Friday, May 8, 2009

Little Doves

By Cait Johnson, author of Witch in the Kitchen (Inner Traditions, 2001)

This traditional Russian recipe got its name because the people thought these tender little bundles filled with savory rice, raisins, and hard-cooked egg and simmered in tomato sauce look like doves. My Polish friend Ania makes a variation of these for special occasions. I always thought they must be really complicated, but as I was eating my third or fourth one and saying, “I’d love to make these at home, but they look really hard to do,” she just laughed and said, “Oh, no! It’s really easy. Try it and you’ll see!” She was so right: Little Doves just look fancy, but they’re really a cinch to make (and fun, too!) and they are great crowd-pleasers. Not only are they a beautiful use for leftover rice, they include four ingredients rich in flavonoids: onions, garlic, cabbage, and dill. My son doesn’t like cabbage but he loves these Little Doves. We all do.

  • cabbage leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cooked rice, white or brown
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
  • 1 teaspoons dried dill weed or 3 teaspoons fresh
  • sea salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce1 8-ounce can diced tomatoes, not drained
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
    Preheat oven to 350F. In a heavy-bottomed skillet, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until softened and fragrant. Remove pan from heat and add rice, raisins, hard-cooked egga, dill, and salt and pepper to taste. In a large pot of boiling salted water, submerge the cabbage and allow to boil for 5 minutes, or until the outer leaves are softened and may be removed. Peel off 12 outer leaves and blot dry. Chop enough of the remaining cabbage to measure 3/4 cup. Add to rice mixture in pan. Remove tough stem of each cabbage leaf, if necessary. Then place 1/4 cup rice mixture in the center of each leaf, tuck ends in, and roll to form a neat little package. (You will find that cabbage leaves are very forgiving and easy to work with, but you can use a toothpick to hold them together, if needed.) In a baking dish, place the cabbage rolls in a single layer. Combine tomato sauce and tomatoes and pour over the cabbage rolls, cover the pan with foil, and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, until bubbly. Place Little Doves on a serving platter, and remove toothpicks. Add sour cream to the tomato sauce in the pan, stirring to combine, and pour this sauce over cabbage rolls before serving.Golden-Crusted Brussels SproutsThis is the only way to eat brussels sprouts: cut in half and cooked until deliciously tender inside and perfectly brown and crusted on the outside. Use brussels sprouts that are on the small size and tightly closed. You can finish these with many different types of cheese but I tend to go for Parmesan when the weather is good. I trade that in for heavier cheeses like gruyere or Gouda in colder weather. I finished them off with some toasted hazelnuts the other night - delicious!
    24 small brussels sprouts
    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
    fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 cup grated cheese of your choice
    Wash the brussels sprouts well. Trim the stem ends and remove any raggy outer leaves. Cut in half from stem to top and gently rub each half with olive oil, keeping it intact (or if you are lazy just toss them in a bowl with a glug of olive oil). Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in your largest skillet over medium heat. Don’t overheat the skillet, or the outsides of the brussels sprouts will cook too quickly. Place the brussels sprouts in the pan flat side down (single-layer), sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, cover, and cook for roughly 5 minutes; the bottoms of the sprouts should only show a hint of browning. Cut into or taste one of the sprouts to gauge whether they’re tender throughout. If not, cover and cook for a few more minutes. Once just tender, uncover, turn up the heat, and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized. Use a metal spatula to toss them once or twice to get some browning on the rounded side. Season with more salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a dusting of grated cheese. While you might be able to get away with keeping a platter of these warm in the oven for a few minutes, they are exponentially tastier if popped in your mouth immediately.

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