Every Christmas Eve my parents would make this delicious dish. Our traditional Christmas Eve meal was always light and meatless usually consisting of fresh hot crispelli’s, broth with cheese balls, cabbage and beans, pasta a olio, calamari and of course Bakala (cod fish) in a calabrese sauce and or also on the grill. The cabbage and beans was always one of my favorites. Most important to this dish is using Savoy Cabbage which is lighter in texture and somehow always seems sweeter than traditional cabbage. Christmas 2001 I was not able to be with my family as they gathered in Texas. I called my father on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, he was hard of hearing and most often did not wear his hearing aid so often our conversations consisted of repeating things said. This day, we talked for quite a long while about a lot of things and of course as always, the topic of food came up, what was I going to have for dinner tonight? What was I making on Christmas Day?…….. I told my dad that I was planning to make cabbage and beans and went down the list of ingredients and how to make it, even after making it countless times I just had to confirm that I was doing it right, but what I had forgotten was the anchovies – really the best part and what really gives flavor to the dish. We had a nice chuckle over this and once again I was reminded what a blessing it was to have my father there to run things by. It was the last conversation I had with my dad, the next morning, the Lord called him home. That Christmas morning my parents were together again, gathered around the banquet of the Lord to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Clean and wash the cabbage, cut into wedges removing the core so that when boiled the cabbage will come apart. Cook the cabbage in lightly salted water until tender but not mushy. In a small pan heat the olive oil add the garlic* (either peeled cloves or prepared as in the tip below). Add red pepper (use as much or as little of the pepper, to your liking). Make sure that the oil is heated slowly as to cook the garlic without burning. To the oil, add a couple of anchovies and some of the anchovy oil, mash and stir the anchovies well into the warm oil. The anchovies will eventually melt right into the oil leaving the flavor. When the cabbage is cooked drain and place in a bowl, rinse and drain the beans and add to the cabbage. Add the oil mixture and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
COOKING GARLIC MOMMY'S WAY: Most often my mother would cook the garlic in the skin and often would serve the garlic in thier skins in this dish and when making pasta a olio (pasta with oil). However I usually cook them in the skins and then remove them before serving. To cook the garlic in the skin, peel away any of the filaments from the garlic clove but leave the skin on, then cut a small slit diagonally in the clove not cutting too deep but enough for the oil to seep in.Cook the garlic cloves in the oil. What results is a deliciously roasted clove of garlic. When the cloves begin to rise to the top of the oil and to brown lightly you know they are done or close to being done. Do not let them burn or overcook them. When they are tender, remove teh oil from the heat. With a slotted spoon remove the cloves from the hot oil. Allow them to cool so that you can handle them with your hands and then just pop the garlic clove right out of the skin. Return the cooked cloves to the oil and add the red pepper and follow the rest of the recipie above.