Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Beef and Lamb Holishkes (Cabbage Rolls)

I found a great article today on TheKnish.com today about a guy who ate nothing but Jewish foods for a month and apparently became incredibly healthy while doing so.

Just another reason to follow my blog, folks!

Honestly though, I'd take the article with a grain of kosher salt. I'm not entirely convinced that eating a steady diet of Jewish food would be better for me than my current diet, but I'm sure that Jewish food nourishes me in a different way.

In order for me to explain what I mean, I should tell you that I've started my conversion classes. I've been reading about Shabbos (the Sabbath, or the Holy Day - a day of rest sort of like Sunday for Christians) and the process of a typical Shabbat dinner, and I'm pretty excited about doing all of that soon.

I think that it's interesting that there are so many brachot (blessings) that can be said over food; not just on Shabbos, but every day. Jews have blessings for everything: Sugar, spices, nuts, ripe fruit, new fruit, wine, challah/bread, cakes, juice, and on and on forever. To me, this is just more proof that the Jews adequately enjoy and appreciate their food. And not only that, but their food doesn't just nourish their bodies, it nourishes their souls and gives meaning to their meals. Thanking G-d for a meal reminds you that it is not there just because you cooked it. It creates a moment for you to pause and truely appreciate your food and, essentially, your life.

Now you understand why I say that Jewish food nourishes me in a different way.

Here's a great recipe for beef and lamb holishkes and will nourish both your body and your soul. R would like me to point out that this is
his recipe, not his bubbe's or my own. :) He likes to get creative with his cooking and he loves ground lamb, but he made this recipe with only lamb once and found that the taste was incredibly overpowering. The combination of beef and lamb is wonderful, though.

They may not be the most photogenic little things, but I assure you that the taste more than makes up for it.


1 head of green cabbage
1 can of tomato paste
3 cups of water
Meat mixture for stuffing

Meat Mixture:
1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 lb ground lamb (if not available, just increase ground beef to a total of 1.5 lbs)
red chili flakes (a few shakes)
1 large carrot, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
1 can whole tomatoes
1/4 cup cranberry juice OR 3 splashes red wine vinegar (only if using ground lamb)
3 bay leaves
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
salt, pepper to taste
2 cups cooked rice

  1. Heat up a large frying pan on medium-high heat and add some canola oil. brown onion and garlic with the chili flakes.
  2. Add meats and cook until the pink is gone. add rest of veggies and cook on medium high heat until it starts to simmer. Once simmering, turn heat down to low.
  3. Add in herbs and bay leaves and let it cook for 30 minutes, occasionally stirring and trying to mash up softened tomatoes.
  4. Taste and add additional spices if desired. Set aside.
  5. Rinse your green cabbage and remove the first bunch of leaves - The ones on the surface are too big to use for cabbage rolls.
  6. Fill a large pot 3/4 full with water and carefully drop the cabbage inside the pot then bring to a boil. I don't know how the real bubbes do it, but R stabs the cabbage with a large serving fork and boils the cabbage with the fork intact, which makes it easy to lift the cabbage out of the pot again when it's finished.
  7. Once the water starts to boil, reduce the heat and put the lid on the pot, and cook for another 10 minutes or so.
  8. Now remove the cabbage from the pot and start to pull leaves off. This is where I find that it's helpful to work quickly, because the leaves are easier to work with when they're still warm.
  9. To make the cabbage rolls: Put 1-2 tbsp of the meat mixture into a cabbage leaf and fold it like a burrito (see photos), then place it with the seam facing down in a casserole dish. Continue this process for the rest of the leaves until you've used up all of your meat.
  10. In a large bowl, mix together the tomato paste with the water. Add more water if you need to. It should look like tomato soup when it's done. Pour the tomato mixture over the cabbage rolls. It should almost completely cover them.
  11. Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake in the oven at 350F for about 1 1/2 hours.

These get better with time. They're great for lunch the next day (if your co-workers don't shun you for making the microwave smell like cabbage). Baba Luba affirms that they get much better after spending a few weeks in the freezer.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Could I have a blog about Jewish food without mentioning matzo balls? I think not.

In the very first post to this blog, I gave you the recipe and directions for making Baba Luba's chicken soup. Well, I made it again this weekend, and this time I did it right. I made it with matzo balls.

I have to admit: The first time that I had matzo balls, I was disappointed. Before my first Jewish family dinner with R and his family, everybody kept talking about "motza ball" soup and how it was a staple at the dinner table at just about every holiday. Not knowing anything about Jewish food or about kosher laws at this point, I was expecting mozzarella balls in my soup! When I got a fluffy ball of what tasted like bread, I was confused. You can't blame me, can you?

I soon learned that matzo is the substitute for bread during the Jewish holiday of Passover, when eating chametz - ie, bread and leavened products—is forbidden. Matzo balls are made from matzo meal, which is used in place of flour and other grains during Passover. Matzo meal is definitely not a replacement for flour, though. It resembles bread crumbs more than anything. I actually used a mix of matzo meal and bread crumbs in my last recipe for cauliflower latkes, and they could easily be made kosher for passover by using all matzo instead of doing a half-and-half mix.

Matzo balls, once you know what to expect, are fantastic. They make their way into Jewish dinners all year round - Not just on Passover. They're a good substitute for noodles, although I sometimes put both in my chicken soup because I just love carbs that much. Everybody likes their matzo balls a different way. R's brother's mother-in-law likes to make hers so fluffy that they fall apart before your spoon even touches them. R likes his so dense and firm that they weigh as much as my little sister and you'd need a chisel to break them apart.

This recipe yeilds matzo balls that are kind of in the middle. Not too hard, not too soft. Just the way that Goldilocks would make hers.

I got the recipe from the back of the Streit's Mazto Meal box. Why mess with a classic?


1 cup Streit's Passover Matzo Meal
4 large eggs
1/4 cup oil or melted margarine (I used oil)
1/4 cup of water of seltzer (I used water)
1 tsp salt, or to taste (I added about 1 1/2 tsp in the end)
Pinch of ground pepper.

  1. Beat eggs. Add water, oil, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add matzo meal and stir thoroughly. Refrigerate for 1/2 to 1 hour.
  2. Partially fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. Moisten palms with cold water.
  3. Form mixture into balls about 1 inch diameter, drop matzo balls into boiling water. When all the matzo balls are in the pot, reduce heat to low. Simmer covered for about 30 minutes or until done. Remove with slotted spoon to a large bowl. Store in a cool dry place. Close spout after use to keep product fresh.

Serve these in chicken soup with egg noodles and garnish with fresh dill. I can't think of a better winter-time lunch than this! It's the ultimate comfort food.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cauliflower Latkes

Now that we're into November, it might as well be December. I got my December issue of Bon Appetit in the mail today and there was a whole article about latkes! I do plan on testing a few of their recipes before Channukah, but before we get into that, let me share one of my favourite low-maintainence recipes for anything latke-like: Cauliflower Latkes. If you can get over the fact that making them can make your house a bit stinky, I think that you'll really like them.

It's been a long week for me, so I'm just going to get right into it.

  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into small peices
  • 1/2 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup of matzo meal
  • 1 tsp of kosher salt

  1. Place cauliflower in a pot and cover it with water. Bring to a boil.
  2. Boil cauliflower until it's soft enough to easily poke with a fork.
  3. Strain out water in a colander. Place cauliflower in a large bowl and mash it up with a potato masher or a fork.
  4. Add bread crumbs and matzo meal slowly, mixing with your hands. You may not need the whole amount of crumbs/meal. The mixture should be firm enough to form into a ball, but not too dry.
  5. Form mixture into patties about the size of your palm. Place them on an oiled frying pan over medium heat. The amount of oil that you use is up to you. They're crispier when they're fried in a larger amount of oil, and they're softer when they're fried in less oil.
  6. Brown both sides and remove from pan. Place on a piece of paper towel to absorb some of the excess oil.

There you have it! Honestly, I wish that I had more to say about these, but they're pretty self explainitory and I'm exhausted. If you want to see what I've been up to, most of my new work is now up on my website: Robin Sharp Photography.