Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Portuguese greens soup (caldo verde) (p. 139), Corn pudding (p. 271), and Stuffed cabbage rolls (p. 263)

All the recipes in this blog entry are held together by a common thread--they all include a strange ingredient, starting with the least strange and going to incredibly bizarre.

I work with a Portuguese-American guy who often talks about his grandmother's Caldo Verdo soup, which always sounded delicious. I wasn't confident that TJOC's Portuguese greens soup (caldo verde) (p. 139) was going to be the same (based on their track record of TJOC Italian recipes vs. my Italian grandmothers recipes).

It was any easy start--sautee onions and garlic in olive oil, add chicken stock, thinly sliced potatoes, salt, and pepper.

When the potatoes were soft, I mashed them a little. TJOC asks for linguisa, chorizo, or smoked sausage. My grocery store had neither linguisa or chorizo (well, the appropriate chorizo at least) so I had to buy smoked sausage (doesn't seem very authentic). There are two types of chorizo, a Mexican type that is a fresh sausage and a Spanish type that is smoked. I was assuming that the recipe required the Spanish style. I thought using plain smoked sausage (almost a kielbasa) was mildly strange, similar to throwing summer sausage into minestrone.

The smoked sausage was fried and then added to the pot. A cup of the soup was added back to the pan, the browned bits were scraped up, and the liquid was added back to the pot.

Eventually, four cups of shredded red chard was added. I think a more authentic version would use kale but chard was on sale at the store for $.99/bunch so that's what got used.

This soup was very tasty. I really enjoyed it and it heated up extremely well. The flavors mixed together perfectly, the potatoes added some creaminess, and the sausage gave a nice smoky tang. I will definitely make this recipe again.

Onto the next bizarre recipe--Corn pudding (p. 271). This is one of those recipes where you simply mix ingredients together, pour them into a pan, and bake--easy! Corn, milk, eggs, butter, flour, salt, and the mystery ingredient were mixed together.

What was the mystery ingredient? Vanilla. Yes, vanilla in a corn pudding.

It was poured into a buttered baking dish and baked for about 45 minutes.

It was very, very strange. Josh wondered why the corn pudding tasted like ice cream--I would imagine that it was due to the vanilla (and it did taste a bit like corn ice cream or something you would eat on Iron Chef). The corn was held together by what was almost a custard. I can't say I'll make this recipe again. There are better corn casseroles out there.

One of my good friends during my undergraduate degree, Al, would occasionally invite a bunch of us over to dinner and make a big meal. Sometimes she would make cabbage rolls--and her cabbage rolls were absolutely delicious. I've always wanted to try to make them and never actually done it. When I saw cabbage on sale at the grocery store for $.39/lb I decided I would see if TJOC's recipe--Stuffed cabbage rolls (p. 263)--was as tasty.

The filling was pretty simple--ground beef, an egg, some bread crumbs, some uncooked white rice, water, a grated carrot, an onion, a garlic clove, some salt and pepper were mixed (by hand--always fun).

Once that was done, I popped the cabbage into some boiling water so that it could be more easily peeled. The book says that you can also freeze the cabbage but we have such a tiny freezer that there was no way I could even fit the tiny cabbage in.

So a leaf of cabbage at a time was removed and filled with the stuffing.

They were wrapped up (like burritos) and tied with butcher twine. TJOC says the recipe makes 12 rolls. I made about 20 so I must not have been filling them full enough--or my cabbage had smaller leaves than it was supposed too. I don't think I could have fit more filling into them and still managed to get them closed!

Onto the sauce--a cups worth of the remaining cabbage leaves were chopped up and sauteed with some onion in a little vegetable oil.

Now you might be asking "None of those ingredients seem particularly strange. Why is this recipe in this particular blog entry?". The answer? Right here:

Gingersnaps. Eight crumbled ginger snaps (I put them in a Ziploc and pounded them with my meat mallet). Sounded really gross to me but what do I know? The gingersnaps got added to the cabbage and onion along with a big can of tomatoes, a cup of water, some brown sugar, a little lemon juice, and...what is that? Sour salt? What the heck is sour salt? I consulted Professor Wikipedia. Apparently, sour salt is calcium citrate, which is sour and salty (imagine that--sour salt is sour AND salty). I certainly didn't have it in my cupboard, so it had to be cut. Does anyone actually have sour salt in THEIR cupboard?

The cabbage rolls were added to the pot.

How was it? Good but strange. The cabbage rolls added a bizarre, almost smoky flavor that I seriously disliked. The cabbage was delicious, the filling was delicious, but the sauce--I don't know about the sauce. I think if I made these again I would contact Al for her recipe--it was much better. I will never add gingersnaps to a savory recipe again. Do you have any recipes that have strange ingredients?

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