The golds of this dish are a blend of turmeric, curry, and cumin. These spices are added to an onion, garlic, and pepper sauté and given time to release their full potential. Shredded Savoy cabbage is blanched and then given an ice water bath to keep its bright green color, then added with fire-roasted tomatoes, hot chili pepper, and cardamom seed. The meatballs, that have been made and drained of fat earlier in the afternoon, are laid atop all the cabbage and tomatoes. It all gets braised for about half an hour to build all those spicy flavors. A lemon juice sprinkle finishes the dish. It is delicious! Even the leftovers kept their crunchy tang and the meatballs stayed firm ... so good.
Making the meatballs was a cinch ... I used a meat loaf mix of pre-mixed ground pork and beef, although the traditional recipe calls for ground lamb. The meat is mixed with minced onion and garlic, dried parsley, plenty of black pepper, and a couple slices of bread that have been soaked in water and have had their crusts cut off prior. Then, the meatballs are rolled in matzo meal and fried up in a small amount of olive oil. Left to drain on a paper-lined plate, they give up any extra fat and go to the braised cabbage dish in a pretty lean state.
I used Savoy cabbage today. I also chopped it more roughly than the recipe called for, because we, in the grey cottage, like our veggies with body and chew. I undercooked them too. The recipe called for a 5-8 minute period of time in the boiling water bath ... too much time for me. I cut it to about 4 minutes and then plunged the hot cabbage into an ice bath to halt the cooking fast. Then the drained cabbage was set aside while the veggie sauté began.
While I carmelized the onions in a bit of olive oil, I chopped the peppers, garlic, and hot pepper. I got the spices out and smashed a few cardamom pods to get their seeds freed up. I didn't have any green pepper, so... I left it out, period, peace.
Some leftover fire-roasted tomatoes were just the perfect measure for the recipe.
Once the spices, cabbage, and tomatoes were added and everything was at a happy simmer, The meatballs got nestled and then, oh man, it was time for some wine and a bit of a wait.
Speaking of which, this was a great bottle of wine. It was a 2005 vintage and maybe that had something to do with the velvet of the flavor ... we've had newer years and they weren't as good (but still good, if that makes sense). Anyway, if you see the label, go for it and, if the label has 2005 on it, get a few bottles to set aside!
So, there you have it! Spicy Cabbage and Meatballs and a good glass of Pinot Noir. Enjoy!
Note: This recipe is listed as a vegetarian recipe with a small addendum that tells the cook that meatballs can be served with the dish. Originally, I'd thought to make the spicy cabbage as a Meatless Monday supper and make flatbreads for mopping up the juices, but that ground meat was calling to me. What can I say? For all my vegetarian friends out there ... i would urge you to try this dish. It was well worth it, and hey, if you can make the 'meatballs' with a vegetarian alternative do so!