Saturday, August 27, 2011

Unstuffed cabbage

I've been in the mood for stuffed cabbage lately and decided I would give this time-consuming, flavorful dish from my youth a try. I've never made stuffed cabbage, never watched my mom make it and was at a total loss and in panic mode when I got home with the ingredients. So I did what any well respected re-mixer would do- I came up with a quick, no fuss recipe that tastes as good as the original, but takes half the time and is SIMPLE. Of course I can't call it stuffed cabbage, so I've opted for Unstuffed Cabbage and Meatballs. Try this oven-baked casserole when you're in the mood for a lower east side deli flashback.

Baked Unstuffed Cabbage and Meatballs

1 pound ground beef
1/2 large onion grated
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 egg beaten

Sauce-Inspired by Rae Fox
2 T canola oil
1 medium onion chopped, 1 inch dice
2 cups cabbage chopped and divided- I used the plain green cabbage
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 tsp vinegar- I used rice vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar- I used 1/4 cup Splenda Brown
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can water

To make the meatballs, combine all ingredients except the beef. Add the beef and gently mix with your fingertips. The less you play with the meat, the more tender the meatballs will be. Form into 8 large meatballs and set aside in the refrigerator while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce, heat oil in large pot and add diced onion and 1 cup of chopped cabbage. Cook over medium/low heat until both vegetables are tender, but not brown. Add lemon juice, vinegar, brown sugar, tomato sauce and water. Bring to a boil, stir to combine, lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

To assemble the meal, spoon a small amount of the sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish. Arrange meatballs in casserole and cover with remaining sauce and reserved uncooked chopped cabbage. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 2 hours. Serve with cooked rice.

I will admit this does not make the beautiful presentation of pillows of meat-stuffed cabbage my mom used to serve, but I promise you, the flavor is all there. And just like the original, it's even better the second day.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Spicy Asian Noodle Soup

I've been reading and sampling recipes from Cooking Light for as long as I can remember. More often than not I'm thrilled with what they have to offer, but occasionaly their dishes seem to fall flat. This weekend I made their Spicy Asian Chicken and Noodle Soup (September 2011 issue) and was almost satisfied with the recipe. I omitted the rotisserie chicken and carrots, have done some tweaking and think you'll be happy to try this spicy, low cal, low fat variation. It's a perfect appetizer, or with the addition of one of my many Asian meatball recipes, a hearty main course that comes together in a snap. All ingredients are available in your local supermarket.

Spicy Asian Noodle Soup
adapted from Cooking Light

4-1/2 cups fat free low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup thinly sliced snow peas
1 can (7 oz) corn
2 tsp Sriracha sauce (I use Huy Fong)
2 tsp lower sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1-1/2 tsp Thai red curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen)
1 (2 inch) piece of peeled fresh ginger
Juice of one lime

4 oz dry linguini (I use Dreamfields-low carb)
1/3 cup sliced scallions

Bring first 9 ingredients to a simmer in a medium saucepan (chicken broth through ginger) and keep warm on low heat. Cook linguini according to package directions, drain and rinse. Discard ginger chunk from soup pot, add lime juice and stir. In each of 4 bowls, add equal amounts of linguini and ladle broth and vegetables over each serving. Top with chopped scallions.

If you want to make this a complete meal, try adding these chicken meatballs. They really round out the dish. I guess the pun's intended.

Chicken Meatballs
1 pound ground chicken
1/2 tsp sambal olek
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
1 slice of white or wheat bread ground in food processor or spice mill
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 T minced cilantro (I use Gourmet Garden Cilantro Herb Blend)

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and mist it with cooking spray. Set aside. In medium size bowl combine all ingredients except chicken. When all ingredients are incorporated, add chicken and mix gently with fingertips. You're now ready to make the meat balls. I made sixteen 1-1/2 to 1-1/4 inch meatballs out of this mixture. Place meatballs on baking sheet and bake 25 minutes. Add to your Spicy Asian Noodle Soup and enjoy.

Re-Mix: The possibilities are endless when it comes to switching out the veggies in this soup. I think I'd like to try it with bok choy or cabbage in place of the snow peas. Some straw mushrooms, baby corn and bean sprouts would also be nice. And if you want to replace the meatballs with another protein, a sliced hard boiled egg would certainly do the trick. Other garnishes? How about chopped peanuts or a sprinkling of fried won tons.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Back to Earth

After my last post I went into a food coma and decided some sensible eating was in order. So last night I made Roasted Shrimp with Lemon Sauce. Ina Garten has been roasting shrimp for ages and claims that roasting adds flavor to the shrimp that the boiling method takes away. I followed her recipe to the letter. But I wanted to add a little something, something to the mix so I zested a lemon, squeezed the juice, tossed the shrimp in the mixture and made a great little meal/appetizer.

Baked Shrimp Cocktail with Lemon Sauce
Inspired by Ina Garten

1 pound shrimp (16-20 count) peeled and de-veined, I left the tails on
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine shrimp with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Roast 8 minutes. While shrimp are cooking, zest and squeeze the juice from your lemon. When shrimp are done, toss with lemon juice and zest. Let cool and refrigerate.

The best part of this dish (for me) are the dipping sauces. My favorite so far is Sambal Olek right out of the jar.

A close second is good ol' Russian dressing, with a dash or two of horseradish. It goes well with the bite of lemon and is so easy to make. Mix equal parts of ketchup and light mayo, add as much (or as little) horseradish as you like, and sweet relish is optional.

Alternative Sauces: Sweet Thai chili sauce is good too, right out of the bottle. And if you like Asian flavors, mix a little soy sauce with rice vinegar, scallions and sesame seeds.

I agree with Ina- there's no reason to boil shrimp ever again.