The season has definitely changed down at the market. The tomatoes, corn and peaches have been replaced with apples, pears, and pumpkins, and zucchini and summer squash have made way for acorn, butternut, and a host of other, less familiar, winter squashes.
And then there's the cabbage. When I was a child, there were two choices when it came to cabbage: cole slaw or boiled. I loved cole slaw, especially because it usually came with salami sandwiches, fried chicken, or barbecue. Boiled cabbage was to be avoided at all costs. Pale, mushy, and odoriferous, we didn't even have the corned beef to go with it. My mother was not one to go heavy with the seasoning, and it was bland at the same time that it had that awful cabbage-y smeill (you know what I mean.)
As I got older, I developed more of a taste for cooked cabbage, especially in soups and with corned beef. Cole slaw was still the preferred use, but every once in a while I would enjoy a wedge of boiled cabbage with the pot roast my mother served for dinner.
Later, I started hearing about this thing called stuffed cabbage. But it wasn't until I moved to Chicago and went to the Red Apple that I had the chance to try it. And loved it. And flirted with the thought of making it. I even looked at some recipes, but never got around to it. It seemed like a lot of work, so it stayed on my "maybe one day" list.
Until I saw the most beautiful baby cabbages at the green market. They were about three times the size of brussels sprouts and so cute I just had to take them home with me. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them but I was pretty sure I could come up with something.
One I got home I started thinking. I had some ground beef in the freezer, and once I thought of that I thought of stuffed cabbage, which was not a viable option given the size of these babies. But once I went down that road, I knew those were the flavors I wanted, so why not just put the cabbages into the meat and rice mixture, rather than the other way around?
Thus was born my Baby Cabbage and Beef Casserole. It's thick and hearty and the perfect dinner on a chilly Autumn night.
Here's my technique. The recipe follows.
First, trimmed the bottoms of the cabbages, but did not core the. I cut them into quarters, then dropped them into a pot of boiling salted water. I turned off the heat and let them sit for 5 minutes, then drained them and placed them into a bowl of ice water so they would stop cooking and stay green.
I browned the meat in a tablespoon of oil over high heat, then added onions, garlic, celery salt, salt, and pepper. I let it continue browning until the onions were translucent. Then I added the rice and cooked until it was heated through.
I opened a can of chunky tomato sauce and poured a little into the bottom of a greased baking dish. I spooned in the beef and rice mixture, and then laid the blanched cabbage on top of the mixture. (I had meant to pour half of the tomato sauce over the rice before I laid the cabbage on but I forgot. It didn't affect the taste that much, but it would have worked as a binder for the beef and rice, so I will remember to do it that way next time.)
I poured the rest of the tomato sauce on top, and sprinkled dill over that. I baked it in a 350 deg. F. oven for about 30 minutes, until the tomato sauce had browned and the casserole was bubbling.
The flavors were delicious, but it would have been a more cohesive dish if I had remembered to layer the tomato sauce between the beef and rice mixture and the cabbage.
Home Cookin Chapter: My RecipesBABY CABBAGE AND BEEF CASSEROLEServes 6
6 baby cabbages, trimmed but not cored, quartered
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 lb. ground chuck
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp celery salt
salt and pepper to taste
1 24.5-oz. can chunky tomato sauce
1 tsp dill
3 cups cooked brown rice
Fill large stock pot with water and set over high heat. Bring to a boil; when water is boiling salt liberally. Add quartered cabbage. Cover and turn off heat. Let sit for 5 minutes. Drain and immediately place in ice water to keep it from cooking any longer.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add beef and cook until browned, about 5-10 minutes. Add onion, garlic, celery salt, salt and pepper and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes more.
Add cooked brown rice and mix well. Continue to cook until heated through.
Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Pour beef and rice mixture into the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch greased baking dish. Pour half of the tomato sauce over the beef and rice. Layer the cabbage quarters over the tomato sauce, and then pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the top. Sprinkle with the dill.
Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the top is browned and bubbly.
Exported from Home Cookin 5.6 (www.mountain-software.com)