A duet for Mom

Cynthia
Cynthia Stone
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Today’s recipes have only one thing in common. My mom loves them. I don’t know what you’re serving or being served on Mother’s Day but these would make the perfect celebration supper at my house. Besides that, they’re just plain great dishes.

Updated cabbage rolls

You’ve got to love the person you make these for because they take time and care. On the other hand, once they’re in the oven you’re free for the afternoon and rewarded with a wonderfully homey, comforting meal.

I used to add egg, breadcrumbs, milk, ketchup — all kinds of things — to the filling, but fresh beef and lamb don’t need further dressing up. This amount should generously serve 8.

1 large compact head green cabbage

1 cup long-grain rice

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 each large onions and celery stalks, finely chopped

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. ground lamb (or ground pork)

1/2 lb. extra lean ground beef

1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tomato Sauce:

1 large onion, diced

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 small can tomato paste

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

4 sprigs each fresh oregano and thyme (or 2 tsp. each dried)

4 bay leaves, fresh if possible

2 tbsp. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp. lemon juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut as much of the core as possible out of the cabbage (not easy but worth the effort) and drop it slowly, core end up, into the boiling water. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes. Loosen the outer leaves and gently peel them off; set aside in a colander. Cook another 10 minutes or so, cut into the base to loosen leaves if they are still attached, and continue until the head is completely deconstructed. Allow cabbage to drain while you prepare the filling and sauce.

Bring the water back up to a boil and add rice. Cook according to package instructions less two minutes; drain. Pour into a large bowl.

Fry onion and celery in oil until soft but not brown. Stir in garlic and fry just until fragrant. Cool and add to rice. Add lamb, beef, salt and pepper and combine, but be gentle — vigorous kneading toughens the meat. You must taste this mixture now. Brown a  small patty in a frying pan. It seems like extra effort, but you won’t be sorry if it desperately needs more salt — it should be quite flavourful.

For the sauce, fry onion in oil in a heavy pot until soft. Add tomato paste and cook until it is darker in colour and sticking to the pan. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add tomatoes, broth, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer 15 minutes; stir in lemon juice and parsley and allow to cool.

To assemble, work with one cabbage leaf at a time. Trim away as much of the vein as possible. A sharp paring knife is the best tool. Lay flat with the base towards you. For the largest leaves, you need about three tbsp. of filling; as they get smaller, reduce accordingly. Lay filling close to base. Roll twice, then tuck in the ends, left and right. Roll once or twice more, until filling is enclosed. Squeeze the roll firmly with both hands without breaking the cabbage. This keeps them together while cooking. If you run out of cabbage, the meat mixture freezes perfectly.

Place a layer of cabbage trimmings and any nasty looking outside leaves (washed, of course) in a Dutch oven or large roaster. Pour over a couple of spoonfuls of sauce. Layer in the cabbage rolls and pour remaining sauce over the top. Bake at 325 F for about two hours or until rolls are tender and sauce is thick. Serve with buttered bread.

Decadent frozen drumstick dessert

If you don’t want to fuss with your own caramel, buy a jar of ice cream topping. But really, it’s your mother — surely she brought you up better than that. Make this up to several days ahead.

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup finely chopped dark chocolate

1 tbsp. soft butter

1 tsp. brandy (optional)

Base:

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1/4 cup peanut butter

2 cups graham wafer or vanilla cookie crumbs

1/2 cup finely chopped unsalted peanuts

2 tbsp. sugar

Middle:

1 8-oz. package soft cream cheese

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

2 tbsp. sugar

1 litre good quality softened vanilla ice cream

2 tsp. vanilla

Make sauces first. For the caramel, pour condensed milk into a shallow 8-inch pan and cover with foil. Place in a water bath and bake at 425 F. Check at 1-1/2 hours and if it isn’t golden, cook another 1/2 hour.

For the chocolate, bring cream almost to a boil and pour over chopped chocolate. Allow to sit a minute then stir until smooth. Add butter and stir until melted. Stir in brandy. Refrigerate both sauces if not using immediately.

For the base, melt butter and stir in peanut butter until smooth. Stir in crumbs, peanuts and sugar. Reserve 1/4 cup and press remainder into a 9 x 13-inch dish. For the middle, beat cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in ice cream and vanilla and spoon over base. Spread carefully so as not to disturb the crust.

Pour half the caramel sauce over the top and cut into the centre with a knife, being careful not to touch the crust. Drizzle on a little of the chocolate sauce. Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture evenly over the top. Freeze at least three hours. Serve with remaining caramel and chocolate sauces on the side.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

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