Monday, July 26, 2010

Stuffed, Part I

"Turn your back on the little zucchini for just a few minutes and they grow into baseball bats," said Epicurious recipe review A Cook From NH.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

This growing season there so many summer squash I can barely grate it and freeze it enough before some more finds its way into our kitchen again. Be it from the community garden, a friend's garden, the farmers market, or the local farmer we order produce from, zucchini has aimed its target at me. And like a good cook, I'm up for the challenge.

On the Epicurious website, I found this recipe for Cabbage Stuffed with Beef, Zucchini and Herbs. While all the ingredients sounded like a perfect fit for my crisper drawers, the recipe reviews were something left to be desired.

But I braved it and tweaked this so-called bland recipe into a keeper. At least I feel confident saying that after getting the approval from our gracious neighbors and friends A & J who dedicated their Saturday night as taste testers.

What follows is the very revised version of the recipe from Self magazine using quite a bit of the comments from A Cook from California. I also must thank my mum-in-law Sally for giving her original pigs-in-a-blanket recipe that I used as a foundation.

Note: The baking instructions are clearly for summer. Being this last week Bowling Green only saw temps in the higher 90s, there was NO way I was going to turn on the oven. So I turned to my grill. I baked the cabbage rolls over indirect medium heat for 50 minutes. To get indirect heat on a charcoal grill, place a disposal aluminum pan in the middle of the charcoal tray. Fill the open space around the pan with 2 layers of charcoal. Bake the rolls in another disposable pan. (After cooking you can either recycle the pans or wash them for re-use. It's up to you.)

Hot Pigs in a Couture Summer Wrap (aka Pigs in a Blanket--Summer Style)

Suggested albums while cooking: The Beatles White Album, especially "Piggies" and Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard's One Fast Move Or I'm Gone.  (Thanks, Jenn!)

1 large head of local cabbage
1 medium local zucchini
1 medium local summer squash
1 small local eggplant
1/2 bunch of kale
1 can diced tomatoes (local), drained (reserve juice)
2 medium local onions (red or white or mix)
3 local garlic gloves, minced
1 lb local, grass-fed ground beef
1 T each fresh local basil, parsely, thyme, & oregano
2 T organic olive oil, divided
1 c cooked rice
pinch of cloves
pinch of nutmeg

1 can zesty tomato soup (local) with 1/2 water, mixed well, and all of the herbs with some leftover for sprinkling.

Begin by cooking rice. Use wild grain rice, jasmine, minute brown rice, etc. Whatever you have on hand that floats your boat.

While rice is cooking, blanch cabbage. From the top of the head cut a straight incision that goes through the head (so surgical, I know) but that does not cut away any leaves. Blanch for 5 minutes or until bright green. If inner leaves aren't blanched enough, you can always re-submerge. Of course, you'll have ice cold water on hand to stop the cooking immediately after the head has been blanched. Set aside to drain and cool after ice bath. After cool, half and core cabbage, carefully tearing away leaves. Set leaves aside to dry and drain.

In an large non-stick skillet, brown ground beef with 1 T olive oil, salt, and pepper. Drain. Set Aside.

Saute onions and garlic until soft. Add squash, zucchini, eggplant, diced tomatoes, cloves, and nutmeg with a little of the diced tomato juice (I'm sorry I'm not technical like Cook's Illustrated). Cover and cook until soft. Add kale for last two minutes and cover again.

Stir in meat and cooked rice with veggie mixture.

Trim cabbage leaf veins so they are easier to fold. Be sure not to cut leaves.

Hold a leaf with the core side towards you. Add a bit of meat in its cup. Roll once, then fold in the sides and roll until it's covered. Place seam side down in a pan where the bottom is lightly covered with sauce.

Repeat until cabbage leaves are gone. (Recipe can be doubled and frozen, if you so wish.)

Pour remaining sauce over the rolls before covering with the pan with foil. 

Bake on the grill according to the above note. If baking in the house, preheat the over to 350F and bake for 45-60 minutes.

When done, as the French say, "Mange!"

For dessert, consider homemade brownies! Our friends made-from-scratch their brownies using a recipe from How to Boil Water.  As a brownie fanatic all I can say is that they were AWESOME, especially after they added whipped cream and Baileys to them.

Cheers to a fantastic dinner party!

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