Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rolling Along with Our Heritage

So many times I don't even think about the long line of good cooks that are part of my heritage. It is at times like this past Sunday dinner when the reality of just what I have inherited hits. Mary had wanted to invite our dear friends, the Fords~ Mike (author of some great novels of ancient times), Cristina, Isabel and Marie~ over for a Sunday meal. We had originally thought of breakfast, but due to David having to be the MC during 10:00 AM Mass as well as Cristina having to cantor at the noon Mass, the schedule for a dinner worked out much better.
Mary had also been wanting to try her hand at Syrian food (passed down from my maternal grandfather's side of the family), and so on Saturday we started preparing a small feast to share with our guests. This was only accomplished after Mary and Brian had spent quite a bit on what lamb they could find at our local Roth's. The menu would consist of Syrian Pizza- a family favorite with lamb, pine nuts (except for David, who is still having to go nut-free), onion and spices; Green Beans with Lamb and Tomatoes to be served over rice pilaf and Cabbage Rolls stuffed with lamb, rice, onions and more spices. As the aroma wafted out when taking the lid off the cabbage rolls, I had the flashback of being a young girl at my grandparents' home on Sundays when we would head over for dinner with my extended family of grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. It always amazes me how smells can take one back to a specific time or place. For me, it's generally food- spices & baked items are the ones that do it the most.
Anyway, back at the meal, we enjoyed this with some sparkling blood orange soda and lemonade for the kids along with some Eola Hills Reserve Pinot Noir. We all enjoyed the delicious food as we also video-chatted with Joshua, who continues to relish his time in Italy. What fun it was to have dinner "with him" as he was able to talk with his Godfather (Mike) and the rest of us about his adventures in Roma and recent trip to Assisi. We ended the meal with Cari's amazing gluten and dairy free brownies plus some ice cream along with a great dessert wine~ Chocolate Shop Wine. It was all so satisfying and made for quite a relaxing afternoon.
Cabbage Rolls ready to serve!
If you haven't thought about having Sunday dinner lately, you should really think about doing it. Grab your family recipes or find some to start your own tradition and get cooking. It's a lot more fun when you do it with friends, so be sure to invite some over. To help you get started, here's a recipe from our meal~ Cabbage Rolls. Even if you are not a huge cabbage fan, I think you should give these a try!

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls 
(Mihshi Malfouf)
2 heads of cabbage
Pot of boiling water
Meat & Rice Stuffing (recipe follows)
1 box Chicken Stock (I use Pacific Foods brand)
salt and pepper to taste

Start with a solid smooth head of cabbage. Core with knife. Put head in boiling water for approximately 5 minutes. The purpose is to soften so leaves will peel off easily & bend. DO NOT cook the cabbage.
As the leaves loosen from the head, stack them on flat pan. When they get to small to use for rolling, take head out. Put small, unusable leaves to the side to use for something else.
With a paring knife, trim or shave off the stem (thick part) of the leaves. When rolling leaves, use a plate for the working surface. Place one leaf on the plate with the stem facing you. Place a small amount (about 1/4 cup) of filling 1/2 inch from the bottom of the leaf. 
Fold up from the bottom first, then fold sides in towards the middle. Roll from bottom to top. Place finished roll in dutch oven & repeat until all leaves and mixture is used up. Add stock and salt & pepper to taste. Bring to boil; turn down to simmer and cover with lid. Cook for approximately 1 hour. 

Meat and Rice Stuffing
(Hashwit Mihshi)
6 cups lamb, coarsely ground
3 cups long grain rice, uncooked
4 t. salt
4 t. pepper
2 t. allspice (True middle eastern allspice is a mixture of spices, so I use 1 t. allspice, 1/2 t. cinnamon & 1/2 t. cloves for my stuffing)
1/2 cup water
Combine all ingredients in bowl. Mix well using hands. DO NOT cook mixture beforehand. It should be uncooked, ready to stuff into the rolls.
Buono Appetito!

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