Thursday, December 17, 2009

Elements of Dinner

My father had come for a short visit a day before we were to have guests over for dinner. He had  brought with him a new cookbook about slow cooking. As my husband and I have an extensive cookbook collection, the last thing I needed was to browse through another book, but hey why not? It was there and my dad was very proud of it. 

One of the recipes was for cabbage rolls made with ground nuts instead of ground meat. I haven't had  cabbage rolls since becoming a vegetarian. I had been racking my brain trying to figure out what to serve our guests for dinner and here was the answer. Not only was it vegetarian but we had all of the ingredients. I didn't have to buy anything, plus I could make it ahead of time. Yay, Dad! Oh, but one thing... not only haven't I eaten cabbage rolls since I was sixteen but I have never made them. And as everyone knows you are never suppose to make a recipe for the first time when expecting company. Hmm, it's only a suggestion.

The recipe prep time promised to be 25 mins and cook time 3-4 hrs.  Easy Peasy. Except for chopping and grinding took far longer than 25 mins and then I had to deal with the cabbage leaves. Dad to the rescue again, good ol'farm boys know their way around produce. I think the recipe, even though it didn't say, wanted napa cabbage or similar variety, with leaves that come away easily from the head. I had a nice tight round head of green cabbage and the leaves did not peel away from it  at all. What to do? Boil it. Dad also taught me another trick, freezing the individual leaves so that they lay flatter when they thaw. 

Even though the recipe took far longer than suggested it was worth it. My little rolls stayed nicely packed through the cooking process and were a hit with my guests (who did not have high hopes when they found out they were vegetarian).

The other element of dinner was a fresh ricotta and beet salad- You can make many simple cheeses by combing acid, salt and heat at different  intervals. With Ricotta which is what I made, you add citric acid, salt optional,  to milk, heat and drain. With paneer you heat the milk and add acid such as lemon juice just before it comes to a boil then drain and press. 

For a general whole milk ricotta I follow Ricki Carroll's (no relation) recipe from Home Cheese Making

What you need: thermometer, heavy bottomed sauce pan, cheese cloth or better yet if you can find it butter cloth and a mesh colander.

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1 tsp citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water
  • 1 tsp cheese salt (optional) *I was out of cheese salt but you can lightly salt afterwards.
Add the citric acid to the milk, heat in a heavy bottomed sauce pan slowly and stirring constantly to prevent scalding to the bottom.Heat  between 185f and 195f (do not boil). 
*Around  175f the curds begin to separate and the whey will become noticeably clearer.

Remove from heat, set aside and do not disturb for 10 mins.

Ladle curds into doubled over cheese cloth lined colander, tie corners together.  Hang until you get desired consistency, about 30 mins.

As a note, other porous fabrics can work, I used a cotton dish towel, but had to hang longer. I also save the whey, for either whey ricotta (but you need quite a lot), for some types of baking and or soups. The whey is very protein rich.

photos by me.


  1. oh wow love the sound of the cabbage rolls and so sweet of your Dad to help, so what about the lattes? lol

  2. sadly my dad took the book home before I could copy it down... gonna have to make a trip, I guess.



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