Thursday, October 27, 2011
Cabbage rolls from the old country
Since I am reuniting with family at my cousin's wedding this weekend, I felt inspired to recreate our heritage food. There is something so satisfying about food from the old country. Making meals that your great great Bubbie and Zeyda prepared in the same way in a sense connects you to your past. Families pass down recipes much like antiques or heirloom jewlery; they foster a sense of pride, connection, and belonging.
One of my all time favorite comfort foods from childhood are cabbage rolls: Rice and Beef stuffed in cabbage with a sweet and sour tomato sauce. Variations of cabbage rolls are found all over Eastern Europe and in Russia too, but my memories stem from recipes passed down among the Jewish-Polish-Belarusian population. (Cabbage rolls on Wiki, very interesting)
When I decided to make cabbage rolls my mom was upset as she couldn't find her recipe anywhere (the recipe her mom made for her and that she made for me). She recounted to me what she could remember and I filled in the blanks with various recipes from Jewish cookbooks in the house, Polish grandmother's on the internet, and a little bit of my own improvisation. I think what I have is pretty close to what I remember. Memory is a tricky thing though. I'm sure the way I remember it is not the way it actually was. In any case, my parents gobbled it up and applauded my efforts. A success. I'm definitely going to make this one again, perhaps tweaking it in pursuit of my memory gold.
A head of cabbage
1 onion, small diced
1/2 carrot, small diced
About a pound of ground beef (+/-)
About 1/2 cup uncooked rice (+/-)
1 or 2 TB tomato paste
1 28oz can tomato product
2 TB sugar
1 or 2 TB vinegar (apple cider)
Salt + pepper
Core the cabbage. Boil a pot of water, turn off and put the head of cabbage in to soften for 10-15 minutes. In the meantime sweat the onion, adding the carrot midway and then the garlic. Set half of the sweated veg to cool and to the other half add the can of tomato product, sugar, and vinegar. Heat and adjust sweet and sour to taste. In a separate bowl mix the uncooked rice, ground beef, cooled veg, tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Now take the cabbage out of the water (if you haven't already). Take the leaves off and cut the main vein out. Some leaves will yield two rolls and some only one. Roll about 1/3 cup beef filling in the cabbage like a burrito and place in a baking dish. Once all the rolls are lined up in the dish, pour the sauce over. Cut up the extra cabbage (some or all) and add loose to the baking dish. Add a little hot water to the dish so that the rolls are almost covered (and to allow for evaporation during cooking). Put in the oven at 375 and bake for over an hour, until the rice is cooked (there should be enough liquid in the pan to ensure the rice will cook).