Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Best-Ever Winter Soup: Cabbage Soup

I make this soup at least once each winter.  One recipe makes a lot--enough for a couple of meals, and then some leftover to freeze.  I know the recipe from my mother, who got it from her mother.  It is a traditional eastern European soup; all my grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Russia.  Growing up, we would not have put sour cream in this soup, as it would not have been kosher to mix a dairy product with the meat.  With or without, the soup is very, very good--my all-time favorite soup.
about 10 generous servings

3 lbs. short ribs of beef (with bone in if available)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, chopped
2 large cans tomatoes: Drain off liquid, saving liquid from one can. Shred tomatoes with fingers.
3 quarts water+juice (juice from 1 can of tomatoes and water to make up the rest)
1 med-large head cabbage
1 lb. canned sauerkraut (14 oz. fine)
3 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar (or less)
2 T. flour
2 T. water
sour cream (optional)

Place meat in a deep pot (10 qt. is good size) with garlic, onions, water, and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, skimming any foam off the top.  Shred cabbage coarsely, discarding core.  Add to soup with salt and pepper.  Cook for 1 1/2 hours.  Add lemon juice and sugar.  Cook 30 minutes.  Mix flour and water to a smooth paste.  Thin with a little soup liquid and then and add to the soup pot, stirring constantly.  Add sauerkraut and cook until meat is tender.  Correct seasoning; you may want to add more salt, lemon, or sugar.
The soup may be served with a spoonful of sour cream.  Meat can be left on the bones, or taken off and cut in pieces.

This soup freezes well.  If freezing, take meat off bones and cut up.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Food cooked first when back from travelling

My husband David and I were away for almost a month, a trip to Hawaii and the Philippines.  The trip was great, and we had a lot of wonderful food.  But it was interesting to see what I felt compelled to cook as soon as possible after we got back home.  The first thing was artisan bread, from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  A loaf of this bread lasts us a few days, and I bake two loaves at once, putting one in the freezer.  So, baking just once a week, we have always have some bread from this book (or from their second book) on the counter.  It really is so easy to make.  And it is as good as any bread I've ever had, including when I lived in France.  My quality of life has improved, to have this bread so readily available.  My favorite recipes are the basic boule, rye bread, za'atar flat bread, pumpernickel bread, and, my super-favorite, pumpernickel with chopped dates and walnuts.   

The second book is Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day--all the recipes feature whole grain, and there's a chapter with gluten-free recipes.  There's a third book on the way, devoted to pizza and flatbreads.

The method they use for making the bread is very simple, but special to them.  It doesn't work to give you an adapted recipe from the book--you need to read their introductory chapter on the method--although watching one of the videos below will give you the idea below.  I borrowed the book from my public library and tried out a recipe or two before buying the book.  It is definitely worth the price!

Here are two short videos that show the authors making the bread:
And here's a video on the "healthy bread" version:
They also have a blog that has an archive of other video demonstrations:

The recipe is pretty foolproof.  On occasion I've forgotten to slash the top of the loaf and/or to put a pan of hot water in the oven, and the bread has still come out fine.

Note the video correction from the book:  bake on the middle shelf of the oven (no need to move from bottom to top), with a pre-heated pan for water on the bottom shelf.

If you want to do more of this, I suggest you invest in a baking stone (Target carries an inexpensive one) and a flat cookie sheet (to use like a pizza peel).  Or just two flat cookie sheets and forget the baking stone.