Saturday, September 11, 2010

Caraway vs. Fennel: Round One! | Fried Cabbage with Peas, Lemon, and Caraway | Sausage-Spiked Lentil-Apple Stew

I really only learned to cook when I moved into the McCarthy Co-op House while a student at Lawrence University.  It was here that I learned about Indian and Thai cooking, as well as their late-20th-century hippie dilutions and permutations.  Thus, while I wielded cumin and fresh ginger with confidence and versatility, more "traditional" "Western" ingredients weren't even on my radar.  For example, I never even bought thyme until last year, and sage and tarragon this year.

And, the difference between fennel, caraway, and anise seeds always confused me.  I could always remember that two were more similar to each other than the third, but otherwise, they were all just weird seeds I never used.  Then, when I started getting interested in "sausagey" flavors, I got my hands on some fennel.  More recently, some more unusual Middle Eastern and North African spice mixes prompted me to buy caraway as well (though some also use fennel!).  So, I learn.  Then today I ended up making two (easy! fast!) dishes, one with caraway and one with fennel.

I've been wondering what else to do with caraway.  Googling has turned up a lot of cabbage-based recipes, so I decided to go with that.  I combined two recipes-- a very basic one for cabbage and noodles with caraway, with another one for peas with caraway and lemon.  I got rid of the dairy and the noodles, upped some of the flavors, and ended up with a really delicious and interesting dish.  Fried cabbage sounds really bland and heavy, but cooking it only al dente, and adding lemon and parsley, makes it almost refreshing.  The tastes and textures, therefore, paired really well with the sweeter, heavier stew I also made (about which, more below).  These two would have also been well complemented by a really awesome hunk of bread.

Fried Cabbage with Peas, Lemon, and Caraway

1 big glug olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
4 c shredded cabbage (about half a cabbage)
1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper (to taste)
1 tsp caraway seed
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 c frozen green peas, thawed
1/3 c fresh parsley, chopped

In a large frying pan, heat the oil.  Add onion and cabbage and saute about 5 minutes, until they begin to soften and brown slightly.  Add remaining ingredients and cook a few more minutes.  This would be good served at any temperature.  Serves about 4.


I got the idea for this stew when I was browsing recipes containing cabbage and caraway; some also included roasted apples and sausage.  So this is something like that half of those recipes, de- and re-constructed.

You might not recognize it, but this is actually very similar to the recipe for oats and rice sausage.  I tried to match the amount of apple and lentil bulk to that of the oats and rice in the recipe, and then I kept most of the seasonings and flavors the same.  Lentils have a rich savory taste all their own, and the sweetness of the slightly cooked apples worked really well with the seasonings.  You will probably want to put the apples in only at the end, so they don't get totally mushy.

Sausage-Spiked Lentil-Apple Stew

3/4 c brown lentils
1 1/2 c water
1 1/2 tsp molasses
1 1/2 TB tamari
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried ground sage
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 large apple, cored and diced

1. In a medium saucepan, bring lentils, water, molasses, and tamari to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until lentils are soft, adding water if necessary.
2. Add spices and simmer 5 minutes more.
3. Add diced apples and cook 2-3 minutes more, then remove from heat.  Serves about 3.

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