If you’ve asked a kid recently what his or her favorite food is, the likelihood of pizza or hamburgers being the response is fairly high. But if you probed a bit expecting some thought about food coming from their own house — food that didn’t come from a box, frozen package, or needing to be microwaved, it could be a different story. Macaroni and cheese may be mentioned, and perhaps tacos or spaghetti — unless the kid is like my youngest who surprised me when he was about eight with “mussels and clams in white wine sauce” after trying them at a restaurant in Monterey. The chance of cabbage rolls topping his or any kid’s list is slim to none, yet they were one of my favorites.
Maybe it was the tomatoes.
When I think about it, tomatoes factored into most of my favorite childhood dishes: spaghetti, goolash (I’ll save that one for another day), stuffed bell peppers — yes, and pizza. I love tomatoes in just about any form, so you can imagine my horror when I discovered other cabbage roll lovers enjoyed theirs prepared with sauerkraut.
I do like sauerkraut, because it is cabbage, and cabbage plays a pretty important role in, well, cabbage rolls. But my palate suggests sauerkraut belongs on my favorite kind of hot dog — one that’s loaded with mustard, lots of onions, chili with beans, and a dollop of sauerkraut. Bear in mind there should be so much of that tasty combo of flavors, the actual dog has to be difficult to find under it all or it hasn’t been made properly.
Cabbage rolls must be similarly slathered in tomatoes.
Although my version of cabbage rolls isn’t quite like those my mother made, stuffed with ground beef and rice, it’s close enough. I’ve substituted turkey, wheat berries instead of rice, and sneaked in a bit of tangy feta. Easy on the budget, very good for your body, not a challenge to put together — especially ahead of time — get your picky eaters to help you prepare it, and who knows? You may have a convert on your hands.