I bring this up to show where my head has been: publicizing and promoting the book, i.e. not cooking. And while I’ve enjoyed much of it and have been thrilled to hear from readers, I’m also enjoying the return of my small, quiet life complete with trying out new recipes for the blog on weekends. Which brings me to one of my favorite days from the mini book tour: the one day I actually cooked something.
Perhaps you remember from the baked oatmeal video that Matt’s mom doesn’t eat meat but that Matt’s dad does and rather enjoys it. So when I decided on this Mario Batali recipe for (vegetarian) stuffed cabbage, it was met with enthusiasm from Matt’s mom and thinly-veiled suspicion from Matt’s dad as well as from Matt himself. Fair enough. I mean, I understand how maybe stuffed cabbage—even when followed by the much more exotic words Ligurian-style—doesn’t sound great to everyone. But I was won over by Mario’s beautiful photo and the pound of potatoes that were to be part of the filling.
And though Matt and his dad might have felt lukewarm about the recipe, they were both psyched to gather some of the ingredients at Penn Mac (a.k.a. Pennsylvania Macaroni Company), which (and despite the 15-degree weather) they rode to on their bikes.
The recipe ended up being a really good one to try with family members because though not difficult, there was a lot of chopping of vegetables. My mom came over early in the afternoon and together with Matt’s mom, we chopped potatoes and onions into teeny tiny pieces while Matt and his dad kept an eye on Teddy.
All of this work was made even sweeter by Matt’s parents' all-encompassing sound system. Music is piped in all throughout their place—even the bathroom, where one occasionally got “blasted.” Getting blasted was when you would be in the bathroom minding your business when the music suddenly got really loud. (Matt’s dad does this both as a practical joke and, in his words, as “a courtesy to his guests.”)
We listened to a lot of Billy Bragg, The Smiths, and Bob Dylan, and I couldn’t help myself from occasionally jamming out on the air guitar.
We served the cabbage with some fresh pasta, a simple red sauce, and tons of grated Pecorino Romano. Dessert was my mom’s famous cheesecake with some stewed blueberries. It was such a delicious meal, but more than that, a great day spent in the kitchen with my family. It reminded me how I don’t get to do this enough anymore—not just cooking with family but cooking in general. I’d really like to change that somehow. To which I say: sigh.
1. I want to Skype with your book club!
As I’ve said already, it was so amazing and fun to meet and chat with some of you at the LA, Pittsburgh, and Raleigh book events. But since I’ll likely not be able to travel to other cities in the nearish future, Matt and I got to brainstorming and came up with an idea: What if your book club read my book and then you guys could Skype me in for a spirited discussion? Well, I would love to do that! If this interests you, just get your book club on board and then email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll work out a date and a time for the Skype session!
2. There’s a giveaway on Goodreads right now! We’re offering up 20 copies, so g’head and enter!
OK, that’s all for now. Talk to (and maybe even see?) you soon!
Stuffed Cabbage, Ligurian-Style slightly adapted from Mario Batali
NOTE: When we made this, we had much more filling than large cabbage leaves. So, if I were going to make this again, I would either make a little less filling or I’d pick up two cabbages and maybe some extra sauce so that I could use all of the filling.
1 large green cabbage (3 to 4 pounds)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium red onions, cut into ½-inch dices.
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pound new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch dice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh ricotta, drained
About 1 cup finely slivered fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 cups basic tomato sauce
¾ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano, separated
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a large pasta pot. Fill a large bowl with cool water, and place it nearby.
Remove the tough outer leaves of the cabbage, finely chop them, and set them aside. Carefully cut out the cabbage core with a sharp knife.
Add 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling water. Drop the whole cabbage into the water and cook until it is tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Then transfer the cabbage to the bowl of cool water and let it cool.
When the cabbage is cool enough to handle, drain it. Carefully remove the whole leaves from the head, and set aside about a dozen of the best and largest. Chop the remaining cabbage into 1/4-inch pieces and set them aside.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat until just smoking. Add the onions, garlic, potatoes, and the raw and cooked chopped cabbage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft, 15 to 18 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and allow to cool.
When the potato mixture is cool, add the ricotta, basil, parsley, and 1/4 cup of the Pecorino Romano and fold together. Place a scant 1/2 cup of the cabbage/ricotta mixture in the center of each whole cabbage leaf. Fold each leaf around the filling like a burrito, and secure it with a toothpick.
Pour the tomato sauce into a 9- by 13-inch baking dish, and arrange the cabbage packets on top. Cover the dish tightly with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil, sprinkle the cabbage packets with the grated pecorino, and bake for another 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.