National Cabbage Day!

When I got Steff Deschenes’ Eat the Year for Christmas I went a little post-it crazy and marked up the whole book (really, the whole book) with all of the days that I wanted to write about. Today is absolutely one of them.

Cabbage is amazing. It is second to only mushrooms as my favorite veg, likely because I grew up eating a lot of cabbage. Cabbage is a staple in Russian and German cooking, which is where I find my heritage. In honor of that heritage, I will celebrate today by sharing my family recipe for halupsi (the rest of my family spells it haloopsi, in case that’s any more familiar for you). Halupsi are cabbage rolls. The name, we think, is a corruption of the Russian word “galupsi,” which is what they call their cabbage rolls. My ancestry is all German, but several of the recent generations were German nationals living in Russia before immigrating to the US (I’m third and fourth generation on my mom’s side; dad’s side goes back to almost pilgrims). The recipe sort of straddles the two cultures, but whichever it is, it is soooo good. I usually make a double batch (leftovers of this are amazing).

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  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1 lb. of ground beef
  • 1/2 cup of rice, cooked and cooled
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes in the juice
  • 2 small cans of diced tomatoes in the juice
  • 1 tsp. salt and pepper to taste
  • Canola or other vegetable oil

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Soften cabbage leaves by cutting off of head and immersing in boiling water for approximately 2 to 3 minutes and then drain.  Mix the ground beef, rice, chopped onion, part of the diced tomatoes (the large can and part of 1 of the small cans) and salt and pepper together.

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Spoon the mixture into the cabbage leaves, fold the leaves around the filling.  Place in a covered roaster or large frying pan, add approx. 1/4 cup oil (I usually do this on the bottom of the pan) and the rest of the tomatoes.

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Bake in a 350º oven for 1 to 1½ hours until rice is tender (the cabbage may brown a bit, I usually cook them for about 1 hour 15 mins and they’re prefect).  Check for moisture as it is baking and add more tomatoes and juice as needed.

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Grandma’s Recipe: Porcupine meatballs

I know, I know. You saw that title and asked, “What the heck is a porcupine meatball?”

Porcupine meatballs

Those are porcupine meatballs (served with broccoli, obviously). They are amazeballs. They also come with a family legacy (at least three generations have made them) and a funny story involving fourth grade me, my mom, and an ill-balanced carrying container.

First, the recipe. Mix together:

  • 1/4 cup tomato soup
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/4 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 egg (slightly beaten)
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 tbsp minced parsley
  • 1 tsp salt

Shape the mix into balls (makes approx. 16). Brown them in 2 tbsp (or less if your ground beef has higher than 7% fat) shortening with a small clove of minced garlic. Once brown, add the rest of the tomato soup and 1 cup of water (though I’d like to try it with vegetable broth), and cover. Simmer for 40 minutes, or until rice is tender, occasionally stirring.

I try to serve it with a green, like broccoli or sautéed cabbage (which is my favorite veg–it’s the German in me).

Now for the funny story. So, from what my mom and I remember, my fourth grade class was doing some sort of bring ethnic family food to class to share thing, and I volunteered to bring these. I loved these as a kid (still do), and they’re bite size so they’re perfect for sharing a batch amongst a class of 20 or so. Because they’re served hot, my mom decided to bring them to my classroom just before I was to give my presentation about them. I have no memory of talking about them, but I do remember that while we were waiting for her to get to the classroom, our room phone rang and it was the front office. I was called up and my mom was on the phone. I think maybe you can see where this is going. While she had been walking through the cafeteria to my classroom, the *glass* bowl of the meatballs had fallen and they had splatted pretty well on the floor (it was a big cement outdoor place, as is common in Southern California). The bowl was in shards and my class was now going to be meatball-less. It was disappointing, but we can laugh about it now.

So I have a warning for you if you make these: use plastic!

Craving: egg burrito

Eggs are perhaps my favorite breakfast food. Fried or scrambled, poured over an omelette or stuffed in a burrito, they are great.

Lately, I have been craving an egg burrito. But because I am sometimes (read: quite often) forgetful, I have repeatedly neglected to take out a package of ground beef from the freezer. Which means no burrito for me.

However, I have a really nice mom who got a package for me and last night I finally answered my craving.

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I have adapted my way of making these because of my friend Jason. At the beginning of the summer, we spent ten days working together at our university’s MFA residency. On one night, Jason cooked up egg burritos for our intern group and they were awesome. Totally hit the spot.

Before this egg experience, I would make them as closely as I could to Del Taco’s breakfast burrito, minus the cheese. And let me tell you, they were good. But the biggest difference between Jason’s and my way is the use of ground beef. I had never done that before.

So last night I sought to replicate his way. I think I mostly succeeded. There’s something about the ground beef though that I’m not doing the same way. It was either too lean or I cooked it too long, which left it not nearly as moist as when Jason made them. Because of this, I ended up adding a bit of guacamole, which was a pretty great idea. I have a weakness for avocado that at times rivals my love of mushrooms (and those two together in fajitas, oh man). Overall, though, it was a pretty good burrito and my craving was sated…for now.