The Crew came over for a dinner party Monday night (am I the only
one who has dinner parties a few days before Thanksgiving? I
like to think of it as a training exercise for the stomach...).
Instead of our usual forays into Indian, Thai, Chinese etc, I
decided to have a go at some of the soul food that I grew up with;
When I say Jewish cooking, I mean the kind I had growing up; Eastern-
European/Russian Jewish cooking, as opposed to what Jews may be eating
in Ethiopia, Spain, Brazil, or China. If you have to classify it, I
think the basic statement is "salt, pepper, garlic, and chicken fat
are The Four Spices".
By eliminating the chicken fat, adding just a few spices, and replacing
the meat in traditional recipes, I managed to come up with a good
spread to stuff The Crew with.
Barley-Mushroom Winter Borscht
Russian Rye Bread
Fruit Salad (we were so stuffed we never got to it...)
The stuffed cabbage and soup were made the night before, and
reheated while I cooked the trimmings. Stuffed cabbage freezes
wonderfully, and is better reheated than the day it is cooked.
Barley-Mushroom Winter Borscht (vegan or lacto)
1 cup barley
1/2 cup mixed baby lima beans, split peas, brown lentils
1 tbs olive oil
6 cups water
2 tbs miso
1 large onion, chopped
5-6 turnips, peeled and cubed (or 2 parsnips, or 2 potatoes)
2 carrots, sliced about 1/2" thick
1/2-3/4 pound mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste)
2 tsp marjoram
1 tsp rosemary
1/3 cup tamari
3 tbs unsalted butter (or magarine for vegan)
Saute the garlic and onion in olive oil on medium heat until
the onions are translucent. Combine the barley, lima beans, split peas,
lentils, miso, and water with the onion/garlic, and bring to a boil.
Add the turnips and carrots, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for
about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
("But grandma, where did they get miso in the Ukraine?"
"Shut up and eat your soup.")
(If you have broccoli stems, peel and slice them and add them at
this point. I also snagged about 1 cup of shredded/sliced cabbage from
the main dish, and added about 1/2 hour before the soup was done).
Add the mushrooms, spices and tamari and continue cooking on a low heat
for another hour. Add the butter or margarine, let sit for a few
minutes, and serve. If cooking the night before, you might want to add
1 cup of water and heat again just before serving; the barley tends to
absorb water, and if you omit this extra water you end up with a tasty
The butter can be omitted, but it makes for a heartier soup.
Stuffed Cabbage (vegan)
I started with my mom's recipe, but instead of meat I used
walnuts, mushrooms, and tomatoes. It wasn't until I got the
whole dish together that I realized it has a wonderful interplay of
sweet and sour. Make plenty; you'll eat more than you realize,
and can always freeze the leftovers. Possibly the path to nirvana
(is the path to nirvana through a person's stomach?)
2 heads of cabbage
1 1/2 cups brown rice (I used brown basmati), uncooked
3/4 cup raisins
1 cup brown sugar (you might want to try maple sugar or syrup
if refined sugar bothers you)
2 cans stewed tomatoes
1/2 pound oyster mushrooms (sliced into small chunks)
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped coarse
2 large onions, chopped
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Core the cabbage. Take the
pot off of the heat, drop in a cabbage, and let sit 10-15 minutes.
Drop the cabbage into a collander to cool a few minutes, then carefully
pull off whole leaves and set them aside. You should get 12-16 leaves
per head. Repeat with the second head. Set aside the remainder of
Combine the rice, raisins, mushrooms, walnuts, brown sugar, 1/2 cup
of lemon juice, 2/3 of the onion, and one can of tomato (drain off the
juice and reserve it).
Place approximately 2-3 TBS of the mixture onto the thick end of
a cabbage leaf, fold in the sides, and roll towards the tip. Place
seam-side down in a dutch oven. Repeat until all of the cabbage leaves
are stuffed (they will stack up to nearly fill the pot).
Chop up the remaining cabbage (my mother called this the 'shmatas',
which means 'rags') into a bowl. Dump in the second can of tomatoes,
the juice from the first, the remaining lemon juice, onion, salt and pepper,
and any remaining filling. Mix, and dump on top of the rolls in the
pot. Add about 1 cup of water (won't quite cover it).
Heat on medium until the mixture boils, then cover and reduce heat
to medium-low. Cook 3-4 hours, reducing heat to low if neccessary.
The rolls steam in the juices, and shrink down as the cabbage cooks.
You can then serve immediately, or reheat the next day. It reheats
and freezes well. To serve, spoon 2-3 rolls onto a plate, add some
shmatas and juices, and serve with russian rye bread (to mop up the
juice). Eat, and repeat until unconscious.
Kasha (Cracked Buckwheat Groats) (Ovo)
2 cups kasha
1 tbs miso
1 tsp black pepper
4 cups water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
Brown the onion and garlic in a little oil in the bottom of a medium
sized pot. Beat the eggs loosely, mix throuroughly with the kasha, and
place in a dry pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the egg coating
is dry. Add to the onion, add water, miso, and pepper, and bring to
a boil. Immeditely cover and reduce heat to low; the kasha will
absorb the water in about 10 minutes, and is ready to serve right away.
For kasha varnishkes, add 1-2 cups of cooked bowtie noodles before
I don't know what happens if the eggs are left out; let me know!
The green salad and fruit salad were Standard Fare, but I
made a pretty pleasing dressing for the greens; 1/2 cup olive
oil, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1 TBS prepared mustard, 1 tbs
black pepper, 1 tsp marjoram, 1 tsp basil, 1 tsp rosemary, 1/2 tsp
salt. If you prefer sweet, add 1 tsp sugar; I usually omit it.