Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Mmmm... Don Pancho's...

Back in college my husband and I enjoyed a tiny Spanish-Caribbean restaurant in Oxford, Mississippi called Don Pancho's. Mr. Don made some of the best food ever!. We would eat there every Tuesday for their yummy, fresh chicken soft tacos and many Sundays for the always delicious lunch buffet. The black beans and rice were to die for and my husband craved their subtly sweet rice pudding.

Cabbage Rolls were on the menu and on the Sunday buffet. I'm not sure why as they are not a traditional Spanish or Carribean dish, but these babies were they good. With the weather getting colder, I thought I try to make them.

I tried a recipe on the Food Network website, courtesy of Mr. Tyler Florence, with just a few minor changes. I added a bit of cinnamon to the tomato sauce and I browned the meat just a little bit before adding it to the filling. The Food Network classified this recipe as "Easy". Ha! This was one of the most difficult recipes I've ever tried to make. And it turned out waaay to salty. (Notice the recipe says to generously season raw meat with salt and pepper, so there is no way to know if it is salty enough.)

Other than the salty filling, they turned out ok. I may not make this again. It took to long for a weeknight meal. This is more of a Saturday or Sunday night dinner.

Later in the week, I used the left over filling to make my version of Koosa, Lebanese stuffed squash.

2 large butternut or spaghetti squash
1 cup uncooked rice
1 1/2 pounds ground beef, lightly browned
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
16 oz diced tomatoes, drained
2 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves
28 oz crushed tomatoes
Splash dry red wine

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash the squash, cut off necks (if needed), and scoop out the seeds.

Stuffing: Combine rice, ground beef, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and drained tomatoes. Mix well and use this mixture to stuff the squash. Do not pack too tightly to allow rice to expand. Place stuffed squash in a baking dish. Fill baking dish with 1/4 inch water. Continue to add water to the baking dish, 1/4 inch at a time, as the koosa are cooking. Cook for about 35 minutes, or until the squash is soft.

Sauce: While the koosa are cooking, make a sauce to go over the top. Coat a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and a splash of wine. Simmer until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Serve over baked koosa.

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