I can’t think of any cuisine that does not embrace cabbage in one form or another. Fermented, raw, stir-fried, stewed, or “smothered,” a reference that comes from the Italian and introduced, at least to me, by Marcella Hazen in one of her early cookbooks. This version of a smother is Ethiopian in origin and includes liberal amounts of turmeric and ginger. Ethiopian cuisine is truly delicious, with dishes often eaten with crepes make of teff flour and water, called injera. A recent article in Food & Wine magazine entitled “A Lesson in Ethiopian Flavors” caught my eye, as it introduced Hiyaw Gebreyohannes’s version of several classic dishes, including this. I also made his brilliant spiced red lentils and served them both with injera, which is insanely easy to make.
In both the cabbage and lentil dishes, the flavors become layered through combining spices, creating something that is both familiar and slightly exotic, rich yet simple. For the cabbage, red onions are slow-cooked with ginger and turmeric. With the addition of water, carrots get a head start on roughly chopped cabbage, which is added after a bit. The pan of cabbage mixture is then cooked, covered, on the top of the stove for 45 minutes until the vegetables are thoroughly tender. Still working on the cabbage distributed in the fall by our CSA, I made a batch of this and dipped into it all week. The amount in the recipe below is about one-third of the original version, and I tinkered with it here and there, just because I couldn’t help myself.
Ethiopian Smothered Cabbage and Carrots with Turmeric adapted from Hiyaw Gebreyohannes, in Food & Wine
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped (2/3 c)
3 cloves garlic, minced
¾-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tsp ground turmeric
1/3 lb carrots, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1½-inch pieces
2 lb green cabbage, cored, and cut into 3/4-inch squares
In a large heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and turmeric and cook for a few more minutes until aromatic.
Add the carrots and 3 tbsp water and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are just starting to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the cabbage in handfuls, letting it wilt slightly before adding the next batch. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is very tender, about 45 minutes. Add a little salt if needed.
This can be made ahead and refrigerated for a couple of days and reheated gently.