shades of beige

lunch

I wasn’t going to post on this dinner, as it’s really unpreposessing-looking (brown meat, brownish-yellow cabbage, brown pickle – all we needed was a reddish-brown dal to make the plate truly unappetizing). And I’ve already talked about the pork stewed with ginger, chiles and rai masala (a regular dish in our meal rotation). But I don’t believe I’ve told you about this cabbage dish, which is easy to make and amazingly good, especially with a side of yogurt and a good Indian pickle. Despite its looks, it’s worth trying – sweet and a little spicy, with a lingering fennel note and just a hint of bitterness from the fenugreek. I generally make it a little differently each time, depending on my mood and what we’re serving it with. This is the version I made last night.

shades of beige

Buttery Cabbage with Fennel and Green Chile

Loosely adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Spice Kitchen

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 small green cabbage, cored and finely sliced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seed
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 5 fenugreek seeds
  • a clove or two of garlic, chopped
  • 1 green chile (we use serranos), chopped
  • 1 nugget fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • pinch garam masala
  • juice of half a lemon

Heat the oil in a large skillet (one that has a well-fitting lid) and add the cumin, mustard, fennel and fenugreek seeds. When they have begun to toast, add the onion and saute until it softens. Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric and chile and cook for a minute or two, then dump in all the shredded cabbage (this is why you needed a large skillet). Saute until the cabbage wilts and combines with the onion and spices, then add some salt and the butter. Stir it all up as the butter melts, then put in a splash of water, cover the pan and lower the heat. Let it simmer 15-30 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure it hasn’t boiled dry.  Then take off the lid and slowly saute again, stirring frequently, so that the liquid boils off and the onion and cabbage caramelize a bit – another 15-30 minutes. Sprinkle in the garam masala and lemon juice, taste for salt, and serve.

fish tacos & purple salsa

fish tacos

I’ve always been a big fan of fish tacos, and tend to order them any time I see them as long as they’re not deep-fried (not that I have anything against fried fish, but I prefer it outside of a taco). We recently had some fantastic halibut tacos out at Skagit’s Own Fish Market, grilled with a spicy rub and liberally dressed with tomato salsa and fresh cucumber. Then there was the taco, also halibut I think, at Fred’s Rivertown Alehouse in Snohomish, which was topped with cabbage and tartar sauce and came with some really excellent beans and rice. At this point I really wanted to make some of my own, to keep the streak going. We picked up some nice looking ling cod and a pack of fresh tortillas and thought about topping options.

tomatillopurple tomatillo

This year I’ve been growing tomatillos for the first time. We got a couple of plants from the high school greenhouse of a variety I’d never seen before, just labeled “purple tomatillos.” With the hot weather we’ve finally been having, the plants have started bearing like crazy, and the fruits are, indeed, purple. I only had a few mature tomatillos, but decided to try whipping them up into a green (or purple) salsa to go with our fish tacos.

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lima beans

Christmas limas

I’ve been eager to get to work with some of the beans I picked up at the Rancho Gordo booth in San Francisco, and I finally got my chance this week. I decided to start with the ones I was most curious about: the Christmas limas, which the packaging claims taste of chestnuts. Plus they’re all kinds of pretty.

Rancho Gordo beans

I picked a recipe out of my newly acquired copy of Heirloom Beans, for Christmas limas with cabbage and pork chops. I did my new favorite brine soak, but otherwise followed the recipe fairly closely. The beans cook in an aromatic broth of bacon, garlic, bay and ancho chile, and Savoy cabbage is wilted in with them at the last moment. The pork chops are very straightforwardly seared, then finished in the oven (we thought about hauling out the grill but ran out of time that day).

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better as leftovers

pork sliders

We have been braising fiends this year, and we’ve begun to make inroads on some of our larger roasts, which means leftovers. Of course, the great thing about braised meat is that it’s better the next day, after the flavors have had a chance to really meld and settle in. Last weekend we pulled out a pork arm roast and braised it on a bed of cabbage, onion, and sauerkraut flavored with paprika, caraway and beer. It was pleasant enough the first night, but lunch the next day was when it really shone.

I had made a batch of buttermilk-caraway dinner rolls (from our go-to baking book for such things, Mary’s Bread Basket and Soup Kettle), which were wonderful eaten hot out of the pan with butter, but were also delightful split, toasted, spread with mustard, and turned into little pork-and-cabbage sliders. A pile of cornichons and a glass of Pacific Rim Riesling completed a rather dreamy lunch.

pork and cabbage noodles

And because we made a truly enormous amount, I had those sliders again yesterday (maybe today, too). And for dinner last night, I threw together this interesting noodle dish. Some fresh shredded cabbage, sauteed in olive oil until well browned, tossed with some of the leftover braised pork, and mixed with cooked gemelli pasta and doused with Frank’s hot sauce. It came out well, with a sort of spicy Asian-fusiony sort of effect. I liked it.

a new bulgur pilaf

dinner

This has been a great season for cabbage. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much cabbage as I have this winter. This is partly due to an influx of wonderful new recipes, but also just an increased appreciation for the flavor of properly cooked cabbage. Plus, it’s way cheap.

tonight's cabbage
ground allspice

The latest installment of “cabbage — it’s what’s for dinner” takes the form of a bulgur pilaf. I love bulgur, for its chewiness, nuttiness, and most importantly, easy-to-cookness. This pilaf accents the sweet earthy flavors of bulgur and cabbage with sumac, allspice, green onion and pine nuts. The sumac provides a cool sour note that makes this a little different than your (meaning my) usual workaday bulgur pilaf. And freshly ground allspice just makes your kitchen smell wonderful. Continue reading

cabbage & cod

cabbage & cod

I thought I was being so virtuous when I thought of doing a piece of fish and some braised cabbage for dinner on Sunday. Simple, low-carb, easing us off of the rich food bandwagon. Ha.

cabbage gratin

The trouble was, I had half a head of Savoy cabbage in the fridge, needing to be used up. And since the last time I made Molly Stevens’ recipe for braised Savoy cabbage with triple-cream cheese, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do much else with Savoy (I didn’t print the recipe last time, but I’m sure going to now). And as it turned out, the only suitable cheese we could find at the supermarket was Cambozola – wowie. A mite stinkier than the Delice de Bourgogne I used before, with the added exciting feature that the bits of blue mold in the cheese remained behind as the cheese melted, creating strange little blue growths in the cabbage. Sounds revolting, I know, but YUM. Continue reading

first snow and choucroute garni

snowbell

We got our first snow this weekend, with a vengeance! Saturday was breezy and cold, and a light snow fell all afternoon, but then it really picked up overnight and by Sunday morning we had a good 5 inches on the ground. Too bad I had to go to work on Sunday – fortunately I have a very short commute.

the tree

But at least I had Saturday at home, and it was a good one. We picked up our Christmas tree in the morning from a local tree farm, and I was able to spend the afternoon in the house, making a batch of caramels, decorating the tree, and putting together a choucroute garni for dinner. It simmered away quietly in the oven, perfuming the house with the scent of cabbage and pork, while we fussed about with stockings and ornaments.

choucroute garni Continue reading

pork and carrots and cabbage, oh my!

carrot dip

Last Saturday we cooked up quite a storm. We were kind of stuck at home, since Jon managed to throw his back out a few days before and was still on a fun variety of medications and spending most of his time on the couch. So why not cook?

To start, I made up a batch of carrot dip. I made this for friends a week ago, and it was so good it vanished instantly, so I wanted to do it again just for the two of us. It’s just roasted carrots pureed with olive oil, salt, fresh mint and a pinch of caraway or cumin seed, served with a sprinkling of feta cheese, and it is great. Plus it did a fantastic job of using up the six-pound bag of carrots we bought at the last farmer’s market.

braised cabbage

Then I threw together another recipe from good old Art of Braising, which is rapidly becoming one of those cookbooks that I want to make every single recipe out of. I had tried the “Best Braised Cabbage in the World” already, but I saw a rave about the “Savoy Cabbage Gratin with Saint Marcellin” on Orangette that made me head straight out to the co-op to look for French triple-cream cheeses. I ended up with Delice de Bourgogne, which I thought worked splendidly [huh. I just realized that’s what Molly ended up using, too. Weird]. The final dish was smooth and sweet, with a delightful funkiness about it from the cheese. Leftovers have been singularly tasty. Continue reading

world’s best braised cabbage

cabbage

The braised red cabbage salad we had at Gretchens the other day reminded us that we do actually like cabbage. It can, of course, be awful – and a good way to stink up your house – but it doesn’t have to be. I discovered the appeal of plain green cabbage when I lived by myself in college – I had a miniscule food budget which I spent primarily on cabbage, potatoes and a single bottle of cheap white wine that lasted me the whole term (Sutter Home, I think it was). I would saute the potatoes and cabbage, then add wine and let the whole thing simmer until tender. Not bad, and as cheap as it comes.

cabbage

Once my budget got a little healthier, though, I stopped buying cabbage as often. I would occasionally toss some in a Russian soup or make a coleslaw, but that was about it. Recently, though, I’ve become more aware of the possibilities of cabbage – especially braised. Continue reading

world's best braised cabbage

cabbage

The braised red cabbage salad we had at Gretchens the other day reminded us that we do actually like cabbage. It can, of course, be awful – and a good way to stink up your house – but it doesn’t have to be. I discovered the appeal of plain green cabbage when I lived by myself in college – I had a miniscule food budget which I spent primarily on cabbage, potatoes and a single bottle of cheap white wine that lasted me the whole term (Sutter Home, I think it was). I would saute the potatoes and cabbage, then add wine and let the whole thing simmer until tender. Not bad, and as cheap as it comes.

cabbage

Once my budget got a little healthier, though, I stopped buying cabbage as often. I would occasionally toss some in a Russian soup or make a coleslaw, but that was about it. Recently, though, I’ve become more aware of the possibilities of cabbage – especially braised.

Continue reading