Maybe the mistake we're making with cabbage is that we cook it to death or don't cook it at all. By skating somewhere down the middle, Madhur Jaffrey's stir-frying method crams in an incredible amount of flavor in very little time. Note: If you can't find garam masala, you can make your own with Jaffrey's recipe, or approximate it with pinches of ground cardamom, black pepper, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Recipe adapted very slightly from Madhur Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian Cooking (Chronicle Books, 2007).
1 1/2 pounds green cabbage (half a large head)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 medium-large onion (about 7 ounces), peeled and cut lengthwise into fine half rings
1 teaspoon salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
Step 1Remove coarse outer leaves of the cabbage. If you have a cabbage half, cut it in half again lengthwise, and then core the sections. Cut each section lengthwise into very fine, long shreds. A bread knife or chef's knife is ideal for this. (You can also use a food processor.)
Step 2Put the oil in a wide, preferably nonstick or cast-iron pan, and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the cumin, fennel, and sesame seeds. As soon as the sesame seeds begin to pop, put in the onion. Stir and fry for 3 to 4 minutes or until the onion has browned a bit.
Step 3Put in the cabbage. Stir and fry for about 6 minutes or until the cabbage has browned somewhat. Put in the salt and cayenne. Turn down the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring now and then, for another 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions appear caramelized and soft. Note: you may need to do this in a couple batches.
Step 4Add the lemon juice and garam masala. Stir to mix. Taste and adjust seasoning.