The bulk of my food shopping gets done in two places: farmers' markets for produce, and fancy gourmet markets for the rest. I am content with the knowledge that the vast majority of the food that comes into my kitchen is "good food"—organic, sustainable, and locally sourced whenever possible. But while the food that I buy doesn't weigh heavily on my conscience, it does put a bit of a strain on my wallet.
While I was out gathering my curry supplies and pantry staples at a few Indian groceries, one thing really struck me: I can't remember the last time that I've come across such an amazing selection of dry good and such a beautiful array of herbs and spices. And the prices? Well, let's just say that I am never buying a $15 dollar vanilla bean or an $8 jar of peppercorns from Whole Foods ever again.
While I was looking through the frozen foods section I came across lovely packages of shredded coconut for around $2 that I knew I'd find a use for in 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. I came home and made this wonderful coconut cabbage with chiles and green peas. The coconut serves two purposes: it lends a sweetness that balances the heat of the chiles and adds a great crunchy and chewy textural element to this dish.
Win '660 Curries'
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of 660 Curries to give away this week.
- 1 cup shredded fresh coconut; or 1/2 cup shredded dried unsweetened coconut, reconstituted (see note)
- 4 fresh Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, stems removed
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon skinned split black lentils (cream-colored in this form, urad dal), picked over for stones
- 4 cups shredded cabbage 2 cups frozen green peas (no need to thaw)
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
- 12 medium-size curry leaves
Pour 1 cup water into a blender jar, and add the coconut and chiles. Purée, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, to make a creamy-white, thin sauce with flecks of green.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover the pan, and cook until the seeds have stopped popping (not unlike popcorn), about 30 seconds. Add the lentils and stir-fry them until golden brown, 15 to 20 seconds.
Immediately add the cabbage, peas, salt, curry leaves, and the sauce. Stir once or twice, and bring the curry to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Then serve.
Note: To reconstitute coconut, cover with 1/2 cup boiling water, set aside for about 15 minutes, and then drain.