Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Cabbage Is For More Than Cole Slaw

Now that the Rethugs are back into power and pledging austerity(they are lying of course about shared sacrifice...what they mean is sacrifice for us grunts and none for the wealthy) I thought maybe it would be good time to talk about some more "cheap eats". When you mention cabbage to people they usually think of cole slaw, or corned beef and cabbage or even sauerkraut but they very rarely consider it in other ways. Not that there is anything wrong with any of the above but there are options when looking for something to do with a cabbage.

With a little seasoning you can do a lot with a cabbage and with cabbage we are talking "cheap eats" as you can get a head of cabbage for less than a dollar many times and a head of cabbage can go a long way.
This recipe is for a 'cabbage foundation' that you can take in any number of directions. It's nutritious, filling and tasty and depending on what you add to your 'cabbage foundation' it can be a complete meal. The following is sort of "Indiany" with the turmeric but I'll have some other variations down a little bit later.

For the 'cabbage foundation' you'll need:

a head of cabbage that weighs in at about 3 and a half pounds or so
3 tablespoons of peanut or canola oil (if you only have vegetable oil then use it) and there is always clarified butter.
1 1/2 tsp of whole cumin seeds
1 tsp of ground turmeric
a pinch of two of red pepper flakes (use according to your heat tolerance)

1 tsp kosher salt or to taste

Core and finely chop the cabbage just as you would for a coarse cole slaw...about 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces.
In a large pot or wok heat the oil the turmeric, cumin seeds and red pepper until you can smell the spices and the oil is hot. Add half the cabbage and stir for about two minutes or until the cabbage starts to wilt a bit. Add the rest of the cabbage and cook for another ten to twenty minutes or until  the edges of the cabbage begin to brown a bit(this depends on how high you have the heat and all). Season with salt and serve.

This is in its simplest(and cheapest form) but you can add to this. To add some additional protein try adding two cups of frozen peas when you add the first cabbage or instead of peas try canned chick peas or other beans (just rinse them first). Another great addition is to add nuts to the hot oil before you add any cabbage and toast them briefly before proceeding. Unsalted cashews, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, whatever, again about two cups or two handfuls. Adding both beans or peas and nuts of some type will pretty much make this a complete meal. Don't overlook other additions such as raisins or frozen corn. The 'cabbage foundation' is pretty flexible and don't feel like you are stuck with cumin and turmeric either. Other herbs and spices are friendly with cabbage as well. Thyme, oregano, Herbes de Provence are good choices as is chili powder and paprika. The texture and flavor of the cabbage is a good backdrop of any number of things just don't overdo the spices and drown out the cabbage. A teaspoon or at most two when heated with the oil will do a fine job of flavoring a nice pot of cabbage.

Here is a combination worth trying if you are a Mexican food lover. Instead of turmeric use a tsp and a half of good chili powder, keep the cumin seeds and add a tsp of dried oregano...the red pepper flakes are optional here and will depend on your chili powder. Add a cup and a half of pine nuts to the oil with the spices before the first cabbage and cook for a couple of minutes. A can of drained and rinsed pinto beans or black beans  go in with the first cabbage and a handful of raisins with the second batch of cabbage. Another variation would be to use smoked paprika instead of the chili powder. Don't overlook the 'baking section' of your spice cabinet either. Allspice, nutmeg and even cinnamon can add an interesting note to this dish but then we might be talking pecans, walnuts, and dried cranberries. Remember...NO Rules!


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