03 October 2007

Mushrooms, Cabbage, Potatoes

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it yet, but Steve makes a very bad liar. He's also fairly bad at dropping subtle hints. But that's OK, because I can tell what he's getting at for the most part. A prime example of this was yesterday night after work. I'd asked him to snag some vegetables on his way back home. We had frozen spinach and dried beans, but we'd already had bean soups three times this week alone. I was wanting some actual vegetables. He said that he'd definitely hit up our usual haunts, and see what he could rustle up. "Oh, I made sure to eat already, so there's no pressure to cook, but I did clear out the dishes in the sink, and the counter, so it's there if you want." See what I mean? About as subtle as a flaming pink and neon green rhino at a tea party. In a sun dress and white gloves, no less.

We got home, and he showed me that he'd bought cabbage. And potatoes.


This would usually mean, on my side, a stew or soup of some sort. I'd whip out the holy trinity of ingredients (onions, garlic, tomato), and the holy trinity of spices (cumin seed, mustard seed, sesame seed), and make soup happen, with the addition of some lentils, or other beans. It would have been comforting and delicious. But last night, I was feeling contrary. I didn't want to follow predictable patterns. He knows what happens when he presents me with really scant variety of ingredients: I panic and make soup. It's what happened every single time in the past when the pantry has been bare.
Fortunately, this old dog has a few new tricks up his sleeves. I puttered around for a while, chopping up the cabbage, dicing up the potatoes, dicing up some onions, and musing on what to make. For good measure, I roughly chopped up a few handfuls of curry leaves, and had my spices waiting for me, depending on where to go. When I saw how much more cabbage there was to chop, I groaned inwardly, and decided on my old standby of soup.
Let me explain. The cabbage that Steve brought home was a couple of kilos at the very least. Something of that size takes some serious effort to break down. I managed to hack it apart enough that I could finish chopping half the head, but beyond that, I was far and away screwed if I were to chop through the entire monster. Considering that I'd just chopped up an onion and some potatoes, I was ready to call it quits at this point in the chopping department.
Good Dino: Wait a minute, Dino. Isn't the holy trinity of soup supposed to be onions, garlic, and tomato? You've only got one of the three handled now, and you know how we feel about starting something without having all the ingredients ready in front of us. Evil (AKA normal) Dino: Quiet, you. We'll figure this out.
In went some oil into a deep sided pot. When the oil got hot, in went some spices (the same spices I used in that lentil soup a few posts back). I pitched in the curry leaves and the onions, and a liberal dose of salt. While the onions sautéed, I fumbled around in the fridge, seeing what else I could rustle up. Aha! Sliced mushrooms! Suddenly, I knew that I could do this as a dry curry on top of the stove, rather than a soup.
When the potatoes were crusty and brown all the way around, I lobbed in the sliced mushrooms. See, my problem is that if I was going to add in cabbage, which takes a while to leak out its water and let you unstick the potatoes from the bottom of the pot, I would have to add some water first to deglaze the pot first. What the mushrooms would do for me is quickly leak out their water naturally, which would deglaze the pot. In the mean time, the water would also evaporate fairly quickly, so that I wouldn't end up with a wet dish, meaning that I could make a dry curry after all!
Once the mushrooms cooked down a bit, I threw in the mass of cabbage that I did have cut already (the other half comfortably sitting in the fridge), and added a bit more salt. I let the cabbage cook for about five or ten minutes or so, and stirred it around every two or three minutes to redistribute all the spices and salt and flavours. Once the cabbage was done to a T, I turned off the heat, and had the divine stuff with some steaming hot rice. It tasted wonderful, and was easy to make.