Sunday, March 24, 2013

Not My Mama's Stuffed Cabbage

Stuffed Cabbage is one of those dishes I look forward to making when my mother visits.  It is very time consuming so it gives us a full day together in the kitchen, our favorite bonding exercise.  Because it’s so time consuming, it may not be one of my most requested recipes, but it is certainly one of my most requested meals. 
My goal was to develop a recipe to share with friends that provides the same flavor without the time and work.  The original recipe requires boiling the whole head of cabbage, continuously removing from the water to peel back and separate the leaves; seasoning the chopped meat; trimming the cabbage leaves for rolling; preparing the sweet and sour sauce, rolling the cabbage and cooking  Who's got time for that? 
This photograph is of my mother's original Stuffed Cabbage.  My Cabbage Casserole may not look like my mother’s Stuffed Cabbage, but it definitely tastes like it….and I’ve been told it’s much easier to eat.  My niece, Jackie, gave the dish validation when she walked into the room, sniffed the air and without provocation said “Is that Grandma’s Stuffed Cabbage I smell?”

§     1 onion, diced
§     4 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/8” coins
§     1 28oz can of tomatoes
§     1 6oz can tomato paste
§     1 large head of cabbage shredded or a large bag of shredded cabbage for coleslaw
§     3 pounds of frozen meatballs, preferably small
§     3/4 cup sugar
§     3 tablespoons honey
§     1 tablespoon sour salt
§     2 teaspoons kosher salt
§     1 teaspoon cinnamon
§     Vegetable oil

Coat the bottom of a large pot with vegetable oil and add the diced onion. 
Sauté for about 2 minutes until the onion begins to sweat but not turn brown. 
Add the carrot coins and sauté for about 2 minutes. 
Add the canned tomatoes and tomato paste.  If the tomatoes are whole, crush with a fork.  Refill the tomato can with water twice and add to the pot.  Cook over medium-high heat until the tomato mixture begins to boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer.  Add the sugar, sour salt, kosher salt and cinnamon. 
Add shredded cabbage and meatballs. 
I did not have small meatballs so I cut the larger meatballs into quarters. 
Simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Spoon into a casserole dish and allow to cool before placing into the refrigerator.  This casserole, as with most sweet and sour meals must be made in advance.  It takes a minimum of 24 hours for the flavors to develop, and I guarantee it will taste even better after 48 hours in the refrigerator. 
This dish freezes extremely well but I suggest letting the flavors develop in the refrigerator before you portion and place into the freezer.  To serve, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place the casserole dish into the oven.  Cover with aluminum foil to keep the moisture in.  Bake covered for 30 – 40 minutes until warm, remove cover and bake uncovered for the last 10 minutes. 
For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Stuffed Cabbage Casserole. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tuna Melt

Tuna salad sandwiches are as much a staple in a New York Deli and New Jersey Diner as pimento cheese sandwiches are in the south.  When I moved to Nashville and was introduced to the southern version of my childhood favorite, it was difficult for me to embrace.  The sweet southern tuna salad was tasty, but I missed the savory flavor and crunch of my all-time favorite.  After introducing my tuna salad to southern friends, it quickly became an expected treat when visiting my home and one of my most requested recipes. 

Preparing a perfect Tuna Melt takes a little more technique than melting a piece of cheese on a tuna sandwich, so I thought I would share my simple technique which yields a crispy, buttery and delicious bread, warm melted cheese and cool tuna salad.....just the way I like it.

Tuna salad is something I can assemble quickly and always have the ingredients on hand, but one of the secrets to this delicious delicacy is preparing it a day ahead and allowing the flavors to marry.

Tuna Salad Ingredients:
§     2 6-ounce cans of white meat tuna packed in water, drained
§     3 stalks of celery, minced
§     1/3 cup Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise  (I love mayonnaise, so I may add up to 1/2 cup)
§     3 tablespoons Miracle Whip (my secret ingredient)
§     1 tablespoon Freshly squeezed lemon juice
§     1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

In a medium sized mixing bowl add drained tuna and break up with a fork. 
Add celery, Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise, Miracle Whip, lemon juice and salt and combine well.  I do not use the low fat or low calorie mayonnaise because it does not taste as good.  I prefer you use less, but use the real thing.  The Miracle Whip is my secret ingredient and provides another layer of flavor.
The tuna salad is ready to eat, but for maximum flavor, prepare a day (or a few hours) ahead, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to use. 
I like onion on my tuna sandwiches but I don't put onion in the tuna salad.  Without onion, the tuna stays fresh in the refrigerator much longer and does not get as watery, so I place a slice of onion directly on my sandwich.
Tuna Melt Ingredients:
§     Sliced bread (white, wheat, rye, whole grain, Hawaiian or brioche)  
§     2 slices of cheese for each slice of bread  (I use Cheddar or Colby but use what you like)
§     Paprika

Optional Ingredient:
§     Onion slices

Butter one side of the bread, place butter side down onto a frying pan and place a slice of cheese on the bread. 

Over a medium low flame, grill the bread while melting the cheese.  When nicely browned, remove from heat and spread the tuna salad over the top of the melted cheese. 

Be sure to cover the entire slice of bread from corner to corner. 

Cover with another slice of cheese. 

Sprinkle lightly with paprika for added color and place under the broiler for approximately one minute, until melted. 

For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to TunaMelt. Enjoy!