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Changeable Raisins

October 6, 2011 by faith

I don’t like change. There, I’ve said it. I like things to be ordered, predictable and to have set rules. When new ideas are proposed, I often have to wait and let their newness wear off a bit before I can tell what I really think about the proposal. “Stick in the mud” seems like an apt description of my general philosophy.

This desire for a set plan is part of the reason I like cooking and baking so much. You just follow the recipe and food appears on your table! I have a rule that the first time I make a dish I have to follow the written recipe.  After that, I figure can make informed decisions about what I want to modify.  Many people find cooking a creative outlet. I find it a chance to follow the directions.

There are some changes too big to control, and so I strive to make them exciting and adventurous is some way.  My latest attempt to do this is my purchase of a seasonal vegetarian cookbook.  I bought it last winter and I’ve worked through every recipe in the book for the last three quarters of the year. It feels good to complete something as we move through each season and it’s made me more aware of the beauty of particular time’s tastes and textures. On September 23, we officially entered autumn and I opened the new section of my cookbook, giddy at the possibility of a cooking with different produce and seasonings.

It was at this point that my desire for good food and good order came into conflict with each other. The first meal I decided to make was a lentil and sweet potato curry with a red cabbage salad. The curry looked pretty run of the mill and understandable, but the recipe for the salad did not sit well with me. It involved the following main ingredients: shallots, red cabbage, tomatoes, red pepper flakes and raisins. Raisin?! Why in the world would you put raisins in this? I really, really wanted to leave them out, but that would break the rule against adjustments to untried recipes. I don’t like change.

Order won out and the raisins stayed.

I realize, ironically enough, that my lack of desire to change anything pushed me to try something new. I had never had cabbage, tomatoes and raisins together before. If I had been more comfortable with just modifying the recipe, I would have missed the chance to make something novel and reasonably yummy.

It makes me wonder, how often to we miss a new experience because we’re too quick to conform a possibility to our expectations? Can we commit ourselves to playing by the rules so that we’re sometimes forced to break out of our box? Will you eat cabbage and raisins?

Spicy Red Cabbage Salad

(taken from Fresh Food Fast by Peter Berley and Melissa Clark, p. 171)

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 medium shallots, thinly sliced

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

½ small head red cabbage, cored and sliced into thin strips (about 3 cups)

1 14-oz diced tomatoes with juice

1/3 cup raisins

½ tsp salt

juice of one lemon

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. In large saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add cumin seeds and saute for 1 minute. Add shallots and red pepper flakes and saute for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add the cabbage, tomatoes with their liquid, and raisins. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Add salt, reduce heat to low and simmer covered until cabbage is tender. About 8 to 10 minutes should do it. Stir in lemon juice and cilantro and serve.


  1. Kelli says:

    But was it good??
    (and you know my answer to the final question, haha)

    I think it is highly likely I will comment on every single one of your blogs. I am very excited by this blog, lol.

    And a tip for those reading: Fresh Food Fast is an AMAZING book.

    • faith says:

      It was good!

      Though next time I’ll probably put in a little less red pepper flakes. Micah thought I should keep the same amount of spiciness but leave out the raisins. Another suggested change: I put some plain yogurt on top of it all and that made it even better.

  2. Annie Kelley says:

    Ha, I take the opposite approach to cooking, but that’s mostly because I never have all of the ingredients or the correct cooking utensils. Would normal cabbage turn red if it sat in the fridge long enough?

    And I would have substituted dried cranberries for the raisins.

    Some day you’ll have to get crazy, and try making a hobo stew.

    • faith says:

      I’ve made a hobo stew before and am now mocked for it. I threw pretty much every veggie in the house in it and it swelled to massive proportions. It was as if I was feeding a small army that was very hungry.

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