Sunday, September 25, 2011

Getting Ready for Rain

I love sunshine. And I also love rain. I also love snow. I love that we have all four season where I live. It's truly a blessing. Rain gets a bad reputation and I think it's unfair. Sure, I'm guilty of being a bit disappointed when rain gets in the way of bike rides and walks in the market, and I get more than a little annoyed when my shoes fill up with water. But in the end, I know that rain still rocks. It gives us the perfect excuse to stay inside and do nothing but relax and drink warm beverages. It makes the most wonderful soothing sounds that help you sleep in when your weekday alarm clock inside your head won't shut off. And it makes you feel a little less guilty for leaving work early only to go home and crash on the couch with a big bowl of something comforting.

I have to admit that cooking during weekdays is pretty difficult. I'm usually dead on my feet by 4pm and pass out on the streetcar ride home. Weekday dinners have to be quick, or they have to be made ahead and reheated. I'm the type of person that can make a soup or stew on Sunday, stick it in the fridge and heat it up for supper all week. If you are as well, this braised cabbage and carrot dish is perfect for you. I made it yesterday when I saw that the forecast called for 3 straight days of rain during the work week and I knew that I would need to come home to something comforting and quick.

I first made this braised stew-y dish in April, when spring was just moving in -- the time of slushy sidewalks and chilly wintery rain. It really warmed me up then, and I'm betting it will do the same this week. It's a simple braise of fresh market carrots, purple cabbage and Roma beans (though canned will work just fine I'm sure!) all spiced up with crushed fennel seeds and smoked paprika. I originally used these two spices to mimic the flavours of a chorizo sausage -- I love the spices but hate the oily mess the sausage leaves in the vegetables. I'm not sure that it tastes like chorizo, but it's definitely a winning combination. My thyme pots are still going strong, so I also added a big bunch of that, but if you're making this in the dead of winter, which I'm sure I'll do as well, some dried thyme would be just fine. This braise would be great served with crusty bread if that's your thing. I'd prefer it over noodles or macaroni. It would also be the perfect side dish to pork chops or Oktoberfest sausage, but that's getting too complicated for a week night ... I'm such a wimp! Why do I even have a food blog? :)

Braised Cabbage and Carrots with Beans

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 small head of red cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, cut into coins
a big handful of Roma beans, shucked (or half a can of whatever beans you like)
1/2 an onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
2 cups of water or vegetable broth
4 big springs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot, sweat the onions and garlic until fragrant and soft. Turn up the heat and add the dried oregano, fennel seeds, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for about 3 minutes.

2. Add the cabbage and carrots and give it a good stir. Add the vegetable broth and bay leaf and put the lid of the pot. Cook for about 5-6 minutes, or until the carrots and cabbage are just starting to soften. Add the beans and cook, covered for another 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables and beans are cooked to your liking (I like the cabbage and carrots to still have a bit of bite, and the beans to be creamy but not falling apart).

3. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Stir in the fresh thyme and serve with whatever you like!

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