Indian-Spiced Cabbage and Onions

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I have found the best ways to interact with neighbors all center around food.

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For example, when I was really little we lived on the bottom floor and my cousins lived right above us in a duplex. Apparently, as a robust three-year-old, I would eat dinner at home and then go upstairs for round two. Very convenient. Also good to know old habits die hard.

wpid460-IndianCabbage-2.jpgIn my last apartment, there was the surprise (shirtless) visitor from downstairs, who emphatically asked if we wanted a gallon of kombucha, since he had just made way too much, oh, and hey we also made some blackberry jam, want some? (Uh, yesplease.)

wpid462-IndianCabbage-3.jpgwpid464-IndianCabbage-4.jpgOh, and once, in a fit of panic, I went around and knocked on all 3 doors of my old building to see if anyone, legit, had a half cup of milk for a cake I was baking. The dingy downstairs boys indeed did, and, after enduring a brief jam session I was invited to witness, were rewarded with cake the next day.

wpid466-IndianCabbage-5.jpgIn my new place, the basement of a brownstone with a family living upstairs, surprise shirtless visitors will be few and far between (I hope) (unless its a toddler). BUT we do share a corridor with the family and at in impromptu hallway meetup the other morning, our new neighbor asked if we were cooking something incredible last night.

wpid474-IndianCabbage-9.jpgYes, yes we were. It was cabbage. And onions. And it smelled like you were transported to the homiest of loving homes in Delhi and sat down for a legitimate feast. Onions, cumin, ginger, and turmeric. The humblest of ingredients create the most irresistible wafting aromas.

wpid470-IndianCabbage-7.jpgOh! And! My old roommate found the cookbook this recipe came from on this side of the street and thought I’d like it. Full Circle.

Indian-Spiced Cabbage and Onions

adapted the smallest bit from Madhur Jaffrey: An Invitation to Indian Cooking

7 T canola oil, divided
½ t whole cumin seeds
½ t whole fennel seeds
½ t whole brown mustard seeds
2 onions, divided
½ a large red cabbage, sliced as thin as possible
2-3 large collard green leaves, sliced into ribbons (optional)
1 t chopped celery leaves (I used this as a sub for whole fenugreek seeds)
2 whole canned tomatoes and their juices
fresh ginger, about 1 inch by 1.5 inches, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
½ a jalapeno or ¼ a long hot pepper, some seeds removed, thinly sliced in rounds
½ t turmeric
1 T lemon juice
1 t salt
1 t garam masala
Greek yogurt, to serve
rice, to serve

Heat 4 T oil over high heat in a very large pan. Add cumin, fennel, and mustard seeds. Stir frequently for about 30 seconds to a minute, until mustard seeds start to pop. Turn heat to medium and add one and a half onions, sliced (save the last half onion for later.) Cook for 5 minutes.

Next, add cabbage, collards leaves, and celery leaves. It will seem like there is WAY too much cabbage but stir lovingly and be patient, and cabbage will wilt astonishingly. Don’t be afraid to sacrfice a couple cabbage strands in the process. Cover, turn to low, and cook for 15 minutes. After this, take off the cover and cook for another half an hour.

Meanwhile, blend canned tomatoes + their juices, ginger, garlic, and the reserved half onion using an immersion blender (or a legit one).

Heat 3 T oil in a small skillet on high heat. Add blendered spice paste, spicy pepper slices, and turmeric. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened and your neighbor texts to ask if they can come over for dinner.

Once cabbage has cooked for 30 minutes, add thickened spice paste, lemon juice, salt, and garam masala. Stir together well and cook for an additional five minutes to let flavors meld. Spoon over rice, add a dollop of yogurt, and enjoy! I added some quick pan-fried tofu just to make it more of a complete meal, but it was totally unnecessary. Leftovers were AMAZING.

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Rhubarb, Chickpea, and Spinach Stew with Cilantro-Lemon Yogurt Sauce

all done best

  1. Rhubarb can indeed be used in something other than pies. Savory things! Although pie is also a good idea. So is crumb cake.
  2. I have been finding myself, for the first time in my life, saying “I’m watching the game,” in response to people asking me about my plans. I’M WATCHING SPORTS. WORLD CUP SOCCER SPORTS. And it’s FUN and I GET SPORTS. It’s fun watching sports with other people who like watching sports! Ah, wisdom.
  3. Running into someone you haven’t talked to since their Bat Mitzvah at a trendy bowling place in Brooklyn while waiting for a world music concert to start is, believe or not, QUITE awkward. If you’ve had nothing to say to each other in roughly 10 years, don’t be the one to suggest meeting up for coffee first. Also, are you supposed to introduce your significant other, who has been quietly sitting beside you nursing his IPA and trying desperately to seem suddenly fascinated by the surroundings, to this forgotten middle school acquaintance? I’m going to hope “no” is the answer to this question. Sorry, Amanda, I now remember your name but still don’t really want to talk to you.
  4. If you are currently tired of googling “job nyc ngo theater” and “grad school necessary? non-profit”  and “how to curly hair humidity” and “tickets costa rica asap”, it is never NOT a bad idea to make curry. Especially if it has aforementioned savory rhubarb, spinach (thankyouCSA for my overflowing spinach fridge situation), and chickpeas (FAVORITE). And then you can feel creative for inventing a yogurt-cilantro-lemon-honey sauce and feel validated in your quests to become a creative and cultured professional human. (Although I’m also not saying it’s a GOOD idea either.)

Rhubarb, Chickpea, Spinach Stew with Cilantro-Lemon Yogurt Sauce
slightly modified from Joanne Eats Well with Others

Curry Ingredients:
1 sweet potato
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 tbsp minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup vegetable broth, divided
2 stalks rhubarb cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 cups spinach leaves, torn into smaller pieces

Yogurt Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
1 lemon
1/2 tsp honey

Prepped Ingredients

Rachael Ray is just so darn excited about those spinach leaves. Let’s ignore her, shall we… Next time, homemade! (yeah, okay)

1. Preheat over to 400 degrees. Wrap the sweet potato in tin foil and put in oven on the top shelf. Keep it there until pierce-able with a fork. Test for pierce-ability at half an hour. Should be done by the time recipe is done! And yeah, okay fine, this step isn’t TOTALLY necessary but, really, who doesn’t appreciate some tasty roasted sweet potato goddness for almost no additional work?

2. Make the sauce: combine chopped cilantro, greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, juice from half a lemon, and honey. Mix to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. Make the spice mix: Heat 1 T olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover, and cook for about 2 minutes or until the mustard seeds start popping. Cook 1-2 minutes after that, or until they stop popping, shaking the skillet frequently so that they don’t burn. It smells like popcorn! Turn heat to low, and stir in the ground cumin, ginger, and garlic. Continue cooking on low heat until you can smell the ginger/garlic. Pour into a small bowl, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

4. Curry time!

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Spinach is amazing. Always looks so overwhelming and then you blink and it’s gone.

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  • Heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in that same pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 10 minutes or until the onion begins to brown.
  • Add the rinsed chickpeas and 1/2 cup broth. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the chickpeas are warmed through.
  • Stir in the rhubarb and the remaining 1/2 cup broth. Cook for 6 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until spinach wilts, about 3 minutes more. Stir frequently to make sure everything gets all mixed together. Stir in the spice mixture and continue to cook over medium heat for another minute or two while stirring. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Want to serve it with couscous? Cool, so did I!
Heat 1/2 T olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 c Israeli couscous and 1/2 t lemon zest. Toast couscous until it smells nutty and grains have turned a uniform light brown. Cover with vegetable broth/water and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain and serve!

6. Plate it! Start with a big spoonful of couscous. Then, either next to or atop, add curry. Elegantly add cubed roasted (peeled) sweet potato chunks and then cover all that deliciousness with cilantro yogurt sauce. EAT!

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Please note a) the swanky sweet potatoes and b) the red pepper in the corner. It was not a helpful addition so it isn’t in the ingredient list or recipe! Feel free to add, however, if you need to use up a pepper, like me.

…and then if you’re lucky, you eat PIECES OF VELVET cake on a glorious Thursday summer evening outside at public picnic tables with a cute sassy lady. Lucky you!

we ate cake