Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (Golubtzi)

Thursday, February 28, 2013


We reserve weekends for big cooking projects. Oftentimes a whole day or two would revolve around food. A six hour quest in making pho. A day trip to a Japanese food market and an evening spent making maki and sushi (making it fresher and cheaper than at a mid-range restaurant). But on weekdays things are different.



A mad rush to scramble something out of whatever is in the fridge or at the bottom of the co-op box, with an occasional mad dash to a take out place. When on some days the amount of hours one is away are longer than those spent at home (including hours devoted to sleep), on weeknights time is sorely limited. And so lately our weeknight routine had been hastily put together dinner and an episode or two of whatever show we hadn't run out of watching on Netflix, and then bed.



To minimize the amount of cooking to be done during those few hours after getting home, I have been trying to accumulate recipes that would last for at least a few days. My husband made half a lobster-sized pot of chili that lasted us four days. We've been making Southwestern style enchiladas. And so things we can make ahead on the weekend and then eat for days afterwards are highly prized around these parts.



I also tend to fall into defaults when I don't have the time or the energy to be creative. I've fallen into these ruts before during busy times - rotating the same few recipes over and over again. Another thing I tend to do is fall back on is my comfort food. As much as I try to stray into new and at times exotic (to me) recipes, Russian food is my ultimate comfort food. It also helps that it is simple, filling, tasty, amenable to being cooked in large batches, with fairly uncomplicated and inexpensive ingredients.


Dishes like these stuffed cabbage leaves, or their naked sibling - meat and rice balls (made similarly except for the cabbage), along with things like pelmeni, would usually be made in bulk. While some dishes are more laborious than others (pelmeni can be a lot of work) - the time invested does pay off.


Cabbage and meat tend to get along famously, like in the Norwegian lamb and cabbage stew which we made before. For this recipe, the stuffed cabbage leaves are made with a traditional meat and rice filling. Here you can use a combination of the ground meat you like - I made them with ground turkey and chicken. The dish can be served as is, with a spoonful of sauce in which it is cooked, or with a dollop of sour cream.


Stuffed Cabbage Leaves
Makes about 20

You will need:
1 1/2 cup water for rice, plus more for the filling
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 lb ground turkey
1 lb ground chicken
1 large egg
1 small onion, chopped, divided
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/3 cup water

1 head cabbage

2 tbsp canola oil
2 cups chicken broth
6 tbsp tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil, add a pinch of salt and the rice. Bring back to a simmer and cook on  low heat until the rice is almost cooked through and the water has evaporated. Remove from heat and let cool. In a large bowl, mix together ground turkey, ground chicken, egg, 1/2 of the chopped onion, salt and pepper. Add the cooled rice and about 1/3 cup water to the meat mixture and mix until the rice is evenly distributed. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Rinse the cabbage and discard the outer leaves. Remove the cabbage leaves, one at a time, by placing the cabbage stem up and cutting each leaf off at the base; then peel off each leaf carefully. It is alright if they tear slightly, but take care to keep them intact as much as possible. Repeat until you have a few small leaves remaining; discard those or use elsewhere.
3. Blanch the leaves, a few at a time, in the boiling water, until pliable, about 3 minutes. Rinse under cold water, pat dry, and set aside. Cut an elongated triangle of about 1 1/2 inch in length at the base of each leaf to remove the tough middle stem.
4. To stuff the leaves, place a small fistful of the meat mixture into the inside of each leaf. Fold the base of the leaf over it, then fold in the sides like an envelope, and roll the leaf into a snug roll. Place on a plate seam side down. Repeat with the remaining leaves.
5. In a small saucepan, heat canola oil and add the remaining 1/2 onion. Sauté the onion until translucent. Add the broth and stir in the tomato paste. Season to taste as needed, and bring to a simmer. Place the cabbage leaves in a large dutch oven, seam side down, in one or two even layers. Pour the broth mixture over the cabbage leaves; the mixture should just cover the leaves. Cover with a lid, bring to a simmer on medium-low heat. Cook, until the meat is cooked through and the cabbage is soft, about 1 hour. Serve hot, with an optional dollop of sour cream.


Grapefruit-Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I believe in breakfast. Hearty, tasty, filling breakfast, with a glass of orange juice and a cup of good coffee. The problem is I don't have much of an appetite until ten or eleven in the morning. Which is perfect for a weekend brunch, but doesn't work quite as well early on weekday mornings.


On such mornings, during the best times, I gulp down a banana and throw a couple of granola bars in my bag as I run out the door. During the worst times, my breakfast is a cup of coffee. Always rushing, I find I hardly have time to eat anything, let alone make anything. And at that hour, a stale-oat smelling granola bar, a sour and saccharine-sweet smelling yogurt, or a slightly over-ripe banana quite frankly makes my stomach turn. So rather than relying on processed foods or low-fat yogurt (the astonishingly low calorie content of which will make my stomach growl in half an hour anyway - whatever happened to full-fat yogurt?) I have been trying to invest some time to make breakfast ahead.


These citrus-flavored muffins turned out to be just the right size and flavor. They have just a hint of sweetness, the grapefruit and lemon zest add just the right amount of tartness, and the poppy seeds supply the requisite protein needed for the morning rush.


As I've mentioned before, I usually wrap the left-over muffins in plastic wrap to keep for several days. That way I can throw one in my bag for a snack, and it also helps keep them from getting stale. If poppy seeds aren't your thing, you can also try these blueberry muffins (whose ingredient list I've used as a rough base for these) or whole-wheat chocolate muffins.


Grapefruit-Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Makes 12

You will need:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp grapefruit zest
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp grapefruit juice
1 cup buttermlik
1/3 cup canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line 12 muffin cup pan with liners. In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds.
2. In a large bowl, beat sugar, egg, vanilla, grapefruit zest, and lemon zest until creamy, 1-2 minutes. Set mixer aside and whisk in grapefruit juice, buttermilk and canola oil into the egg mixture until well blended and the oil has emulsified. Slowly whisk in the flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
3. Divide the mixture evenly between 12 cups. Bake until the tops are golden brown and lightly crisp, 20-22 minutes. Remove from oven and let the pan cool slightly before removing the muffins onto a wire rack. Enjoy.


Endives with Garlic Goat Cheese Spread

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Cheese is great for making appetizers, and goat cheese is particularly interesting because of its strong and tart flavor. Good goat cheese, or chèvre in French, is quite crumbly and not easily spreadable on crackers or, as in this case, endive leaves. Because of its texture, chèvre is great to use in salads, as we did in this kale salad. However, by adding a suitable amount of sour cream it is possible to create a goat cheese-based spread that's both flavorful and versatile.


Goat cheese is much stronger in flavor than many other cheeses and as a result it will usually be the central flavor of any appetizer that contains it (as it will easily dominate any other flavors you may try to add to it). As an alternative to sour cream, you can try using plain Greek yogurt. Or, if you enjoy a stronger taste, try using goat milk yogurt.


Endives with Garlic Goat Cheese Spread
Makes 10

You will need:
1/4 cup goat cheese
3 tbsp sour cream
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp finely chopped chives
a crackle of black pepper
10 endive leaves (about two small endives)

Mix together goat cheese and sour cream in a small bowl until evenly combined. The mixture should be thick, but of spreadable consistency (if you find it is still too crumbly, add more sour cream). Mix in the crushed garlic, chives and black pepper. Place about a teaspoon of the mixture onto the base of each endive. Arrange on a plate and serve.

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