I am intensely fortunate. While I am still struggling with wrist and hand pain from my new Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis (about which I am still totally and completely all "WTF?!"), I have dear friends who will stand in the blog breach for me. Today begins a series of guest posts from friends of mine, mostly located in places far from New Orleans, who love food and are generously willing to bare their kitchens, recipes and restaurants to our wondering eyes. This post is from the lovely Melinda, who lives in the beautifully fair city of Seattle. Please make her feel welcome, folks! *warm round of applause*
Hi! I'm Melinda, and I'm excited to be guest-blogging here at NOJuju. At first I was hesitant to write for this blog - after all, I don't live in New Orleans, and I know next to nothing about the food culture there, other than the fact that everything I have ever eaten there was extremely delicious and made from crawfish. I live in Seattle, where it's easier to get good Eritrean food than anything that hails from Louisiana (which is a whole 'nother blog post), and where we can't even grow okra or peppers because it doesn't get hot enough. I live right in the city with my husband, who enjoys cooking as much as I do.
And after an introduction like that, I have to tell you that this post of mine isn't even about food specific to Seattle. It's about cabbage rolls. Except that I don't even call them cabbage rolls - everyone in my family has always called them 'pigs in a blanket', much to the confusion of almost everyone else I talk to here, who think of pigs in a blanket as being hot dogs stuffed inside croissants. If you're wondering why that is, Wikipedia has the answer, as usual: it turns out that "In regions heavily influenced by Slovak immigrants, such as northern Pennsylvania, the term usually refers instead to stuffed cabbage rolls, such as the Polish or Ukrainian Gołąbki." Seeing as how I'm originally from Michigan, which is full of people of Eastern European descent, there's no surprise there. In Michigan, people get excited about pastries that nobody has heard of outside of Poland and the Upper Midwest.
A few months ago, I went to visit my grandma, and she made pigs in a blanket for everyone who descended upon her house that day. When I stopped eating pork about ten years ago, I figured I'd be giving up pigs in a blanket along with my bacon, but grandma made some extra ones with a meat substitute too, and they were darned good. They inspired me to start making plans for the enormous cabbage that has been growing in my garden since last September.
Pigs in a blanket aren't normally the nicest thing in the middle of August - they involve the crockpot being on all day, and that's much nicer when it's cold out. Ordinarily, I'd want them in January, but the cabbage's day of reckoning has finally arrived, and drastic measures are needed to use it all. I could only fit about half of it in the crockpot today; luckily, my husband promises that he has plans for the other half. I, for one, am half-hoping that he doesn't, because I'd love to try my hand at making kimchi or sauerkraut.
I ended up leaving these in the pot for around 7 hours, and they were tender and delicious. I attribute some of the niceness of this recipe to the homegrown cabbage, but I'm excited about how well my first attempt at pigs in a blanket turned out! I could definitely see them becoming a winter staple. I'd like to experiment with stuffing them with mushrooms instead of sausage; lots of nice mushrooms grow in the Pacific Northwest, and there is a wonderful variety of them available here during the fall and winter.
This recipe is vegetarian. To make it with meat, omit the olive oil (it's there to give the fake meat enough fat), and use ground pork or pork sausage. You can also use rice instead of bulgur, if you're so inclined. Some people parboil the cabbage leaves first in order to make them easier to manipulate, but I didn't.
1 package of vegetarian sausage
¼ cup olive oil
2 cups of bulgur wheat
3 green peppers
1 box strained tomatoes
salt, pepper and herbs to taste (I used oregano, since the sausage already had some sage in it)
1 ordinary sized head of cabbage
Dice the onion and green peppers, and put them in a big bowl, along with the olive oil, bulgur wheat, and sausage. Smash this all up with your hands like you're making meatloaf. Roll it up in cabbage leaves and place them in the crockpot. Mix the strained tomatoes (or tomato juice, or tomato paste with water, or ketchup, if you're really in a bind) with salt, pepper and herbs. Dump over the top of the cabbage leaves. Turn the crockpot on and wait.