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Friday, January 23, 2009

spicy Indian cabbage & potatoes


cabbage, cabbage, cabbage!

It’s local! It’s Alaskan! It’s sweeter than cabbage grown anywhere else! And I have a LOT of it. I’d piled a couple of shelves of my extra garage refrigerator with it before the end of the farmers’ market, and now I keep getting little cabbages in our CSA boxes. Occasionally my “stocking up for the winter” tendencies can become more of a burden than a boon…  I was afraid that I might never catch up with my cabbage supply! But I’ve been making some serious headway lately! Here’s a great recipe that will help you dig out from under your cabbage pile if you’re facing one… or to encourage you to eat locally-grown cabbage if you live in a northern climate! I of course made a double batch, the better to use up my cabbage stock.

This recipe is based on one in one of my all-time favorite cookbooks to read: Seductions of Rice. Not only is it full of great recipes for rice and things to eat with rice, it’s packed with wonderful travel stories and photos by husband-and-wife team Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. They travel all over the world with their two sons, collecting recipes from people in small villages, then going home to Canada to write about them. It’s a book to sit down with and read—not just to cook out of! Every time I read one their cookbook/travel adventures I have an urge to pick up and move to Thailand or India for several months. But since I haven’t actually ever followed through on this whim, I can enjoy some of their experiences vicariously by cooking some of the interesting, simple, and delicious foods in their books.

spicy Indian cabbage & potatoes

As noted in the story above, this recipe is based on one from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Seductions of Rice. I happened to have a bunch of shallots while I made it this time, so I used them all up in this recipe, but usually I just used onions and garlic. Adjust the amount of chiles to your taste. Serve this with brown basmati rice (recipe below), and if you want, a bowl of red lentil dal alongside.

1 to 1 ½ pounds green cabbage
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small dried red chiles, or ½ teaspoon red chile flakes
1 teaspon cumin seed
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
1 inch cinnamon stick, broken into several pieces
2 green cardamom pods, smashed, OR ¼ teaspoon whole cardamom seeds, crushed lightly
1 cup thinly sliced shallots, OR 1 large onion, diced, and 2 garlic cloves, minced
3 medium potatoes, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (or half a can of diced tomatoes)
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons minced ginger
½ cup water

1. Quarter, core, and slice the cabbage into ¼-inch strips.
2. Place a large pot over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the oil, then when the oil is hot, toss in the chiles, cumin, bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon stick, and cardamom. Stir briefly and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until cumin is fragrant, then add the shallots or onions & garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the potatoes, tomato, salt, and sugar. Cook for 1 minute, then add the cabbage, turmeric, and ginger and stir and turn to coat the cabbage. Cook for 1 minute, then add the water, bring to a boil, and cook, partially covered, for about 15 or 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. The potatoes and cabbage should be tender and the flavors blended. Taste for salt, and add more as needed. Remove the lid and cook for 5 minutes to reduce the liquid, then mound onto a plate and serve.

brown basmati rice

I learned this technique from Mollie Katzen’s Mollie Katzen’s Vegetable Heaven. The rice is cooked using lots of water, which I find works perfectly for brown basmati—it’s never gummy or undercooked this way.

1 ½  cups uncooked brown basmati rice
2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt

1. Fill a medium-sized pot with 10 cups or so of water (it doesn’t need to be exact) and bring to a rolling boil. Add the rice to the water, turn down the heat, and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the rice is just tender.
2. Drain the rice in a strainer over the sink, and immediately dump rice back into the hot pot. Cover tightly with the lid and let steam OFF THE HEAT for 20 minutes. Fluff the rice.

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