Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Recipe: Indian cabbage with mung beans (yummier than it sounds)

Happy New Year everyone!  I am just getting back up to 100% after getting sick from an environmental allergy storm over New Year's eve.  Sometimes high levels of gunky stuff in the air (pollen, grass, pollutants, mold) overpowers my sinuses and if I'm not careful I can get pneumonia.  (After a few days indoors hanging out with my new BFF the neti pot, I'm much better.)  As I'm trying to build up my stamina again, I felt like having something comforting and healthy, but new to my repertoire.  Enter this Indian cabbage recipe.  A lot of news in the food world lately has been about trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our diet for both health and environmental reasons, and I agree -- Meatless Mondays, Bittman's "less meatarian", or full vegan options are all great steps.  Whatever works for you works!  But rather than re-engineer foods to be meatless, I prefer to find recipes that are designed to be veggie to begin with.  That way, to my thinking at least, it doesn't feel like it's missing anything!  There are many vegetarians in the Indian culture, it makes sense that they've adjusted their cuisine so it's just right.  :)

Luckily for me I have a copy of Neelam Batra's The Indian Vegetarian cookbook, which I purchased after I was fortunate enough to take one of her cooking classes.  She has simplified traditional Indian food for American cooks, and everything I've made out of it has been terrific.  Most of the time, her recipes turn out way tastier than I imagined (and you have to imagine -- no pictures!).  This recipe was not only one-pot easy and delicious, with balanced flavors, low fat and high fiber, it used things I already had in my fridge and pantry.  Bonus!

BTW, I'm not advocating that everyone needs to become a full vegetarian unless you choose to.  Adding in more vegetarian recipes is a good idea, AND I believe in listening to your body and crafting your diet for your individual needs.  A few hours after eating this, I had a burger.  :)

Here it is, with my subs noted.

Cabbage with Yellow Mung Beans (Bund gobi aur peeli mung dal)
from Neelam Batra's The Indian Vegetarian

Makes 8 servings

3 Tbs vegetable oil (I used grapeseed for its mild flavor)
2 Tbs peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp finely chopped garlic (I used shallots)
1 cup finely chopped scallion greens (I used the whole scallions)
5 jalapeno peppers, skin punctured to prevent bursting (I skipped this because in this state they would have killed me)
1 cup of cleaned, loosely packed finely chopped cilantro, including soft stems
1 Tbs ground coriander (which is cilantro btw, did you know?)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 cup finely chopped fresh tomato (I used a red pepper since I'm allergic to tomatoes)
1 medium-sized head of green cabbage (about 1.5 lbs.), finely shredded
1/2 cup dried yellow mung beans (I used white lentils), picked over and washed
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 Tbs chopped cilantro for garnish

Note: this may need add'l water or broth, so have it handy

1. Heat the oil in a large wok or saucepan over moderately high heat and cook ginger and garlic, stirring until golden, about 1-2 minutes.
2. Add scallion greens, jalapeno peppers and cilantro for 1-2 minutes.
3. Stir in spices: coriander, cumin, turmeric and salt and let them heat through to bring out the flavor.
4. Add tomato (peppers for me), cabbage and mung beans.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until cabbage wilts, 3-4 minutes.
5. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the dal is tender about 25-30 minutes.  Note: since I took out the tomato, there was not enough liquid for the lentils to cook, so I added a combination of water and broth over the cooking time so that it didn't dry out and burn!
6. Transfer to a serving dish, season with salt and black pepper to taste, garnish with cilantro.


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