So much of the food that we eat is just plain old, everyday food. Spaghetti sauce, roll, grilled cheese sandwich. Don’t get me wrong, there is something wonderful, and comforting, and familiar, and home about those foods, but they are still just ordinary.
But there are some foods that are just special, that are different. It might be the first dumplings I ever had when I was traveling in China or Whit’s ice cream from when I was in college. Foods that, just thinking about it, just take me back to that time and that place. That even sitting here just make me smile.
And once in a while, you catch a taste of something that thought you would never have again and maybe weren’t even looking for. I was fortunate enough to find that in this unassuming cabbage casserole recipe. With that very first bite, it transported me back to Kenya, to my homestay in Nairobi. To a place where I struggled and grew, and learned about a different way of life and a different way of eating. I wasn’t looking for this recipe, but the moment I tasted it, I knew that I had found something special and precious and dear.
I am so happy that I get to share it with you. I encourage you to make this meal to celebrate the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita on February 8, as this extraordinary woman was originally from East Africa (the Sudan).
Enjoy this taste of Kenya. Serve with chapati or applesauce.
½ lb ground meat (beef, turkey, or pork)
½ yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
½ Tbsp dried minced onion
16 oz tomato sauce
¼ cup applesauce (no sugar added)
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
Dash salt and pepper
¾ lb cabbage
Thaw ground meat in the refrigerator overnight or in the microwave.
Cut peppers according to directions (you can do this ahead of time and store them in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days).
Heat the skillet over medium heat. Brown the meat (cook, stirring occasionally until no longer pink). While that is cooking, shred the cabbage (similar to how you would for coleslaw but it does not need to be as thin). When the meat is done, if there are a lot of drippings, drain most of it from the pan; if there are no drippings, add a little bit of oil.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Add the peppers, garlic, and onion to the meat and saute (cook, stirring occasionally). While they are cooking, combine the remaining ingredients except the cabbage in a bowl. Once the peppers are softened, pour the mixture into the skillet and stir together, scraping up anything stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Pour half the mixture into the casserole dish, layer on all of the cabbage, and add the rest of the meat mixture. Bake for 40 minutes.
MAKE IT YOUR OWN:
You could substitute beans for the meat for vegetarian dish, with extra garlic, salt, and pepper to pump up the flavor.
You can substitute collard greens or kale for the cabbage.
For extra Kenyan flair, use pieces of chapati to pick up the casserole with your fingers.
In our family, we commemorate Good Friday with Matzo Ball Soup – a traditional Passover dish – and homemade pretzels – a symbol for the Trinity. Join us in remembering the Passion of the Lord in preparation for Easter through food! This meal would also be appropriate for Holy Saturday.
The homemade pretzels are based off of the recipe in The New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. If you do not have this book, you need it! It will change the way that you cook in your home, not to mention save you a TON of money on bread and rolls. Speaking of rolls, we will definitely be having some with our Lamb Stew on Easter, so be sure to check out that recipe as well!
Matzo Ball Soup
Needs Fulfilled: Prep Ahead, Holiday
Serve With: Pretzels (see below)
Prep: 15 minutes Inactive: 2 hours Cook: 30 minutes Time to Table: 30 minutes
Needed Equipment: Saucepan with lid
You need to make the matzo ball mixture up ahead of time and let it sit in the refrigerator, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time. Please note, this is not a kosher version of this recipe; if you need a kosher version, try this one here. You can find matzo meal in the kosher food or seasonal (with the Easter candy) sections of most grocery stores. If you can only find matzo crackers, you can process 1-2 sheets in a food processor until fine crumbs to make the matzo meal. If you cannot find either, I am pretty sure that you can substitute saltine crackers.
In a bowl, combine the eggs, matzo meal, oil, water, and salt (it should be like wet sand). Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 2-24 hours.
Bring the chicken stock to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to simmer. While that is heating, form your matzo balls: With damp hands, gently roll 2 Tbsp of matzo mixture into balls (being carefully not to squash it down too much) and put on a plate. Once the stock is simmering, add all the balls at once, cover and cook for 20-30 minutes until the balls are cooked through (if you cut one open, it will be the same color throughout when they are done).
Serve the soup garnished with the dill and season with salt and pepper as desired.
MAKE IT YOUR OWN:
Add 1 cup cooked diced chicken when cooking the matzo balls
Stir together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add in the water and stir together – do not knead, but you may need to use your hands to get all the flour mixed in (you can also apparently use a dough hook on a mixer, but I have not tried that). Cover with plastic wrap (not a towel – it will stick) and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
After the dough has risen, fill the large saucepan about ¾ of the way full of water and add the baking soda and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Preheat the oven to 450F.
While that is heating, shape your pretzels: Cut your dough into about 10 equal pieces. Dust each piece with flour, then form it into a ball by pulling down and under (check out this video for a better description). On a floured surface, roll the dough into a long thin snake – the longer and more consistently thick the better. Form into a traditional pretzel shape (don’t worry if they don’t turn out quite right – they will still taste delicious!).
Let the pretzels rest for about 20 minutes (it is going to take some time to form the pretzels, so your first batch will probably be ready to go into the pot when you are done). Place a towel on the counter near the stove and dust with a little flour. Add about half of the pretzels to the water. After about 10 seconds flip them; let them go another 10 seconds then remove (if you leave them in too long, they get all poofy and waterlogged, but will still taste all right). Place the pretzels on the towel.Repeat with the second batch (after they have rested).
Place the pretzels on baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes (20-25 minutes for crispy pretzels). Enjoy while still warm (if possible). Save any leftovers in the freezer and reheat in the oven to keep the crispy crust!
Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 30 minutes Time to Table: 40 minutes
Needed Equipment: Saucepan
Cut potatoes according to directions (you can do this up to 1 day ahead of time and store in a bowl covered with water in the refrigerator – drain before using)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic (1 clove)
4 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp dried minced onion
1 ½ lb potatoes, chopped (peeled if desired)
½ small head cabbage (about ¼ large head), chopped
¼ tsp dried oregano
Dash salt and pepper (more to taste)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp feta cheese, crumbled
Heat the oil in the saucepan over medium high heat.Add the garlic and saute (cook, stirring occasionally) for about 1 minute.Add in the broth, onion, and potatoes.Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.
Add in the cabbage, oregano, salt, and pepper.Cover and cook for 5 minutes.Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice, cover and let sit about 10 minutes until the cabbage is soft but not overcooked.Serve topped with the feta cheese.
MAKE IT YOUR OWN:
Add 15 oz Great Northern beans or 1 cup cooked chicken for a boost of protein
Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 50 minutes Time to Table: 60 minutes
Needed Equipment: 2 saucepans, casserole dish
You can make this casserole up ahead of time and store covered in the refrigerator for a day – just bake and serve to have the meal on the table in 30 minutes!
Cut celery, carrots, and potatoes according to directions (you can store the celery and carrots in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and the potatoes in a bowl of water in the refrigerator for up to 1 day – drain before using)
Mashed Potatoes (Topping):
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
6 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
2 stalks celery, sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 ½ cups lentils
3 cups water
30 oz diced tomatoes (I prefer petite diced with no salt added)
½ tsp thyme
2 Tbsp dried minced onion
1 bay leaf
½ tsp pepper
Cover the potatoes with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and boil for 20-30 minutes until very tender. Drain the potatoes.
While that is cooking, heat the oil in the saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft and golden. Add the remaining filling ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the lentils are soft.
Return the potatoes to the dry saucepan and put back on medium heat. Cook the potatoes, stirring often to dry them out a bit (2-3 minutes). Add the remaining ingredients and continuing stirring until the potatoes are mashed. You may need to add additional oil if it is not turning out creamy enough. If they are not mashing enough, use a potato masher or ricer to finish mashing them.
Place the filling in the casserole dish. Top with the mashed potatoes. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes until topping is golden.
MAKE IT YOUR OWN:
You can substitute 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks for the potatoes if desired
You can omit the celery or carrots if needed and substitute or add other vegetables as desired such as ½ cup corn, 2 small turnips, or ½ cup peas.
For an option without legumes, you can use 1 ½ lb browned ground meat (omit the water)