Wednesday, December 6, 2006

"Always on Sunday - Eleanor Ostman's Best Tested Recipes" by Eleanor Ostman (MN food writer) - Sarma Hot Dish (stuffed cabbage done in a casserole)

Date I made the recipe: November 29, 2006

Always on Sunday – Eleanor Ostman’s Best Tested Recipes by Eleanor Ostman
Published by: Sunday Press
ISBN 09662614-0-2
© 1998

Recipe: Sarma Hot Dish – p. 222

Given that I live in Minneapolis, I read the Minneapolis Star Tribune (“Strib” for short) newspaper every day. I was vaguely aware that our sister city, St. Paul, had a newspaper as well, the St. Paul Pioneer Press (“Presspatch”) but that was the extent of my knowledge. Too bad I didn’t catch on sooner.

For 30 years, Eleanor Ostman wrote a Sunday Tested Recipes column in the Pioneer Press and this book, published in 1998, was a compilation of all these recipes. As a food writer, Eleanor traveled far and wide, meeting famous people like Julia Child and Paul Newman (Lucky Eleanor got to meet The Man when she judged a Newman’s Own cooking contest), yet when I met her at the book signing, she impressed me as somebody who could easily have been my next door neighbor – warm, welcoming (perhaps a little shy at the attention) and very down to earth.

This “hot dish” is very down to earth as well. Sarma is basically a cabbage roll and the recipe hails from southeastern Europe (Croatia, Bulgaria and the like). Many of the residents of what we in Minnesota refer to as The Iron Range (known for its iron ore mines) hail from that area as well. It’s eastern European comfort food and I am all about comfort food, no matter what form it takes.

This hot dish recipe eliminates the need for you to cook the cabbage leaves and then wrap the meat mixture inside to form a cabbage roll which is the traditional method of making this dish. I am all about shortcuts as well. If you saw a previous blog, I love using a Zyliss® chopper whenever a recipe calls for chopping foods. You’ll thank me for the hot tip when you read that you have to chop an entire small head of cabbage for the recipe.

By the way, every time I look at this book on my shelf and see the title Always on Sunday, I can’t help but think of the song “Never on a Sunday,” from the movie “Never on a Sunday,” released in 1960, staring famous Greek actress Melina Mercouri. I can’t remember all of the lyrics but I do remember singing “…never on a Sunday, a Sunday, a Sunday… (add remaining lyrics here).” I’ve never seen the movie but the theme song certainly stayed with me for years and years and…well, years. God, I feel old all of a sudden…..

Sarma Hot Dish
6 – 8 slices bacon, chopped
1 ½ pounds ground beef (or ham, but I used ground beef)
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
Garlic (optional. I didn’t use it because I wasn’t sure how much to use)
1 small head cabbage, chopped
1 c. long-grain rice
2 c. sauerkraut and juice
1 quart tomato juice
1 can tomato soup

Fry bacon until crisp then remove from pan. Add beef or ham and onion (Note: 8 slices of bacon generated a lot of grease that was then absorbed by the ground beef and onion. If you’re concerned about the grease, you might want to drain your pan first.) Add salt and pepper (and garlic, if you wish) to taste.

Grease a large casserole with butter. Line the casserole bottom and sides with chopped cabbage. Add the rice and bacon to the meat mixture and spoon it into the casserole. Top with most of the sauerkraut (reserve some to put on top right before baking) and juice. Mix tomato juice and tomato soup and pour over the meat mixture. (Note: I used the largest casserole dish I had and not only did I not have enough room to add all of the tomato juice/soup mixture but it bubbled over while cooking. Either hold back a bit or buy a bigger casserole dish!). Top (if you have room) with a think layer of cabbage and remaining kraut.

Bake, covered, in a 350 degree oven for 2-2 ½ hours. (Note: ours cooked for 2 and it was fine).

Eleanor notes that you should check to see if there is enough liquid for the rice to absorb as it cooks. If there is excess liquid, remove during the last 20 minutes. As I said, in my case, the cup (of soup) runeth over but everything was still moist and meaty.

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