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.

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