Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cabbage and Fennel. A Taste Of Spring Fast And Easy.

   This time of year it's all about the easy. After the splash and indulgence of the holidays comes this little window, this hammock of the year where the only holidays that come along don't involve the massive consumption of food and drink. I mean when was the last time you heard someone say "Dude, I was so wasted on President's Day!" of course there is always Valentines Day with it's chocolates and champagne or whatever else floats your boat. But as they say in polling... that's an outlier, and there's nothing but a long stretch of weeks till those notoriously overindulgent holidays that mean chocolate eggs, marshmallow peeps and noodle kugle. Yes, Easter and Passover, I'm talking about you.
   So the bulk of January, February, and March are the horse latitudes of eating. It's a good thing too or we'd all be living in Snuggies and Pajama Jeans 24/7. That's why this time of the year, I'm always looking for simple, easy, cheap, and above all healthy ways of eating. This is where the cabbage comes in. Cabbage, that thing that's always talked about as stinking up rooms in Dickensian novels, is actually pretty underrated in the American diet. Sure there's cole slaw, and all the things that accompany it, hot dogs, ribs, burgers, etc. but as an actual vegetable without any fried food around as arm candy, it's not taken advantage of often enough. Well, it's time for a change.
   I discovered non-cole slaw style cabbage when I started cooking Indian food 22 years ago. There are all sorts of cabbage recipes in Indian cuisine. From North to South, East to West, no matter where you look, you'll find the leafy green stuff. When I went to market the other day, I was going to buy some cabbage and prepare the classic Indian dish Bhuni bandh gobi or Cabbage with Fennel Seeds. I bought one of those small bags of prepared cole slaw and was about to leave when I noticed one of my favorite springtime vegetables, fresh fennel.

I thought if cabbage with fennel seed was good, cabbage with whole fresh fennel would be even better and I decided to give the recipe a tweak in the name of fresh. Inexpensive too as it turns out as the fennel cost me all of $1.49. I was in business.


Cabbage With Fennel

Here's What You Need:
One 1/2 lb bag of prepared shredded cabbage or 1/2 pound of cabbage washed and shredded.
2Tbs of vegetable oil (I use coconut oil)
One fresh fennel bulb, washed, trimmed, and thinly sliced.
3/4 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of sesame seeds
1 medium onion cut in  half and thinly sliced
1 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of Kashmiri chili or 1/8 tsp of cayenne mixed with 1/8 tsp of paprika
1 Tbs of lemon juice
1/2 tsp of garam masala

Here's What To Do:

Heat the oil in a kadhai or skillet.
When the oil is hot, add in the cumin seeds and the sesame seeds.
As soon as the seeds start to crackle, toss in the sliced fennel, and the thinly sliced onion.

Stir it all around for about 5 minutes or so until the onion has started to brown. 
Then add in the cabbage.

Stir the cabbage around for about 6 minutes or so until it's well wilted and a bit browned.
Add in the salt and Kashmiri chili or cayenne mixture.
Turn the heat down and continue to cook everything for another 8 minutes or so until the onions start to caramelize a bit.
Add in the lemon juice and the garam masala.

That's it. Serve it up with any rice or vegetable dish. It also works well with any sort of Western style meal.

   Like I said, easy fast, cheap and unlike a lot of stuff that fits in to that category, actually good for you.
   What else is brewing around here? Dosa school, that's what.  The one Indian specialty I've never attempted in all these years. So what got me off my lazy non-dosa making ass? The way all knowledge comes, by hard necessity. I've  been forced to learn since my favorite dosa joint OM bit the big one and went under a couple of months ago. Nowadays, if I want dosas I'm goiing to have to make them myself.

  So that's been my days, writing, practicing my dosa wrist flipping technique, and hanging with Johnny Depp, the neighbors' cat.

Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. Snuggies! Now you're talking. Great taste of spring...especially since it went from spring to winter in less than one day.

  2. Two of my favorite veggies. I had never thought to mix them but why not? Now that you mention it, it makes perfect sense!

  3. Looks great!
    Johnny Depp looks like our cat, her royal highness 'Begum Kala' (the black queen). My Kashmiri MIL makes a cabbage with fennel seeds dish that looks similar.

  4. love cabbage in any form.

    Keep at the dosas, they are really easy once you learn how: basically through trying and trying again. You have the weather to get the dough fermenting which is my biggest problems. The thing is, once the mixture is done, you can have it sitting in the fridge while you try out different fillings everyday.

    My mum cuts an onion in half and passes it over the pan before ladling the mixture on: me, I just have a good crepe non-stick pan I have kept aside.

    I have also found that substituting a cup of the rice with paella rice (the Spanish one, not arborio) makes incredibly soft yet crisp dosas!



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