Saturday, October 22, 2011

LIVING AND COOKING - Stuff and Stuffed Cabbage

Live goes on....and so it goes.
Sometimes it's so crazy
sometimes it just flows...

Been going through the aging process, aren't we all?  Remembering when things were so different.  Laughing at sounding so much like the "old heads" from our yesterdays. Funny how this window/mirror thing we glance through from time to time knows just which buttons to press. And when.
Gravity's no friend, either.
But what the heck.

Someone asked me the other day if I wanted to die my now grey flecked hair.  I want to wear the process of my living, and what better place than my head?  Doesn't mean I won't trim the bangs now and then. But hey. The grey hairs are mine.  I earned 'em!

This is the kind of stuff that goes through my head some nights when I can't sleep.  Err, well....I mean when I am still awake past 3 a.m..  Of course other nights hold different thoughts.  Tonight I'm thinking of my mother....the first person who taught me how to cook.

She had a large brood to feed on a limited budget but managed to not only feed us, but instill in us a good relationship with food, and interest in cooking and the importance of sharing meals with loved ones.  Her hair is the same soft, snowy white her father wore to his last.  It is beautiful to me.  Should I ever have the great fortune to sport the same feature, I'll grow it long and proud.

Anyway, one of Mom's dishes was a version of Stuffed Green Cabbage. I wrote a recipe for Stuffed Purple Cabbage in the blog "Fifty Five Is The New..." .  This dish uses the tight-headed green cabbage available at most grocery stores, farmers' markets and green grocers.

It's the one Mom prepared for us with her own special flair. She used canned tomato soup with 1/2 can of water per soup can, made her meat mix with ground beef, rice salt and pepper.  I believe she may have diced some onion or used some onion flakes in the meat mix too.

I remember the first time helping her steam the cabbage.  She showed me how to cut the great round things in half after taking off the outer leaves.  The halving not to occur 'til after a proper washing under some cool running water, of course.

There were carrots to cut in quartered lengths, onions to be coarsely chopped and, the funnest part of all, rolling the meat/rice mixture into steam limped leaves and tucking them sweetly into the bottom of a cabbage leaf-lined and sauced oval baking pan.  Mom would toss a few carrot and onion chunks hither and yon about the pan and between the swaddling morsels. Then she'd add some remaining liquid, cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake it for 45 minutes in an oven set to 350 degrees.  After 45 minutes she'd remove the foil and let it bake for an additional 15-18 minutes.

Anyway, we were in the mood for Stuffed Cabbage so I set about making it with what we had on hand.
Our last shopping foray garnered, among other things, a nice firm head of green cabbage so we were on the right track.
Oval pan

A quick pantry check showed no tomato soup around, but a can of chopped tomatoes.   Close enough.
We had plenty of rice, onion, carrots - even an oval pan!  Well, all-reet!

The plan was to make something similar to Mom's original.  I was using ground turkey, diced tomatoes , a few fresh tomatoes, some left over broth from a previous evening's roast as the broth, so there were going to be differences.

TURKEY AND RICE STUFFED CABBAGE with TOMATO and STOCK SAUCE

Ingredients for Stuffed Green Cabbage
3 lb ground turkey
1 1/2 cups cooked white rice
6 -10 carrots cut in quarters - reserve tips to grate into meat/ rice mixture
1 - 2 yellow onion(s) coarsely chopped
salt (optional) pepper (optional) to taste
2 fresh tomatoes, diced fine
1 large can diced tomatoes -
     if you prefer, 2 cans of tomato soup plus 1 can of water
1 large head of tight-leaf green cabbage
2 cups stock


Remove the outer cabbage leaves.  Wash the cabbage under cool water then chop it in half. Notice the hard section at the base of each half?  That has to be removed.  There will be some other hard features that will require surgery as well, but more on that in a bit.
The trick here is to use your knife more like a scalpel than a chopper for this maneuver.
You might consider using a smaller rather than larger blade for better control. Other than that, it's a matter of cutting around the stem base and inner core. You'll end up with something that looks like this picture.  It's a bit helmet-like, or even "brain-like."

 
Get the steamer water boiling and add the carrots. Put the steamer on the pot and start adding raw cabbage leaves to the steamer until it is only 1/2 full. Cover and steam for 5 to 7 minutes while you prepare the filling.

If you don't have a stacking steamer you can soften the carrots a bit by par-boiling them. I just like to partially cook them ahead of time so everything else doesn't turn to mush waiting for the carrots to be done.

The filling is simple.  Put meat in a bowl, add the cooled cooked rice, add spices to your individual taste, grate carrots this mixture. As the cabbage leaves soften, take them out of the steaming basket and lay them out on a large flat surface.

Pour some of your stock into the oval pan, so it just covers the bottom. Take any small pieces and line the bottom of your pan with them.

.  Put this ball in the center of one of the cabbage leaves and wrap the meat like a holiday parcel!   If you run into any hard pieces of cabbage....veins, bits of leave, etc. discard them.  They will not soften with cooking.

Stuffed Cabbage with Carrots and Tomaties
You may have more meat mixture than cabbage, that's okay.  Just form little balls and place them round the pan. They will cook in the soon-to-be bubbling broth.  Distribute the carrots and diced onion around the pan, Pour the remaining broth over everything then top with diced tomatoes.

Wrap in aluminum foil and cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and allow to cook for 15 minutes more.  Serve with buttered rice.

Making and eating this dish dissolved the miles and other things between us. It was tasty and familiar, even with the differing ingredients.

As always, please feel free to share your recipes and ideas!

Enjoy!



                                                                                                                                                                                                          

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