Cabbage rolls & French Peasant Beets

Lol just looked down my posts and there is a cabbage entree + peasant side dish theme emerging already. I guess I knew there would be cabbage + peasant food motifs, but definitely didn’t expect them to manifest so soon.

And actually, I made the peasant bread again earlier in the day too. So I guess I am really living that #peasantlife. It was my best batch yet, FYI, and I think it can be attributed to just a tiny bit more salt (more like 2.25 t instead of 2), and rounding down with the baking time (15 mins at each temp). The baking adjustment may just be because my oven is slow and dumb and wasn’t cooling to the second temp quickly enough, so take that update with 2.25 grains of salt. This was my third time making the recipe and I am pleased to report I have it memorized (it’s that easy). I am also feeling a bit miffed to have paid for bread for so long… I think it’s good though because I only waited so long to try making bread because of a composite opinion of mine, built on comments and implications from many people that it is hard to do and it was fully not hard to do and now I’m kind of wondering……… is it even that hard to make it to the olymics?

Now onto cabbage. This weekend I was regaling some friends with a story of how my sister once had a week of not sleeping well for a job she woke up at 5 for. At the end of the day, the lady with the cleaning service saw her yawn and asked why she was tired. My sister said she hadn’t slept well for a few days and instead of the polite and typically noncommital coworker answers she had received throughout the day – “I’m sorry – that sucks,” “Ugh, I feel you,” “Suck it up until we get home” (my dad was her supervisor) – the lady nodded knowingly and said “put some lettuce under your pillow.” After my sister told me the story and we had finished laughing at the randomness, we looked it up and lo and behold, it’s a legit thing… lettuce opium. I actually meditated before I fell asleep last night and slept pretty well but I think I may need to keep an emergency lettuce in my fridge at all times and when people see it and say “wow, you’re so healthy!” which I get weirdly often, I can say “no, that’s just my sleepin’ lettuce!”

OK two things: I’m sure about this point you’re wondering how that ties in to the post. Because I do love to rant (on my BLOG AHEM) but I won’t do it if I can’t rationalize it tying in to the theme of the post, AND I just squeezed my lemon into my coffee mug instead of my hot water mug and took a sip and made it all the way to my room before my brain heard my tongue’s enraged ree and noticed the difference. I spit it all out and I’m okay now.

The mystical somnolent powers of lettuce… I can put those two together. Lettuce is sort of soothing I guess, and really mild. So yesterday when Hank asked if cabbage wasn’t also pretty flavorless, I was surprised to find myself immediately standing up for its non-lettuce-ness. Lettuce is all fine and well and not 100% flavorless, but for all intents and purposes of my palette, it’s the fourth state of water; solid, liquid, gas, crispy. Lettuce is the friend everyone gets along with, whereas when you introduce cabbage to your friends they like it more than they ever liked you. Cabbage is silky and sturdy and comes in a space-saving head. That sounds like the answer to a riddle! Even more delicious is rolling meat and rice and onions and tomato sauce into cabbage and baking it with more cabbage on top. It’s a delicious cabbage massacre and, speaking of which, is why the image is B&W. In color, it does look like………. bad special effects.

I chose Ina’s Stuffed Cabbage recipe. Despite having natural aptitudes at many things, I am absolutely capable of psyching myself out to the point of ridiculous failure. The latest manifestations of this have been when I have to write a co-worker’s name on an envelope for a card I’m giving them. It’s really bad. Another example is when it’s breakfast burrito Saturday (one of the only meals Hank has ownership of), and it’s time to roll and we both know there are only two tortillas in the house and stakes are high and I rip mine and try to salvage it but now the salsa is all over the place and everything’s slippery. I bet if no one was there and I knew I had 10 tortillas in the fridge, I could do it on my first try, but that’s not the way it went down and now I’ve lost the privilege of wrapping my own burritos. LUCKILY I did know there was a whole cabbage’s worth of leaves for only a half recipe’s filling and sauce, and no one watching. But on top of that, the leaves were homies and it was extremely easy to do. I don’t know why they were so agreeable to holding the roll shape and how they sealed shut in the oven but I am grateful to the cabbage.

Contrary to many of the reviews on Ina’s recipe, I didn’t think it was too sweet at all. The only reason I can think of is that authentic cabbage rolls aren’t as sweet and the commenters were expecting something more like that. As a person with strong opinions against general over-sweetness but no preconceived notions about cabbage roll sweetness, I thought it was great. I also baked them for 90 minutes, as some comments suggested, to be sure the meat and rice would be done. As I mentioned, I halved the recipe-ish (had 1.3ish lbs of ground beef) so used 2 eggs and heaping half measurements of everything. Also subbed dried thyme for fresh, as fresh herbs are my version of avocado toasts finance-wise and I am trying to rehab myself off them until I can focus for long enough to plant an herb garden or what I consider fresh herb-rich.

I paired it with a tried and true choice: French peasant beets. I think I originally found this while looking for a recipe which incorporates the beet greens with the beets – right toward the beginning of my anti-food waste phase (after I started making stock but before I started eating kiwis skin-on). The hardest part is slicing the beets, and if you have a mandoline, totally peasy. I only add chard if I have some on hand, otherwise just the bunch of beets + their greens. The thickest setting on my mandoline is closest to the 1/4-inch thickness the recipe calls for, but the thinner setting is useful if I need them cooked faster. Word to the wise, I am not a stickler about washing produce and even “forget” to do so every so often, but you will need to wash those beet greens. Beet greens are dirty birds. I use goat cheese instead of bucheron, and whatever white wine I have on hand, and haven’t felt the need to add the water the most recent few times and wa-la! (A joke). I would have never thought to put sauteed beets and cheese on bread, but it is delicious.

Cabbage rolls + French peasant beets on peasant bread + Charles Shaw aka peasant wine =


Ok at this point I’ve tried to think of a clever ending line for so long it is turning into the aforementioned “psyching myself out” situation so just know that eating like a peasant is fun like a grown-up version of when you have a bread roll as a kid and squat in a corner and eat it out of your hands, pretending to be Aladin or Oliver Twist.