The house smells great right now. I’m brewin’ up some pepper broth (finally!) with the frozen bag of pepper trimmings that has rested undisturbed since the last local bell graced our kitchen—some weeks ago, at least. Before a friend enlightened me about her family’s practice of distilling sweet peppers’ essence from the stems, seeds and ribs, I had always tossed the remains into the compost. What a waste! Now the pepper parts warrant their own freezer bag. Augmented by the occasional onion end (not too many, please), the bag broths up savory and deeply aromatic, with nary a meat scrap or bay leaf.
Taking it easy on myself (somebody has to), I just dump the capsicum contents into the crock and slow cook ’em on HIGH for a couple hours or so. The mouthwatering fragrance fills the air with a delectable scent that promises a delicious dish ahead: Dai Due sausage and rice. Again? Yes. Thankfully, again! And an easy Indian-style cabbage side for a bonus.
You’ll be using 2 separate large skillets for this two-pot meal. Remember you can purchase most spices in small amounts from your grocery store’s bulk department. I bring in my own containers.
SAUSAGE AND RICE serves the family plus leftovers
- 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed well (3 times!) soaked in water and/or pepper broth for 10 minutes, drained (save the soaking liquid) and rested for at least 10 minutes
- 4 Tablespoons ghee. I make my own ghee from Organic Valley butter. Click for instructions.
- 1 Tablespoon high smoke point oil, preferably organic. I like Spectrum‘s oils.
- 1 pound excellent local sausage links, such as Dai Due’s kielbasa (which blends seamlessly with these seasonings)
- 1 local or organic onion, halved and thinly sliced pole to pole. Hillside Farms, at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, was still selling reds and yellows the last time I checked.
- a couple of thin quarter-sized slices of organic ginger root. I almost never peel fresh ginger. Handle your own root as you please.
- 1″ piece cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 black cardamom pods (or 3 or 4 green, but I prefer the large smoky pods of black cardamom for this dish.)
- 1 bay leaf. Get growin’!
- 1 star anise
- pinch of turbinado sugar. I buy this in bulk at Central Market.
Heat 2 Tablespoons ghee in a large (12″) skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and ¼ teaspoon salt (I like Real Salt) and stir and fry until the slices are well browned. Remove pan from burner and replace with another large skillet (not nonstick here). Heat it up on HIGH and add the tablespoon of oil followed quickly by the sausage links. Brown the sausages on both sides . Place the links on a plate and set aside (they shouldn’t be cooked through). Set the pan aside, as well.
Transfer the onions to a separate plate and put the onion pan back on the burner over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons ghee and the spices and toast them until they smell good and roasty to you. Add back the onions plus the ginger slices and drained (and rested) rice and stir and saute until the rice grains glisten and separate.
Pour in the soaking liquid (use 1 2/3 cups) and sugar plus another ¼ teaspoon salt, turn the heat to HIGH and bring to a boil. Place a tight-fitting lid on top, lower the heat to lowest and cook for 10 minutes. Quickly remove the lid, slide the sausages on top of the rice and replace the lid. Continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest 10 minutes before fluffing the rice and removing the whole spices. Serve with the cabbage.
This easy cabbage preparation, revelatory in its combination of caraway and cardamom, plays cross-cultural ambassador with the Indo-European flavors of the kielbasa and rice.
NORTHWEST INDIAN STYLE CABBAGE serves the family, with leftovers a possibility depending on their love of kohl
- 2 or 3 Tablespoons ghee
- 1 local or organic onion, halved and sliced pole to pole
- ¼ teaspoon caraway seeds
- 4 black peppercorns
- heaping ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds (from green cardamom pods). You can buys these already popped out of the pods (decorticated) but I just crack the pods and pick them out myself.
- heaping ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon paprika or cayenne—I have to keep this dish rated G for the young ‘uns
- 1 cup organic canned whole tomatoes, crushed. I use a potato masher for this. If you didn’t stock up on Muir Glen when it was on special recently, you can find Whole Foods 365 brand and Central Market brand organic canned tomatoes at reasonable prices.
- 1 clove organic domestic garlic, pressed or minced
- half a 3-pound local cabbage, outermost leaves removed if tough, cored, quartered and sliced into shreds. You’ll find plenty of affordable Texas-grown cabbage at our farmers markets and local grocery stores.
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon garam masala. Click for a recipe.
- several Tablespoons fresh chopped local cilantro, easy to find right now. Try growing your own. Tis the season, before it gets too hot.
Heat the ghee in the sausage skillet on medium heat. Add the whole spices and fry until toasted to your taste. Add the onion and saute until softened. It’s quite alright (and deliciouser) for the onion to pick up some brown patches. Dump in the ground spices (except garam masala), give ’em a stir and then add the tomatoes and garlic. Cook and stir until thickened, then add the cabbage and salt. The pan will be very full. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is wilted to your liking. If the sauce sticks to the pan and browns a bit, that’s fine. Just add a few tablespoons of water to deglaze. The tomato fond will enrich the dish, deepening the flavors.
When your cabbage is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Correct the salt if necessary and serve.