Because some days you just want something basic and reminiscent of home…
I managed to catch a nasty cold earlier this week that had me down for the count. I was starting to feel better later in the week and in the mood for something home cooked. I had a little ground beef that I dug out of the freezer. Having made more than a few meatloaves in my lifetime, I have a fairly good instinct for the ingredients – an egg, some ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs (and my secret seasonings) later produced something yummy to be cooked. Since I was just cooking for myself, I really didn’t have enough meat to make a serious meatloaf and I didn’t have the patience to bake it for nearly an hour in the oven – that seemed like a huge waste of gas fuel and time. So, I heated my cast-iron and pan-fried about a hamburger-size meatloaf and had it with a microwaved baked potato.
So, what about the stuffed cabbages you see up above? I grabbed a cabbage out of the fridge, pulled off a few of the best leaves and steamed them. Rolled up the rest of the meatloaf into the cabbage leaves, put them in my cast iron baby, poured some leftover homemade spaghetti sauce over them and let them simmer for an hour covered. Voilà! Dinner!
I will share my personal recipe for homemade spagetti sauce here:
Preheat about a tablespoon of olive oil or so in a pan over medium heat – you want a thick enough layer to protect the garlic you are going to sauté from burning. I like about a 1/8″ layer swimming on the bottom of the pan. You can see the oil change texture with the heat. Thinning oil is good. You want the oil heated, but NOT smoking or spitting — you’ll burn the garlic that way. While the pan is heating, get a 28-oz can of tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes with the juice, diced tomatoes… whatever kind you like, but NOT tomato paste (that’s too thick) and open the can. Keep it close to the stove. Grab a couple cloves of garlic and press them into the hot oil. Monitor this step closely – stir the garlic until brown and toasty, but not black. Dump in the sauce and Add seasonings such as basil, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and sage (not an exhaustive list) if you like. Turn the flame low to simmer. Nurture.  I tend to just add the tomatoes and garlic so the sauce can be used for a lot of different dishes later. The best sauce has a slight edge of oil you can see — that’s where the flavor is. I am not a nut about fat in my diet — everyone needs some. Just eat lots of fruits and veges and you can easily handle a couple tablespoons of oil in a pot of sauce.
1. Nurture – check your simmering pot of yummy goodness every so often. Lift the lid and stir to make sure it’s not scorching and everything is mixing well. Taste once in awhile and adjust spices.