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Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Belly Full of Cabbage Rolls (Galumpkis) On A Rainy Seattle Day

I've been feeling a bit nostalgic lately, longing for traditions and trying to keep those legacies alive. I think too many of us are losing some of our heritage, and while food is getting fancy it's losing a simplicity that makes us want to curl up with a photo album, a roaring fireplace, and tell stories of "When I was your age..."

An Easter tradition in my family was grandma Rose's cabbage rolls- glumpkis- a savory, stuffed "present" from her German-Polish upbringing. Old world flavor from only a few ingredients, wrapped up to resemble the little green, velvet  coin purse she would snap open to give me money to get Popsicles! I want to believe this was handed down from her mother, but I really have no way of knowing. I never got the recipe from my gram, so I had to improvise. One of the great things about the method I used was the house didn't smell like cabbage, and the leaves stayed bright green. Looks great beneath the blanket of crushed tomatoes.

Truth be told- this was the first time I'd attempted to make these and I don't think I'd change a thing! And, they freeze great if there are any leftover.

Cabbage Rolls (Galumpkis)

1 head of cabbage

1 T oil
1 lb ground beef, (85/15)
2 C cooked rice (dealer's choice!)
1 C vegetable broth (recipe included)

1 C minced onion
1/2 C minced mushrooms
1/2 C minced celery
2 T minced garlic (about 2-3 cloves)
2 T roasted garlic mashed on a cutting board (if you have it; if you don't, roast a few heads of garlic and put them in a baggie in the fridge. They'll keep for quite a while.)

28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
4 T dried Italian seasoning (oregano, basil, thyme)
Salt and pepper

Horseradish, for on the side when serving (this adds a touch of bite the rest of the seasonings just can't bring)
Let's prepare some Vegetable Broth first!

1. Next time you are cutting up and peeling carrots, celery, onion, chopping parsley and you have stems- save the scraps. When you have filled a sandwich bag, throw in to a pot of water- just enough to cover 3/4 of the vegetables. (Note- if you don't have onion scraps, rough chop a 1/2 to one whole onion, big pieces, and add to the water. You want that flavor.) Add crushed black pepper, and a bay leaf, cover and bring to a boil.

2. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, for 30 minutes. Your house will begin to smell like homemade soup- that's how you will know you're making progress!

3. Turn off the heat, and allow to cool. Strain the broth in to a storage container, and compost/discard the veggies. You have a sultry and golden vegetable broth to add flavor to rice, pasta, soup, stock to cook Chinese dumplings,  add to a roasting chicken, mashed potatoes- whatever you'd like. It took only a minute to put together and very little babysitting while cooking. Amazing how much flavor comes from scraps! Waste nothing!

Now to the headliner, the Cabbage Rolls!

1. Core a head of cabbage in the following way: Using a sturdy small knife, pierce the cabbage at an angle, pointing the knife towards the core, about 1-1/2" from the hard core at the bottom. Cut an angled circle around the core, and once the circle is completed, you should be able to overtake the core and remove it from the head of cabbage. Fight hard!

2. Starting where the core was removed, grab the thick part of a leaf, and peel it off of the head and set aside. Repeat for 10-15 leaves total.

3. Bring a 6 quart dutch oven or deep pot filled 3/4 of the way with water to a boil. On the counter close at hand, have a large, wide bowl filled with ice and water- enough water to allow the (about to be) blanched cabbage leaves to be covered by the ice bath and cool enough to stop the cooking process.

4. Once the water is boiling, add 1 T salt, and begin to blanch the cabbage leaves dropping 4 at a time in to the water, submerging them and letting them cook for only 3 minutes or until the thickest part of the leaf is bendable without breaking. Remove from the "cabbage hot tub" with tongs and plunge deep in to the ice bath. Repeat with the rest of the leaves until all are cooked and cooled. Set aside. NOTE- if any leaves ripped apart simply chop them up, and you can either add them to the beef and rice filling, or sprinkle over the top of the finished product.

5. Heat a large pan/pot over medium high heat for about 2 minutes. Add 1 T oil, the onions, mushrooms, celery, and 2 teaspoons (each) of salt and pepper. Stir briskly for about a minute. Allow to soften, but not burn! Once the onions and celery begin to look translucent, add roasted and minced garlic, 2 T Italian seasoning, vegetable broth and ground beef. Stir to incorporate everything in the pot, and begin mashing the ground beef mix against the side of the pan with a flat wooden spoon, or the bottom of the pan with a potato masher. We don't want chunks of beef. We want to almost turn this in to a paste.

6. Cook over medium high heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the beef is cooked, and only 1/2 C (or so) of broth is left in the pan. See picture.
7. Add cooked rice (and any chopped cabbage), stir to mix well, and turn off the heat.

8. Set up a work area where you can begin to stuff and roll your cabbage leaves.

9. Pour about 1/2 C of the crushed tomatoes in to the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking dish, and spread evenly to coat the dish.

10. Spoon out about 1/4-1/3 C of beef and rice mix on a cabbage leaf, as shown to the right

11. Fold the cabbage over the beef and rice filling, left, right, and then roll up snug.
 12. Place seam side down in to the baking dish. See photo above. We want to pack these in to the baking dish. Repeat with each cabbage leaf until you are out of filling.

13. Cover cabbage rolls with remaining crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil, place baking dish on to a cookie sheet, and bake in a 350 deg F oven for 1-1/2 hours, until the tomatoes are gently bubbling from the bottom of the dish. Remove from oven, and let sit for about 10 minutes. Serve 'em up, maybe with some homemade mashed potatoes on the side!

Killer, huh??? Mmmmmm...

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