This Sunday I went to the farmers market to do my weekly produce shopping. It had been raining and was chilly, so I was less inclined to linger among the various produce and samples. I picked up some of my usual favorites- peppers, apples, brussel sprouts… and then I saw this gorgeous purple thing. I’m sorry to say my interest was more in it’s beautiful and unusual color contrast than its taste- but I thought I should take it home and experiment with it. First I had to figure out what it was, though. The organic grower told me it was Kohlrabi, which “is a low, stout cultivar of the cabbage which has been selected for its swollen, nearly spherical, Sputnik-like shape. The name comes from the German kohl (cabbage) plus rabi (turnip).” (source: Wikipedia.) In Hindi, it is called “gaanth gobhi (ganth means knot and gobi means cabbage). But once I figured out what it was, I had to figure out how to prepare it. My farmer’s market informant wasn’t able to suggest any special preparation techniques, but luckily wikipedia had a link to a recipe for spicy kohlrabi, prepared Indian style.
Thus, a menu was born. I decided to make one of my standard three dish Indian meals, with my favorite Basmati recipe prepared in the rice cooker, a spicy kohlrabi dish, and a Spinach chickpea recipe thrown in from one of my vegan cookbooks. I peeled the kohlrabi, and was a little surprised by the somewhat unpleasant smell. It actually reminded me more of daikon than cabbage. Also, once you peel off the pretty purple skin, it has cream flesh that starts to brown slightly on oxidation. I cubed it and cut off and cleaned the leaves, heating Indian spices in oil and then dry roasting the leaves in the spices. I added the cubed kohlrabi, put in some water, and simmered it. Eventually I added green beans and let it simmer.
Next I started my favorite Indian rice recipe in the rice cooker, and started preparing a new spinach chickpea recipe that I found in the book, “Vegan with a Vengence,” by Isa Moskowitz. I found out when I started in that I only had one can of chickpeas rather than the two called for, so I cut the recipe in half. Sometimes her recipes seemed designed for a huge family, or for a week’s worth of meals. If you will be feeding a lot of people or want plenty of leftovers, you can easily double the recipe, but the below is a good amount for a small family or solo diner.. In contrast, I usually double the rice cooker basmati recipe, because it is very good frozen into a tv dinner with an assortment of curries.
After eating a portion for dinner, I packed the rest away. I made two home cooked tv dinners, putting two different curries on the bottom of the tupperware and then covering it to the top with rice. I learned this trick from a gluten free board- when you invert the frozen meal onto a plate, the rice is then on the bottom and the curries are on top. Nice, no? I labeled my meals with the dish names and dates, and then put leftovers for lunch tomorrow into one of my favorite purchases in India- metal tiffin boxes used to pack and deliver lunches to workers. We bought two tiffin boxes at the Bangalore City market- one with two compartments, and the other with three, and they are two of my most prized possessions for being both beautiful and convenient.
Evaluation- the spinach chickpea dish was lovely, with rich flavor that yet is still vegan and not too high in calories or oil. Isa definitely did not lead me astray this time- i will add it to my list of favorite Indian dishes that I prepare regularly. I was slightly heartbroken by the kohlrabi. Even though it is one of the pretties vegetables I’ve seen in a long time, and fun to photograph, the flavor had the semi sour note of daikon, another thing I have yet to acquire a taste for. That sourness probably means it is really extremely good for me- but I just didn’t like it. The spices helped to make it palatable, but I wonder if it’s not a problem of preparation- maybe another method would bring out its positive attributes. I haven’t entirely given up- and the kohlrabi greens themselves were quite tasty, but I think the next time I see it in the market, I’ll just keep walking.
Special Indian Rice
the Perfect Rice
4 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 cups white basmati rice (I buy 20 lb. burlap sacks by Daawat)
3 cups water
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
Rinse rice in rice strainer until water no longer gets cloudy. Leave to drain.
Start cycle on your rice cooker, place oil in bottom of rice cooker and close lid, letting the oil heat up. Then add mustard and cumin seeds, closing lid (or leaving up if your machine allows) until they start to pop. Add the rest of the ingredients, and let the cooking cycle complete.
When it is done, stir rice, fluffing and making sure seeds are mixed throughout and leave on warm cycle for 10 minutes if desired. (Or serve immediately)
I love this easy rice with indian curries. It’s really, really good and flavorful, and goes with anything.
Chickpea and Spinach Curry
Beautiful, beautiful curry
6 0z. can whole tomatoes (in juice) [half of 12 oz can]
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil (I like mustard oil)
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 lg onion, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger (finely minced OR puree- the latter is best)
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin (I like to freshly grind mine from the seed)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/16 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp asafoetida (hing powder) -MAKE SURE IT DOES NOT CONTAIN WHEAT! Whole foods has one made with rice flour.
2 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp salt
5 cups fresh spinach, well rinsed, chopped
2 cups chickpeas or 1 (15 oz can, drained, rinsed)
Reserve half of the juice from can of tomatoes, and take out half of the tomatoes, cutting them into pieces. Preheat oil in nonstick or cast iron pan, heat and then add mustard seeds, waiting until they pop, and then adding the onion. Saute onion for 7-10 minutes (until it starts to brown around edges), and then add garlic and ginger, heating for a few more minutes. Add spices, salt, and some of the reserved tomato juice (but not all). After heated through, add tomatoes, heat, and mix in spinach a handful at a time until it wilts. When all spinach is wilted, add chickpeas, lower heat,add last of reserved tomato juice, cover, and simmer for ten minutes. Take off lid, simmer for ten more minutes uncovered or until it looks really melty and delicious.
YUM YUM YUM! I was a little skeptical of the cinnamon because I don’t like cinnamon that much, but it all turned out really well. I could just eat it and eat it. It’s like heaven on a plate, especially for a vegetarian palate. (DH would probably disagree as he doesn’t like spinach OR chickpeas that much)… But I think it’s my favorite new way to enjoy spinach. Excellent served with rice and another curry for variety. A side of raita also wouldn’t go amiss.