Friday, July 20, 2012


Blog's Category: My Staple Food, USSR-era Recipes

Golubtsy, Stuffed Cabbage, Pig-In-A-Blanket are all the same thing: ground meat (with or without rice) wrapped into cabbage leaves and cooked. This dish is one of the must items on the Ukrainian celebratory gatherings. I remember my mom cooking it, my grandma and I'm sure mom of mom of my mom were cooking it. It is used to be my favorite dish before I converted to vegetarianism (sigh). Must be because it is really time consuming affair, my folks are not spoiled by me serving Golubtsy on a regular basis. But whenever time, my mood, special occasion or other factors cross their ways, my people are ready to enjoy this very traditional Eastern European dish - Golubtsy.

- Usually it's pork, beef, or its combination is used as meat part of filling. But it's totally acceptable to use ground chicken instead.
- Cooked rice, onion, sometimes grated carrots are parts of the filling. All this can be omitted, although rice, in my opinion, the must. It makes filling soft and tender - you have to be able to cut piece of it with your fork (well, I'm "eating neatly" freak so I definitely prefer to use knife anyway :)) So, rule # 1 - Golubtsy has to be soft.
- Traditionally, it's tomato sauce that golubtsy has to be cooked. But I know some Ukrainian cooks who add sour cream to the tomato sauce. I prefer to drop generous spoon of sour cream when serving golubtsy.
- Whenever I make traditional golubtsy, I do vegetarian version of it for my daughter and myself, substituting ground meat with mushrooms or even with crabmeat.

Taste Description
This is a hearty, filling and, at the same time, light comfort food. It's strange that word "light" comes to my mind when I want to describe the taste - must be because it has very soft, not spicy, soothing texture. I would compare it, taste and texture-wise, to Swedish meatballs plus cooked, soaked in tomato sauce, cabbage.

How to Serve
It has to be served hot, with a dollop of cold sour cream on top. Sour cream, tempering acidic tomato sauce and temperature of Golubtsy, is a perfect pairing to this dish. As I mentioned above, it's easier to use knife and fork even if you are still in your pajama at the kitchen counter :)
1 medium cabbage
3 lb ground beef, or pork, or both
3 cups of cooked rice
onions, 2 of them chopped, 1 - finely grated or processed
1 small can tomato paste
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3-4 bay leaves
5 tbs olive oil
sour cream to garnish

- Cut out central stem of the cabbage.

- Fill your largest pot half with water and bring it to a boil. Turn heat off. Carefully put your cabbage, cut-out side down, in a pot with hot water, cover with lid and leave it alone for at least 1 hour.

- In a skillet, cook 1 chopped onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until golden.

- For filling, thoroughly mix ground meat with rice, fried onions, finely grated (or processed) raw onion, salt and pepper.

- Remove cabbage from the water onto large tray and carefully separate leaves, one by one, from the cabbage.

- Start to make golybtsy - place 1-3 tbs (depending on size of the cabbage leaf) of meat mix in the center of a leaf. Fold leaf edges and roll it up forming Golubtsy (see pictures below)

- Place cabbage wraps tightly in a large pot.

- Make tomato sauce - fry remaining onions in an olive oil until soft, add tomato paste and enough water to create enough sauce to cover all your Golubtsy. It may take about 5-6 cups of water. Stir well, add salt to taste, sugar to counter-balance tomato acid. I like my sauce on a sweeter side, you make yours to your liking. Add bay leaves.

- Pour sauce on a top of Golubtsy and place pot on a stove. Bring it to a boil. Turn heat down, cover and simmer for about 1.5 hour.

- Serve (don't forget sour cream!) and enjoy!


Leaves are softened up after standing in a hot water for an hour.

Beat it up nicely, no pity :)
I've made batch with vegetarian filling - rice, crabmeat (imitation :)), blanched spinach, egg and seasonings. I cooked vegetarian Golubtsy in a separate pot.

It takes some practice to separate leaves. No worries, if some leaves are torn, just do your best wrapping stuffing in it.

This step is optional - I like to cut off thick part of a leaf.

Usually I have some filling left, so I make meatballs and cook them in the same pot.

Making sauce...

Sauce is done.

Sauce is poured over. All hard work is over (as well :)). Now you just need your stove to finish up the dish.

.. and this is how it looks after cooking - appetizing :)

This is a pot with my vegetarian golubtsy.

Juicy, softly melting in your mouth - what a treat!
Vegetarian one - still great!


Monday, July 16, 2012

Salmon en Papillote

It's another "The Daring Kitchen" challenge. This time it is super healthy cooking style - en papillote. Almost anything, tightly wrapped in a parchment paper, cooks in an oven, steaming in its own juices or with added liquid (often it's a splash of wine). Result is highly flavorful and tasty dish with added fun of unwraping the pack right at the table - well, it's not always the case, often contains of a package served fancy style, on a beautiful plate, but I love the "unwrapping" part and would not rub my guests off this playful part of a meal :)
Fish, especially salmon, is a perfect candidate for cooking "en papillote". That is why it was my choice number one (ha! I'm pesco-ovo-lacto-vegetarian too!).  As I adore any type of pasta, so I went ahead and added pasta to it. Next thing is vegetables, of course. I julienned them to get it cooked fast, "in-line" with a salmon which cooks fast. Seasonings of a choice and few drops of wine and butter - that's it! Easy, healthy, delicious - just the way I like!
As my men still eat meat, I've put together Chicken en Papillote.. and Mushroom en Papillote to use the red wine and corn penne pasta I wanted to try out too.

Notes along the way

- As cool and fun as this cooking style is, it is not feasible, unfortunately, to serve it to my usual guests just because I have too many of them! Can you imagine to fit 12 en papillote packs in a oven at the same time?

- One note about using red wine for en papillote pasta dishes - it stains the pasta and spoils the prettiness of it, so it's better to use white wine .. or red pasta when using red wine!

- Also, it seems that, for en papillote style, using dry herbs in place of fresh ones is the better option. Fresh herbs does not have nice look coming out of oven - at least that's the case for me, I'll be using dry herbs next time (although I prefer fresh herbs almost always).

Salmon en Papillote

To serve 4:

1 lb fresh salmon filet cut in strips
4 servings of rice noodles (or wheat noodles)
1 fennel bulb, julienned
1 small yellow squash, julienned
1 small zucchini, julienned
1 carrot, julienned
zest from 1 lemon
9 red peppercorns (optional)
parsley (fresh or dry)
16 tbs white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
4 small pieces of butter
Parchment paper for packing

- Cook noodles according package direction. When cooked and drained, add some olive oil and stir to have nice and loose  noodles. Set aside.

- Cut 4 squares of parchment paper, approximately 12"x12" (depending on a width of your parchment paper roll). Fold each square diagonally and cut heart shaped pieces out of it (see my photos below).

- Lightly toss together vegetables with about one tablespoon of olive oil, salt, pepper and parsley. Set aside.

- Start assembling the packages: on a one half of heart-shaped paper, close to a middle line, place noodles, top it with vegetables. Place salmon pieces, salted and peppered on a top of it.

- Cover loaded half of "heart" with another half and begin to fold edges, starting from the "top of heart" - please refer to my pictures, they tell it all :)  Close to the lower end of heart, create some kind of funnel (hole) and pour about 4 tablespoons of white wine right from the bottle into the package (lift package away from yourself to make wine fill the farthest corners of a "heart". Finish folding twisting the end and securing it with a paper clip or whatever you think can be used there.

- Place all packages on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven (about 300F) for about 15-20 minutes depending on thickness of your salmon pieces.

- Take baking sheet out and distribute packages to your people. Tear the pack in a middle and enjoy! Be careful when getting your nose too close to the steaming hole when inhaling all that wonderful aroma!

Pouring wine into opening in a package.

Great return .. from the oven!
Carefully, it's steaming hot!

Do you see those wonderful juices?

Mushroom or Chicken En Papillote

1 lb chicken breast or portabella mushrooms, cut in strips
4 servings of corn penne pasta (or wheat noodles)
1 red pepper, sliced in sticks
1 small zucchini, sliced in sticks
1 carrot, sliced in sticks
16 tbs white wine ( I actually used red wine which stained (bad boy) my pasta!)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 bay leaves
olive oil
4 small pieces of butter or ghee
Parchment paper for packing

- Please, please.. I believe in you - see directions above, it is basically the same! :))))) And here are pictures: 

Chicken en papillote for carnivores is ready to be packed and go to the oven.

And here is mushroom en papillote (ghee is on a top) for us, soft and fluffy vegetarians (can you feel my sarcasm? :))

Packed "baggy" style

My carnivores said it was very delicious. Just to make it ideal add enough white wine (not red wine which make pasta bad-looking boys, stained with red).

Mushroom En Papillote - lovely! Zero-guilt tasty dish - what else to wish for?

Blog-checking lines: Our July 2012 Daring Cooks’ host was Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie! Sarah challenges us to learn a new cooking technique called “Cooking En Papillote” which is French and translates to “cooking in parchment”.