Pub Love

I sometimes have such a craving for pub food. I’m not talking about just burgers and fries, though. I mean the kind of menu items you will only find at a place with a lot of beer on tap, wooden tables and sports on TV screens. The thing I love about pub food most is its simplicity. And with that in mind, I decided to try to find some easy-to-mimic recipes for my 5 favourite pub grub meals:

pub love food

1 – Chicken Caesar Salad: The only salad I will ever have at a pub or bar. The creaminess of the dressing, crunch of the croutons and almost necessary bacon bits makes this a fantastic meal or appetizer. This recipe from Smitten Kitchen adds a certain element of cooking sophistication with a chicken brine, promising the juiciest of meat. Also, if you’re like me and can’t stand the fishy style of anchovies in the dressing, you can easily omit it without losing the flavour and creaminess.

2 – Baked Mac n’ Cheese: I’ve already professed my love for mac n’ cheese, and this Martha Stewart recipe is the right crunchy/creamy mixture. Something so great about having a bowl of this with a glass of white wine or a light beer.

3 – Loaded Potato Skins: The most difficult part about this recipe from Chow is the scooping out of the potato. The rest is super simple. I love loaded potato skins – I always ate the skin on baked potatoes (I know, kind of weird), and I love that these can be made bite sized for a party. They’re  perfect hors d’oeuvres to pass around, or snack on while hanging out in your backyard.

4 – Chicken Fingers (and fries): Without fail, what I order 9 times out of 10 when I’m feeling pub-y. The Black Peppercorn adds a really intriguing twist to a classic by dredging the chicken fingers into crushed Doritos…crushed Doritos, you guys! Amazing.

5 – Deep Fried Pickles: This combo should not work, but it does. So well. A Beautiful Mess has a shockingly easy-to-make recipe for this delicious treat, which uses minimal ingredients (one of which is cornmeal, aka that added crunch). They’re awesome dipped in something with dill (like their own dip recipe). These are so good!

Note: all of the above go amazing with a pint of your favourite beer, on a sunny day, hanging out in your backyard, with some good friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poppa-corn

Summer time is movie time. This seems a bit counterintuitive, because it’s the nice time of year where there isn’t snow or blistering cold winds or layers upon layers of clothing that still isn’t warm enough. We should all be outside, enjoying every last morsel of sun, but summertime also happens to be the time for blockbuster movies. While I’m a huge movie fan, I think for me, going to the cinema is mostly about the experience rather than the picture itself. And a large part of that experience is the popcorn.

popcorn

But here’s the deal with cinema popcorn – as amazing as it tastes (especially if you do like I do and double – sometimes triple – layer butter on it), it’s pretty much as far away from a healthy snack as you can get. So knowing that I’m trying to be (a little) healthier and that my metabolism is just nearing that age where it’s about to give up on me completely, I scoured around for some make-it-at-home popcorn recipes that hit the spot without all the badness. These recipes you can take with you, or enjoy when you’re catching up on something from the comfort of your own couch on a rainy Sunday. Also, in the move we gave up having a microwave so I have to find a replacement for the 1 minute, 15 seconds land of popcorn readiness.

– First, the popcorn: if you really want to be a purist and are absolutely dying to make popcorn that isn’t Jiffy Pop, this recipe from Simply Recipes seems to do the trick. Old school, stove-top, deliciously crunchy popcorn.

– Then, the flavour: if you’re going to do it, do it right and don’t just add butter. I love this recipe for spicy caramel popcorn from Smitten Kitchen because you get the flavour as you cook the popcorn. For something a little more savoury, this garlic, thyme and parmesan recipe sounds like it hits the spot – cheesy popcorn is the best. And, of course, there’s the salty popcorn, which takes a twist with this recipe that adds honey to it for a perfect mix of sweet and salty. 

– Finally, have some fun: popcorn’s great and all but it’s even better in ball form. Kind of like rice crispy squares, popcorn balls just make something great that much greater. Here’s a traditional popcorn ball recipe c/o Martha Stewart – but you can add your own twist to it by seasoning the popcorn, adding caramel, chocolate, or anything else your heart desires.

popcorn balls

 

Ultimate Fighting Champion: Comfort Food Edition

Feeling sick? Have a headache? Bummed out that it’s only Wednesday when you thought it was Thursday? I’ve got a solution for you: grilled cheese!

Even a casual reader of this blog will know that I love comfort food (as evidenced here and here and here). I try to limit how often I need to be comforted, though, because it’s not the healthiest habit. But last night, for a variety of reasons, dinner consisted of one of the best meals – grilled cheese and tomato soup. This is an awesomely simple and delicious dish, that always brings you back to when you were a kid.

grilled cheese and tomato soup

Homemade Tomato Soup (note: I cheated and used store-bought this time…)

Ingredients:

4 cups chopped tomatoes

1 slide onion

4 whole cloves

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

white sugar (to taste)

1. In a pot, bring to a boil the tomatoes, onion, cloves and broth. Boil for about 20 minutes, then pour out into another pot through a strainer (to capture those whole pieces)

2. In the empty pot, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour until the mixture is medium brown. Gradually whisk in bits of the tomato mixture, stirring to ensure no lumps form. Season to taste with sugar and salt.

Grilled Cheese: there’s no real trick to this – butter both sides of each piece of bread and use your favourite cheese for optimal yumminess. If you need an extra kick of comfort, add some freshly fried bacon to your sandwich.

So, if anything ever ails you, try this cure-all. I promise you won’t be disappointed – grilled cheese + tomato soup takes the cake!

Dangerously Cheesy

Via CBC.ca.

Via CBC.ca.

If there’s any food I love as much as bacon, it’s cheese. I absolutely love and adore it – stinky, soft, aged, fondu-ed – any kind will do. One of my favourite warm-weather Friday nights out is sitting on a patio somewhere (at home or at a restaurant), enjoying a glass of wine (white, pinot grigio ideally) and nibbling on a platter of cheese.

In preparation for spring and nights out on the balcony in our new place, I’ve tried to find a formula for the perfect cheese plate. A good cheese plate has a few key components: cheese variety (different flavours, textures and ripeness), fruits (I like apples, pears, and figs but it is all dependent on your cheeses), jam/marmalade/honey (I like honey with any cheese, and a light fruit jam with softer cheeses), and some kind of cracker/bread (the crispier and thinner, the better).

via blogto.com.

via blogto.com.

Toronto has some amazing cheese shops: Alex on Yonge, Global Cheese in Kensington, and Leslieville Cheese Market are among my personal favourites. When it comes to choosing the right cheeses for a plate, I often tend to select about one or two known favourites (a blue cheese, asiago or a sharp cheddar for example) then get a few more new flavours. I also try to have a nice mixture of hard, semi-hard, soft and blue cheeses as well as cheese from different milks (my personal favourite? goats milk, any time). The fruits and marmalade/honey/jam on the side for pairing, is key. I find these touches often bring out the flavour of cheeses in totally new ways. Finally, I like to cut up (thinly!) and toast some fresh baguette, as well as provide one or two store-bought cheese cracker options.

Cheese – like wine – has its experts, flavour profiles, and unique notes that you can learn about over time. If you’re ever looking to learn more (and make your friends happy with delicious cheese servings on balmy nights), here are a few places to go:

A Beautiful Mess’ simply elegant tips for creating a cheese plate

Real Simple Food has a more in-depth view of creating cheese pairings

Huffington Post’s guide to cheese (with video!)

The Kitchn has a great article on pairing wine with cheese

…or, just pair some cheese, wine and bacon bits and call it a wonderful evening!

A week of brown bags

My enviro-friendly "brown bag", c/o CB2

My enviro-friendly “brown bag”, c/o CB2

I’ve issued myself a challenge this year: try to break (or at least diminish) one of my worst habits of buying lunch every day. In and of itself, it’s not such a bad thing – we have lots of healthy options at work and a ton of variety. But when I did the math, I was spending way too much money on something I could easily do myself at home for a fraction of the cost. With all the expenses coming his year (i.e. a house!), it may be prudent to start saving a little bit more.

So, I’ve started working towards bringing my own lunch to work at least 3 days a week and, so far, I’m succeeding! I don’t want to pat myself on the back quite yet because it’s still only February. But I’m cautiously optimistic.

The one thing I’ve found most exciting about this, is the cooking possibilities – gone are the days of stale PB&J sandwiches and mushy bananas! I’ve found a few recipes that make for a week of exciting (and delicious) lunchtimes…

1) Chicken/Veggie Fried Rice:

Easily delicious veggie fried rice!

Easily delicious veggie fried rice!

The recipe itself is super simple – you take cooked (and cooled) rice, your choice of veggies, add chopped up boiled or grilled chicken breast, crack an egg over it, sautee everything in sesame oil with a splash of teriyaki and…you’re done. What I love about this recipe for lunch is that it gives you a different flavour and also allows for easy portability.

2) Arugula, Apple & Chickpea Salad Wraps

This recipe comes from The Kitchn, and it’s one of my favourite wrap recipes. I like to use a tart apple (like Granny Smith) and add some cheddar cheese to the mix, too. This wrap packs great protein and nutrients, and tastes awesome. It’s also super easy to make during groggy early mornings.

3) Turkey Caesar Sandwich

Martha Stewart's take on a classic

Martha Stewart’s take on a classic

I’m a sucker for caesar salad (even though it’s traditionally got anchovies in the dressing…ugh). I’m also a sucker for sandwiches that involve lettuce and cherry tomatoes, and bread. I do love bread. So this sandwich is kind of the perfect mix. It takes a bit more time to assemble (read: do it when you have some time in the morning), but tastes great and, if stacked properly (i.e. ensure there is a moisture barrier between your bread and lettuce) it really keeps well during the day. I like to also bring the dressing with some baby carrots and celery or cauliflower for a little deli snack.

4) Quinoa Salad

I’ve already sung my praises for quinoa, and provided a quick recipe there. I’ve recently discovered another recipe c/o Martha Stewart that includes more veggies and silvered almonds. It’s a bit more time-intensive (i.e. requires actual cooking), so I make this on nights i have free time, but it’s well worth the effort. I prefer these salads cold the next day, but they also heat up nicely.

5) Good Ol’ Fashioned Egg Salad Sandwich

It's a classic for a reason

It’s a classic for a reason

There is something very comforting about egg salad sandwiches. Again, I am a fan of anything that has lettuce and tomatoes involves, but I also love the creaminess of this particular lunch. Making egg salad takes almost no time (or skill, as I am a testament to) and you can put just about anything you like in there. The basis is simple: mix hard-boiled eggs (smashed up) + mayo + mustard. To that base, I like to add chives and scallions/shallots. I also am a big fan of adding cucumber to the sandwich assembly. I have egg salad about once a week, usually on days I’m feeling particularly stressed (remember how much I love comfort food).

Do you have any favourite brown-bag recipes or snacks?

Going Vegetarian (only once a week)

Meatless Mondays have really taken off in the last few years. Going vegetarian for one day a week traditionally started during World War I as a means of encouraging rationing  of key staples in order to help the war effort. But 7 decades later, “Meatless Mondays” have become a worldwide movement to encourage healthy and sustainable eating. My office cafeteria has started promoting Meatless Mondays with some unique (and delicious!) vegetarian options; no meat, anywhere in sight.

Since last summer (and despite the name of this blog), I’ve been trying to keep up with weekly Meatless Mondays as a way of cleansing/eating healthy especially after typical overindulgence on weekends (I can’t be the only one). In my quest to learn tasty and healthy vegetarian cooking, I’ve found 2 recipes that I absolutely love and would like to share with you today. You know, in case you too get inspired to save a chicken or cow on Mondays…

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie:

Shepherd's Pie, via Simply Recipes. It's easy to make this vegetarian!

Shepherd’s Pie, via Simply Recipes. It’s easy to make this vegetarian!

Ingredients:

1.5-2lbs potatoes (I like the red skinned ones)

Fresh chives

1 can of peas

1 can of whole corn kernels

2-3 peppers (I prefer yellow and orange)

1 large Spanish onion

2 field tomatoes

Garlic salt

Milk (to taste for mashed potatoes)

2 tbsp butter

Yves Ground Round (available at most major grocery stores, by the tofu)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Peel and dice potatoes (I leave the skins on when I use red potatoes), placing them in a boiling pot of water
  3. While potatoes cook, dice peppers, tomatoes, onion and chives
  4. Once potatoes are cooked, mash together along with the butter and milk (put as much or as little as you like, depending on how mashed you want them to be). Add chives and garlic salt to taste
  5. In a large pan, saute the onions and peppers until they begin to crisp up slightly. Add peas and corn kernels, and continue mixing.
  6. When all veggies are cooked but still crunchy, add the tomatoes and the package of Ground Round. Continue mixing until the Ground Round breaks apart and begins to sizzle
  7. In a casserole dish, evenly add a layer the ground round + veggie mixtures. Add an evenly-distributed layer of the mashed potatoes on top, making peaks throughout using a fork
  8. Place in oven for 25-35 minutes, or until mashed potato peaks begin to brown

And there it is! Easy Shepherd’s pie that tastes great, is home-cooked and healthy, and fills you up like no other. And, there are minimal dishes involved (always a plus)!

Quinoa-stuffed Peppers:

(recipe slightly modified, from Taste of Home)

Quinoa and peppers make for a delicious, meatless dish! Via Taste of Home.

Quinoa and peppers make for a delicious, meatless dish! Via Taste of Home.

Ingredients:

1 can (14-1/2 ounces) vegetable broth
1/4 cup water
1 bay leaf
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
each medium sweet red, yellow and orange peppers
4 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons sunflower kernels
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the broth, water and bay leaf to a boil. Add quinoa. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Discard bay leaf.
  2. Cut peppers in half lengthwise and discard seeds. In a large kettle, cook peppers in boiling water for 3-5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse in cold water; invert onto paper towels.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, saute the carrots and onions in oil until tender. Add the quinoa, sunflower kernels and seasonings; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until heated through. Spoon into pepper halves. Place in a baking pan coated with cooking spray, ensuring that the peppers don’t touch each other. Bake, uncovered, at 350° F for 20-25 minutes or until peppers are tender. 

Delicious and easy, this recipe works very well with a side salad. It’s a light dinner or lunch option that utilizes those spices most recipes don’t call for, and also has quinoa as a main component (remember how much I love quinoa!)

Bellwoods Brewery

photo (40)

 

Last night, my friend and I hit up the Bellwoods Brewery on Ossington for some munchies and home brew. Bellwoods opened up last April in an old auto-repair shop on the Ossington strip. After waiting on a table for a bit (this is one popular spot!), we were seated upstairs with an overhead view of the downstairs bustle. The vibe in this restopub is classic Ossington – candlelight, rustic decor and awesome soundtracks.

The whole draw of Bellwoods is their home brews – while we were there, we sampled 5 between the two of us. There was a light, summer-y Belgian beer (White Picket Fence); the classic IPA (Roman Candle); the chocolatey-tasting, Guinness-like concoction (Bootknife); the Christmas-inspired ale (Blitzen); and the delicious double IPA (Witchshark). In addition to the drink menu, they have a snack menu we just had to sample (beer on an empty stomach is never a good idea) – sharing a delicious Canadian cheese plate (with fresh, warm sourdough bread from Woodlot), then each having a homemade sausage, with beer-braised cabbage+beans+bacon, and topping it all off with a death-by-chocolate style triple chocolate brownie, drizzled with caramel and roasted almond slivers (in a word: wow).

The Ossington strip is full of little bars and restaurants that are full to capacity on any given weekend night (Yours Truly is one of them). It’s not a hidden gem it once used to be, but it’s become better for it in my opinion because of the quality of food and drink you now find. The trek to get there (if you don’t live on the West end) is well worth it, especially when the weather warms up and the patios open. If you’re up for a good beer night, Bellwoods is a great place to go – plus, if you’re ever craving any of their beers in larger quantities, they have a retail store open every day where they sell bottles of their brews. Yup – I will definitely be going back.

Mac ‘n Cheese, please

Remember how I said I liked comfort food? There’s a classic staple of comfort food eating that I didn’t mention – mac and cheese. I didn’t actually have Kraft Dinner until I was in my early teens. My parents weren’t big proponents of boxed food. But once I had my first taste, my whole world changed (hyperbole aside, it was awesome).

Now that I’m older and more conscious of what I eat (hint: don’t read the ingredients on a box of KD…it’s a little scary), I’ve searched for ways to make this delicious meal in a more homey way. One of my favourite sites, Smitten Kitchen, has a great recipe for a homemade version of this cheesy treat (which I have actually made, and can confirm that it’s super easy and utterly delicious). Another (via Martha Stewart) is a little more involved but based on the various photos, reviews and comments, seems like it will be well worth the effort to try.

Smitten Kitchen's Easiest Mac and Cheese. I'm salivating.

Smitten Kitchen’s Easiest Mac and Cheese. I’m salivating.

Easiest Baked Macaroni and Cheese 

Adapted from The New York Times, 1/4/06

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (not low fat)
  • 2 cups milk (not skim)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (I skipped this)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I’m a big fan of Cabot extra-sharp, in the purple wrapper)
  • 1/2 pound elbow pasta, uncooked
  1. Heat oven to 375°F and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use one tablespoon butter to grease a 9-inch round or square baking pan.
  2. In a blender, purée cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together.
  3. Reserve 1/4 cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.
  4. Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

 

Martha's perfect mac and cheese, via Food52

Martha’s perfect mac and cheese, via Food52

 

Martha Stewart’s Macaroni and Cheese via Food52

Adapted slightly from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics (Clarkson Potter, 2007)

Serves 12

  • 8tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
  • 6slices good white bread, crusts removed, torn or diced into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
  • 5 1/2cups milk
  • 1/2cup all-purpose flour
  • 2teaspoons salt
  • 1/4teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 4 1/2cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 18 ounces)
  • 2cups grated Gruyere cheese (about 8 ounces) or 1 1/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 5 ounces)
  • 1pound elbow macaroni (or other small pasta shape)

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter (alternately, melt butter in the microwave). Pour butter into bowl with bread, and toss. Set breadcrumbs aside. Pull out 1 1/2 cups of grated cheddar, and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, and reserve.
  2. Fill a large pot with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer’s directions, until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. In the same pot you used for boiling the pasta, melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking, 1 minute.
  4. While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
  5. Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup Pecorino Romano. Stir reserved macaroni into the cheese sauce.
  6. Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, and breadcrumbs over top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. If after 30 minutes, it’s not browned to your liking, broil the topping rather than leaving it in the oven, which may cause the pasta to overcook and sauce to dry out. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes; serve hot.

Diner Date

Toronto’s Thompson Hotel is quite the venue. Aside from the gorgeous rooms, stunning rooftop patio/pool, and prime location for drinks during the summer, the Thompson has 3 awesome restaurants: Scarpetta (an Italian fine dining restaurant with fabulous and unique dishes), Wabora (in my opinion, one of the best sushi restaurants in Toronto, only bested by the original in Bracebridge, Muskoka), and the Thompson Diner (which is what this post is really about).

"Nighthawks" by Edward Hopper

Recognize this? The All-American diner…”Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper

There’s always been something so fun and vintage about diners. And the Thompson Diner is almost an exact replica of the look and feel of this all-American establishment. I had a great time the last time I was there for a relaxing dinner. The menu items are what you would expect from a diner, but with a twist – mac and cheese made with truffle oil, reuben sandwich, burgers (like the “Deep South” made with pulled pork and onion rings), and buttermilk fried chicken (yum).

My friend and I each had one of their footlong hot dogs – hers with grilled onions, mushrooms, melted swiss cheese and bacon; mine with fresh cole slaw, dijon mustard, onions and relish. Both were incredible and accompanied by onion rings and french fries, respectively.

The best part of the meal? Their specialty milkshakes! They offer spiked shakes that are absolutely delicious – I had a vanilla shake spiked with Niagara Ice Wine, and my friend had an amazing mudslide.

Filling and delicious diner food

Filling and delicious diner food

The Thompson Diner is open 24 hours a day, which makes it perfect for late night eats during nights out and also for brunch (their brunch menu, by the way, looks absolutely scrumptious – bacon and sausage stuffed pancakes? bloody caesars made with bacon-infused vodka? yes please!).

Comfort me, food

January is a tough month. For the first week or so, we all come down from the holiday high, having just spent a couple of blissful weeks with friends and family, and likely taking some well-deserved time off of work or studying. Now that vacation is over, and reality has hit like a proverbial ton of bricks, I tend to look for anything – and everything – that helps take away the winter blues. More often than not, this involves comfort food.

I’m Romanian, and a big part of our culture is those typical Eastern-European hearty food staples – stews, potatoes, hearty meats and lots of bread. We wash all that food down with something called palinca, a highly potent fruit brandy (plum is a favourite) that warms up your insides in no time. During cold and short winter days, the best thing to do is eat, drink and (try to) be merry.

There are two dishes that have been favourites of mine since I was a kid. They always fill me up and make me feel just a little bit better about bracing any cold weather activities I may have to do (like walking to work, or heading to Ottawa).

Sarmale (Romanian Cabbage Rolls):

Notice the copious amount of sour cream. Yum. via Girl Cooks World

Notice the copious amount of sour cream. Yum. via Girl Cooks World

I know, “cabbage rolls” doesn’t sound super appealing. But the minced meat, bread and sour cream combo of this dish make is a filling and truly comforting meal.

Recipe c/o Food.com (the family ones we have are all in Romanian)

Ingredients

3 lbs heads of cabbage (sour cabbage, if possible)
1 1/2 lbs ground pork
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 medium onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups celery, finely chopped
1/2 lb bacon, finely diced
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 cup rice
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup tomato juice
1 quart sauerkraut (I prefer Polish in jar)
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh dill (optional)
1 smoked ham hock

Directions

  1. Remove core from cabbage. In a large pot, bring to boil enough water to cover cabbage. Add 2 tablespoons salt and 1/4 cup vinegar to boiling water. Immerse cabbage in boiling water. Cover and cook over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes. With fork or tongs, gently remove leaves as they become tender. Drain well; let cool. Trim main leaf vein so it is flat like rest of cabbage leaf.
  2. In a large frying pan over medium heat, add oil, onions, celery, bacon, salt, pepper, paprika, parsley leaves and saute until light golden brown. Remove from heat and let cool for 1/2 hour.
  3. Add ground pork, rice and sauteed onions together along with 1/2 cup water, and mix well. This is the meat filling.
  4. Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of the meat filling in center of cabbage leaf. Fold right hand side of leaf over filling, then roll from base to bottom of leaf, then with index finger gently tuck left hand side of leaf into cabbage roll to make a nice neat roll. Squeeze juice out of sauerkraut and place 1/2 of jar on bottom of pot. Chop any leftover cabbage and place on top of sauerkraut. Place pork hock on top of sauerkraut. Arrange cabbage rolls, seam side down in pot in neat layers. Place them loosely touching each other and layer on top of one another. Sprinkle with salt between layers. Place second half of sauerkraut on top of cabbage rolls. Spread tomato sauce and tomato juice over kraut and place 1 bay leaf (and optional dill sprig) on top. Cover rolls with water just enough to cover rolls. Place heavy dish on top making sure there is a couple inches between plate on top of pot. Cover pot and bring to boiling and reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 2 hours.
  5. Serve with sour cream and fresh bread

 

Beef Stew:

Beef stew goodness!

Beef stew goodness!

This is a staple of almost every Eastern European country. It’s hearty, meaty, potato-y and, most importantly, you eat it with a ton of bread. It’s carb overload but it’s just what the doctor ordered for this time of year (assuming your doctor is Romanian).

Recipe c/o my dad (from Burt Wolf’s Menu Cookbook)

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 -inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into thtn strips
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin stnps
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup quartered string beans
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cups beef or chicken broth or a combination of the two
4 new potaloes, cut in half
3/4 cup rice
Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro as a garnish

Directions

  1. In a large casserole over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the beef and brown on all sides. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  2. Stir in the bell peppers, carrot, and onion and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the corn, string beans, salt, and broth. Cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes and rice. Cover the pot and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender.
  4. Place the solid ingredients in a soup plate and spoon on some of the broth. Garnish with the chopped parsley or cilantro.
  5. Serve with fresh baguette.