Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sarmen (Pork Cabbage Rolls)

The holidays were hard. Really hard. And the new year feels bittersweet. On one hand, I’m looking forward to putting a painful year behind me. On the other hand, this will be a new year without my dad. 2015. A year that he’ll never see a day of. I’m moving into this new year without resolutions, but with purpose. I want to live fully and love deeply, like he did. Like he would want us to do. I’m going to focus on health and wellness, to get out and move around more. If I've learned anything in the last year, it’s that these bodies are the only ones we have, and they can break. Our bodies can betray us. The worst thing we can do with a working, healthy body is to take it for granted. 

Sarmen (Pork Cabbage Rolls) // Loves Food, Loves to Eat

The last few  months I’ve grappled with whether or not I want to continue blogging. My priorities just feel different now. Writing about the joy of a good cookie when my heart is breaking feels fake. But I also don't want this to be a sad place that brings you down with each new post. So, I’m still figuring it out. Figuring out how I want to use this space and the time and effort I put into this blog.
Figuring out how to still enjoy the happy, good things. My dad wouldn’t want me to stop blogging because he’s gone. He would want me to figure out a way to make it work, to carry on. In 2015, I plan to honor him in these small ways.   

Sarmen (Pork Cabbage Rolls) // Loves Food, Loves to Eat

So, we carry on. We move forward. Eating pork for the year is supposed to be good luck, since pigs move forward when they eat (versus chickens, who root backwards). These cabbage rolls are a riff on my Oma’s sarmen. Sarmen is how she always said it, though online research tells me it’s more often sarma. Is sarmen plural maybe? Who knows. I mean, the country the woman came from isn’t even a country anymore, so I suppose words could have shifted and changed. Oma’s sarmen is ground pork and rice, heavily seasoned with Hungarian paprika, rolled up in cabbage leaves, and baked in a bed of sauerkraut. When Amanda and I were kids, my mom would often do tomato sauce instead of sauerkraut, which is what i’ve done here. Feel free to replace the sauce with sauerkraut or a store-bought tomato sauce though, if you’re so inclined. My Oma always makes sarmen for new year’s eve or day, for good luck.  

Here’s to the new year. To good luck, joy, and lightness. To carrying on and looking forward. And to JFK, the coolest dad a girl could ask for. We’re lucky we had you in our lives, and lucky we have you in our hearts. 

Sarmen (Pork Cabbage Rolls)
Makes about 12 rolls, serves 4-6

Olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes (like san marzano)
Splash balsamic vinegar
Large handful fresh parsley
salt & pepper

1 large head cabbage, cored simmered in hot water until soft and easy to separate.

1 3/4 pounds ground pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper
1 egg
1 cup cooked, cooled rice

Preheat oven to 350. 

To make the sauce, heat olive oil in pot or high-sided large skillet. Add onion and cook until just browned, then add garlic, cook for a minute until fragrant but not burnt. Add tomatoes (with liquid), vinegar, parsley, salt, and pepper to taste, and simmer. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Separate the cabbage leaves and cut out the hard stem. Dry each leaf. 

To make filling, mix together pork through rice (using your hands is the easiest way to combine it all).

Add a small amount of the tomato sauce to the bottom of a baking dish (I used a 9x9 dish with tall-ish sides). One at a time, spoon the filling into the center of each cabbage leaf. Roll, and place each one snuggly in the dish. Top with remaining sauce. Cover dish with foil, and cook for 2 hours, until pork is cooked through and cabbage is tender. Serve rolls with sauce from dish, and a bit of grated parmesan if desired. 

See you guys in 2015! 

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