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updated: 3/7/2018 10:30 AM

Large head of cabbage, a little jar of chiles -- boom! An unexpected meal

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  • Charred Napa Cabbage With Calabrian Chiles. In a pinch you can substitute In testing, we tried a mix of finely chopped roasted red peppers (packed in oil) and crushed red pepper flakes instead of the Calabrian chiles.

    Charred Napa Cabbage With Calabrian Chiles. In a pinch you can substitute In testing, we tried a mix of finely chopped roasted red peppers (packed in oil) and crushed red pepper flakes instead of the Calabrian chiles.
    Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post

 
By Bonnie S. Benwick
The Washington Post

High heat does luscious things to cabbage. I was reminded of that during a recent meal at Centrolina in CityCenterDC. Chef-restaurateur Amy Brandwein gives napa cabbage quarters a quick turn in her wood-fired oven, where their frilly edges crisp up and their layers of leaves go meltingly sideways, slightly sweeter.

They are topped with a dressing that relies on a jarred condiment sold in Centrolina's market and elsewhere: crushed Calabrian chiles in oil, which are far less threatening than their fiery color and visible seeds suggest. You see them sometimes strewed across good-quality Neapolitan pies or over a chopped salad.

Our table dug in and demolished the dish, which Brandwein offers as a starter. I was so smitten that this recipe is the result, with the chef's blessings.

An oven cranked up to 500 degrees won't give you the smokiness of Centrolina's presentation, but the softness and char will be there. Serve it with a portion of creamy burrata cheese, and I'm convinced you'll be happy with this simple, sophisticated cabbage as a main course -- and you'll find ways to use up that small jar of chiles faster than you think.

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