Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Food Fun in Michigan

I just got back from a trip to Michigan.  I was visiting with 2 of my daughters and their families, one of whom just had a new baby.  It is always fun to visit with my kids.  They are all foodies of one kind or other.  We all have certain interests and directions, but we all love food and new recipes!  Sitting and talking with one of my daughters, who is married to a Polish man, we came to discussing ethnic foods as a matter of course.  If any of you see my Welcome page (or even the first post here), you will note that I come from a Slavic background and lived in Guatemala and had my children there.  Indian food came into my ethnic horizon a little later, but no less strongly for all that! 

Three Holupki, or Cabbage Rolls
My children, all having been born in Guatemala, love some of the foods we ate there, and continued to eat in the US, as I continued cooking those recipes.  Things like Picado de Rabano (Chopped Radish Salad), Hilachas (also known as Ropa Vieja, and meaning "rags" or "old clothes"), a stew made with brisket, Horchata, a rice drink, or Tamales and many other dishes.  My daughter's Polish husband was longing for Holupki (or Golumki, Golubki, Halupki, Sarma and so on throughout those eastern European countries), which set us talking about that particular recipe.  She had eaten it before of course, both growing up with me and later at her husband's parents' house.  She had never yet made this dish herself!  I suggested we try it out together!  In doing so, I finally got a photo of these Cabbage Rolls that are known by so many names!

It is strange, when creating a blog or a website dedicated to food, to realize how many recipes I have taken for granted over the years.  I have never thought to take photos of those homey foods like Holupki, or Chicken Paprikas, in all my 42 years of cooking.  That day with my daughter, I got photos of Holupki for the first time.  A milestone!  I also never had a real "recipe" for them, having been given the recips by word of mouth from my Mom, who got it from her Mom, and so on.

My Mom always made these cabbage rolls with ground beef and rice.  I actually didn't like them, when I was small.  The appreciation for this dish came later, when I had no access to them.  Isn't that just the way?  Absence makes the heart grow fonder - even with food.  My daughter noted that her mother-in-law makes them with some ground pork added in.  I said that sounded good, so we got some ground pork.  She had a giant bag of ground hamburger in her freezer, so we made about 5 pounds of meat in total.  We mixed in nearly 2 cups of raw rice!  Here I pared down the recipe from what we did.  This will make about 10 - completely depending on the size of the rolls.

Holupki, ready to eat

Holupki, or Cabbage Rolls

1 large cabbage
2 pounds hamburger meat
(or substitute ½ pound of the meat with ground pork)
1 medium onion, chopped and lightly sauteed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper, or to taste
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 cup rice, uncooked
1 (14-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2 or more sprigs fresh thyme
water, as needed to cook

Directions: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Remove some of the outer cabbage leaves, as whole as possible. Place into the boiling water until they are soft, then remove and set aside. When the leaves on the remaining cabbage become too entangled to separate, place the rest of the whole head into the pot and allow the leaves to soften. Remove from the boiling water periodically, to trim off leaves at the core end. You will need at least 10 or so viable cabbage leaves for rolling the meat. Take the remaining cabbage and chop roughly. Place half the chopped cabbage into the bottom on a large pot or Dutch oven. Set aside the remaining chopped cabbage.

In a large bowl, mix together the meat(s), onion, garlic, egg, salt, pepper, paprika and rice. Do not over mix. Trim off the thickest parts of one cabbage leaf, then take one portion of meat mixture (approximately 2/3 to 3/4 cup worth) and set on one end of the leaf. Roll, burrito-style, folding in ends and tucking as necessary, but not too tightly - remember, the rice needs room to expand as it cooks. Repeat, until all the meat is rolled into cabbage leaves. Place the rolls into the pot, on top of the chopped cabbage. Top with the remaining chopped cabbage. Tuck the bay leaves down between the rolls, and place the thyme sprig(s) on top.

Combine together the tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes. Add in a little more salt and pepper (plus a pinch or two of sugar if the tomato mixture is too acidic), to taste. Pour the tomato mixture over the cabbage rolls. The rolls should not be submerged, but nearly covered. If the tomato mixture is not quite high enough, add water until just the tops of the rolls are visible.

Set over high heat to bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer, covered, for about 1½ - 2 hours. Best served with mashed potatoes.

For additional recipes and information visit my web site.


My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.