Cabbage rolls deconstructed

Despite the Always Hungry? diet now being a memory of things past this one recipe (and the blue cheese dressing) has stayed around the kitchen. Somehow with the rather chilly, grey days that seem to be endless, this seemed appropriate now, so I thought I’d share the recipe. Sometimes good things come from strange places. I never have thought I’d be keeping recipes from a diet book!

The recipe calls for using a food processor, and for blanching the cabbage. Since I cook for one, I really consider using a food processor a lot more work than simply getting out my knife, even if the recipe calls for “finely diced”. It’s so simple to clean a knife and a cutting board.

Here is the recipe (adapted from pp.236-237) from Always Hungry?

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 (or more) cloves of garlic
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
  • 1-1/4 pounds ground beef (the recipe calls for lean, but not in this cook’s kitchen)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3-1/2 cups diced tomatoes (about two 14.5 ounce cans
  • 2-4 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 apple, finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 5-6 cups shredded cabbage (about 1/2 small head)

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a food processor (if you’re using it, otherwise chop and use an immersion blender, or finely dice) the onion, bell pepper and garlic. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Stir the beef into the beef, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper (personally, I like more), into the onion mixture.
  4. Combine the tomatoes, vinegar, apple, cinnamon, remaining salt and pepper. If you have an immersion blender, use it here to complete the sauce–otherwise you can go rustic and have chunky sauce; it still tastes good.
  5. Blanch the cabbage for about 30 seconds and drain. (Not this lazy cook; it goes in the microwave briefly).
  6. Cover the bottom of a 9 x 12-inch baking dish with 1 cup of the tomato mixture. Layer with half the cabbage, then half the beef mixture; alternate tomato mixture, cabbage, and beef mixture, ending with beef and then tomato mixture.
  7. Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes; remove the foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes (or a bit longer if it’s still too juicy).

This is another of my cabbage “things” that gets better the day after, or even after that. It freezes well, so I don’t try to alter the recipe to cut it from 4 servings to one or two.

A son gôut!

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Always Hungry? Cabbage Casserole

white cabbage cropped IMG_6018One of the recipes from Always Hungry?  that I wanted to try was the Cabbage Casserole (pages 236-237) since I feel that cabbage is an underappreciated vegetable that should be (at least) a winter staple. I suspect that when many people hear cabbage mentioned as an edible thing, they think “coleslaw”, or the St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage, or, perhaps, stuffed cabbage.

The other advantages to me were that it was an “all phases” dish, and I didn’t see anything that would make it impossible to freeze for later use. So, the Cabbage Casserole happened today. When I’m trying a new recipe, I like to make it as directed, except for seasonings that I thought needed adjustment for my taste. As usual, I found one thing that I felt could be modified without changing the results, but would make the recipe easier.

The directions call for blanching the cabbage in boiling water. I assumed (yes, I do know what “assume” does to you and me) that the blanching was to soften the cabbage a bit so that the texture wouldn’t be crunchy in the finished dish–just as you soften the leaves when making stuffed cabbage with whole leaves. Instead of blanching, I put the cabbage, with a splash–maybe a tablespoon–of water into the microwave until it had softened–about 5 minutes, then proceeded with the layering of the meat mixture, the cabbage, and the apple-tomato mixture as instructed in the recipe. Then, into the oven.

Ò¿Ó

cabbage casserole and serving on blue plate

cabbage casserole

The casserole is out of the oven, and I’ve enjoyed a serving. It’s another keeper. I’m surprised and pleased. The seasoning as in the recipe is good as is, though for my taste, I may add a little more garlic next time. The amount of cinnamon is perfect.  It’s another keeper even though it’s associated with a weight-loss program. The final result has a bit more liquid than I hoped, even though I baked it uncovered a little longer than the recipe called for. The recipe did not call for draining the tomatoes, but I’ll do that next time.

The microwave was apparently a good substitute for the blanching: the cabbage is tender, and not at all crunchy. I’ll happily eat this again, looking forward to having a glass of a hearty red wine to accompany it.

cabbage casserole up close

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Macaroni & beef with tomatoes

The sudden arrival of a day that is about 30 degrees cooler that what we’ve been having has sent me scurrying into the kitchen to make a serious, hearty ham and bean soup, maybe some chili, and something quick, warm and cozy for today while the rest of the weekend cooking is in progress.

I love the multiple flavors and textures of a 15-been soup, but one of the frustrations is how differently the various beans cook.  This sent me to Cook’s Illustrated for information on how best to soak my beans.

They recommended a brine for the soak:  3 tablespoons of table salt per gallon per 1 pound of dried beans.  (If you’re using kosher salt see Conversions page for equivalents).  So the beans are soaking!  I’m doing the full pound so that I can stock the freezer with bean soup for the winter since it’s a favorite meal.

Since I did not plan ahead I have wait for the beans to soak, I’ll have to cook something else for today’s cool weather food– mac ‘n’ beef sounds like good cool weather food.

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I found a recipe that looked easy and quick in Cook’s Country–a skillet version.  Only drawback was that I needed to be out running errands and wanted food when I got back.  Since I’d discovered that I can make a decent macaroni and cheese in my rice cooker, I decided to try making it in that.  The other thing I like with my macaroni and beef is chunks of tomatoes, not just some tomato sauce so I did a little modification of the recipe, and enjoyed my comfort food on a chilly day.

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces of elbow macaroni (or any small tubular pasta)
  • 3/4 pound of lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 14.5-ounce can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained reserving liquid
  • 1 10-ounce can of diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained reserving liquid
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 6 medium cloves of garlic, put through press
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of Hungarian half-sweet paprika or smoked Spanish paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  •  2-1/2 cups of liquid (juice of tomatoes brought up to this volume with water)

Assembly

  • Cook onion in the olive oil until just starting to brown in a skillet on the stove-top.
  • Add ground beef and break up, and brown.
  • Add garlic, paprika and oregano, and continue to cook until fragrant.
  • Transfer to bowl of rice cooker and add drained tomatoes and the liquid.
  • Add macaroni and mix well.
  • Set on the rice cooking cycle; it switches to warm/hold when done.
I got back from running errands and there was my mac ‘n’ beef ready to eat.  I have several more servings…a couple are destined to go into the freezer for future use.   Some will get reheated in the oven in the next few days (topped with some cheddar cheese and put under the broiler until it’s nice and brown).

♦♦♦

I don’t have a lot of specialty appliances in my kitchen, but one that has earned a permanent spot on my counter is my Krups rice cooker which also functions as a steamer and a slow cooker–and you can steam and cook rice at the same time.  You can also use it to cook pasta.

One of the things I discovered in the recipe book that came with it was a recipe for macaroni and cheese cooked using the rice cooking mode.  I was pleased with the results with a bit of modification in the ingredients.  The pasta does not overcook–just like rice does not overcook so I was inspired to try the macaroni and beef in it and it  worked well.