Mama Deb (mamadeb) wrote,
Mama Deb

Sweet and Sour

This is, of course, a classic combination of flavors. You'll find it in Chinese cooking as well as Jewish kitchens (most likely "borrowed" from Eastern European cuisine in general, like much of Ashkenazi cooking.)

And my mother is a genius of it. It can be stuffed cabbage or stuffed peppers or her wonderful cabbage "borsht" (not a beet in sight). She puts in brown sugar and lemon (and sour salt [citric acid] and strawberry jam) and it's just wonderful.

This week, for the first time, I made a sweet and sour dish, and I thought of my mother as I did.

Since this is Sukkot, we are eating dinner in the sukkah, which just seems to call for warm, comforting foods. Also, we had guests for dinner on Monday night - a couple we cannot have in our home because we're a flight up and she's in a wheelchair. However, we can have them in our sukkah. :)

After rejecting dishes for a week, I finally saw some nice cabbages on sale, and hit upon unstuffed cabbage - tiny meat balls and shredded cabbage instead of big meatballs wrapped in cabbage leaves. 1. I don't have the patience for the wrapping. 2. It would be much easier for Sharon to eat, as it would not require cutting. She also has manipulative deficits.

I got the idea for meatballs over rice from estherchaya, so thank you for that, sweetie.

The problem is the fact that I'm trying very hard to limit the sugar in my diet. Therefore, I do not have brown sugar *or* strawberry jam in the house, and I didn't want to get them for just one dish.

So. Sunday night, after yom tov was over, I started cooking. Again. :) I'd carefully placed the frozen ground beef in the fridge just before lighting candles on Friday so they'd be thawed out. Couldn't do it later because then I'd be preparing for the next day on a holiday, and that's forbidden.

I made the meatballs - tiny balls of ground beef mixed with tomato sauce, brown rice, an egg, black pepper and dried lemon peel. I also don't have sour salt. These went into a my big dutch oven, onto hot oil, one by one as I made them. When all the meat was gone, I poured on the rest of the tomato sauce plus a can of crushed tomatoes in puree, several small chopped onions and about 3/4 of a white cabbage, shredded, plus bay leaves, pepper, lemon pepper and cider vinegar.

Yeah, way too much on the sour.

I let that simmer for a couple of hours, let it cool and put it in the refrigerator.

On the way home from work on Monday, I had an epiphany. I don't have brown sugar. I don't even have much white sugar, or Splenda. I *do* have honey, because we've been dipping our challah in honey instead of salt for these holidays. And I could use raisins. Not that I had raisins, but I had to buy salad materials anyway, so I could get them at the same time.

I got home. I put the rice in the rice cooker and took out the pot of meat balls. I drizzled about a tablespoon, more or less, of honey (it's a squeeze bear) over them, and added a couple handfuls of raisins, and let the whole thing simmer. Then I chopped a red onion and made a fast balsamic and olive oil vinaigarette.

It came out - well, it didn't quite taste like my mother's, but it came out *good*. There was just enough sweet to balance out the sour without being cloying, and the honey made the sauce smooth - gave it a very nice, almost buttery, mouth feel. And Sharon did not need help eating it, which was a major plus.

And afterwards, I called my mother and told her all about it, and she was thrilled I was thinking of her all that time.

(She's also back in her own condo now, and amazingly happy over that, too.)

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