the University of Illinois Extension Service, cabbage may reduce the risk of some forms of cancer--including colorectal cancers--it's also high in beta-carotene, vitamin C and fiber.
Make Italian-style cabbage soup by adding just a few inexpensive ingredients to the basic cabbage soup recipe. Chop fresh basil and oregano very finely, and 1/2 cup chopped herbs to 1/2 gallon of soup. Stir in a cup of diced tomatoes, either fresh or canned. Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine--chardonnay or soave or even cooking wine will work. Stir in 2 tsp. minced garlic, either fresh or from a jar; for extra flavor, toast the garlic in a small skillet till it's golden brown before adding it to the soup. Crush 1/4 tsp. fennel seed and stir that into the soup--or toast it with the garlic before stirring it in. Let the soup simmer without boiling for at least 30 minutes to meld the flavors.
Create a German-style cabbage soup by first dicing fresh carrots and fresh red onions and stirring them into the warm cabbage soup. Fry ground pork sausage till it's crisp, then drain it on a paper towel and add 1/2 to 1 cup fried sausage to each 1/2 gallon of soup. Crush 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds and stir that in, and add a sprinkle of ground allspice. Let this simmer at least 30 minutes. Adjust the heat so the soup is barely bubbling, then mix 1/2 cup red currant jelly with 1/2 cup finely crushed gingersnap cookies and stir the mixture into the simmering soup. Reduce heat and let simmer slowly for five minutes before serving.
Season Cajun-style cabbage soup with just a couple of additions. Add fresh or cooked shrimp to the basic cabbage soup recipe, and add some browned or grilled Andouille sausage. Shake in a generous dusting of Cajun seasoning. Let the seasoned cabbage soup simmer for at least five minutes before serving.
Make a Mexican-style cabbage soup by adding beans, salsa, green chiles, and cilantro. Stir in 1 can of black beans (frijoles negrito), and 1/2 cup green salsa (hot or mild) for each 1/2 gallon of basic cabbage soup recipe. Add a small can of diced green chiles and 1/2 cup of finely minced fresh cilantro. Season generously with ground cumin. Add a couple dashes of ground chile powder, or 1/2 tsp. for extra flavor. Add several dashes of Cholula or Tabasco hot sauce for extra zest.
For a borscht-style cabbage soup with beets, serve with a spoonful of sour cream or a dollop of mayonnaise.
Fat-free yogurt or canola oil-based mayonnaise is a low-fat substitute for sour cream.
For any recipe above, add extra texture with 1/2 cup of VERY finely diced green or red cabbage simmered for five minutes before serving.