Last week was a bust for blogging and activities of daily living. I knew I was slipping into one of my periods of depression; they usually last 7 to 10 days. At 50, I’m grateful I know the signs and can tell myself the phase will soon pass; in my younger years, I never understood why I had these sudden changes in temperament.
It was good there were a lot of activities: a school meeting for parents of rising eighth graders, Ken’s school orchestra assessment, dinner and show directed by my good friend Andy, and a birthday dinner for Kurt’s dad. When I went to sleep last night, I told Kurt that I hoped things would turn around soon.
And so it has. I had a very funny morning at Ken’s school, where I had volunteered to help with International Day. I wasn’t sure what this would entail, but soon found that it meant I would be asking kids as they left the cafeteria if they could place a star of their family’s country of origin on a giant map.
Have I mentioned that despite my great Ivy League education, I’m severely geography-challenged? SEVERELY. My sister, her husband Jeff, and Kurt think this is hilarious. Tina periodically asks me “How many continents are there?”
I texted Kurt about my dilemma and he said that my text was “the funniest thing I’ve read in a while.” So helpful, my love. I should be grateful that he did tell me where to look for the Northern Marianas (his response was “Pacific Islands, east of the Philippines. Hello, WW2 calling”). And Nepal– “North of India.” Well, I was looking south near Sri Lanka.
I headed to the grocery store afterwards to pick up some items for tonight’s dinner. Since I had a head of Savoy cabbage sitting in my fridge, I decided to make cabbage rolls. I’ve made them once before in attempt at German cuisine for Mr. Rudolph, but they were just “meh.” This time I reviewed several recipes on line and decided I’d base tonight’s experiment on one I found on the blog “The Shiksa in the Kitchen.” I think I’ll be returning to check out more of her recipes.
I like this recipe because it uses sauerkraut. My mom mentioned just the other night how much she likes sauerkraut with meat, and figured she’d like this dish a lot. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, making tweaks here and there on the ingredients, seasonings and technique. I made a dish of brown rice, just to be healthy. You can find the Shiksa’s recipe here.
Cabbage Rolls (adapted from The Shiksa in the Kitchen)
- 1 Savoy cabbage
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 c cooked brown rice
- 1 1/2 c sauerkraut (I used the bagged, not canned)
- 1 egg
- 1/3 c finely chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 TB Worcestershire sauce
- 1 TB ketchup
- salt and pepper
- 1 (14.5 oz) can diced Italian-style tomatoes
- 2 (14.5 oz) cans tomato sauce
- juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp paprika (I used Hungarian sweet)
- 2 TB brown sugar
Place the clean cabbage in a large pot of boiling water (it will float, not sink) and cook for 4-7 minutes or until cabbage leaves are soft. Drain and let cabbage cool enough to handle.
Slowly peel cabbage leaves from the head, drying each with paper towels. Stop when the leaves are no longer large enough to stuff and roll.
Use a small paring knife to trim thick pieces of the stem. You want to make the leaf as thin as possible (without making any holes).
Remove the core from the remaining head; chop the remaining leaves into small pieces and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, place the ground beef, egg, onion, garlic, thyme, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, then salt and pepper to taste.
Using a fork, break up the meat into smaller chunks, while mixing in the egg and seasonings.
Add the cup of rice and continue to mix with the fork.
Add 1/2 cup of drained sauerkraut and mix well. Remove a small bit to cook (I microwave my piece) and taste for seasoning. Correct seasoning and set aside.
In a second bowl, mix the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, brown sugar, lemon juice, paprika and allspice. Correct seasonings and set aside.
To roll the cabbage, take one leaf and place it on a clean surface, with the edges curling upwards. Place 1/4 to 1/3 cup of filling at the core/stem end.
Begin rolling from the stem end. As you reach the half-way point, tuck in the right and left sides of the leaf, as if you were making a burrito. Finish rolling and place on a plate, seam side down. Continue stuffing rolling the leaves. If there is any leftover meat, make meatballs and set aside with the rolled cabbage.
To cook the cabbage, place the chopped leftover cabbage and the remaining 1 cup of sauerkraut in the bottom of a large pot (I used a large LeCreuset). Season with salt and pepper, then pour 1/2 cup of water over the vegetables.
Place half the cabbage rolls over this layer.
Pour half the sauce mixture over the cabbage rolls, making sure to coat all rolls with a some sauce.
Place the remaining rolls on top of the sauce and cover with the rest of the tomato sauce. Push any meatballs into the sauce.
Bring the pot to boil over medium-high heat, then cover and reduce to low. Cook at no more than a simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Half-way through the cooking time, check the sauce for seasonings and consistency.
Correct seasonings and if the sauce is too thin, leave the lid slightly ajar to help evaporate the sauce. Check periodically over the last half of the cooking time.
When cabbage is soft at the stem end, you’re ready to serve. Remove from heat and let rest 10 minutes, then serve.
We all loved this version so much more than the one I made a while ago. I reduced the sauce quite a bit this time and it was a good balance of tart and sweet. The stuffing was very flavorful; I’m glad I added the garlic to the meat instead of the sauce (I used Italian-style tomatoes) as well as the ketchup and Worcestershire. I also think our family prefers the thyme over the original use of dill. Since the rice was baked in salted water, I didn’t have to use too much salt in the filling.
The cabbage/sauerkraut mixture did scorch a bit on the bottom; since you can’t stir the pot, managing the heat is the only way to prevent scorching. I think I may try cooking the dish in the oven next time or maybe even a crock pot!
As Kurt says, “This one’s a keeper.”