Aunt Clem’s stuffed cabbage

This morning was the Ithaca 5 and 10 run, meaning that you choose either 5 or 10k.

Misa and I both ran 10, but they gave me the number bib for the 5k, which means that somewhere around the 45 minute mark, the roadside cheering went from “you’re doing great!” to let’s go already!

But it was all good fun. One guy who wanted to drive across the race route, pulled up to the intersection, stopped his car and yelled dramatically to the race marshals “I SHALL PASS!” To which I yelled back – well, obviously…

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Which is of course exactly what he had been waiting for. Imagine how disappointed you would be if you gave a crowd of people the perfect setup and nobody took you up on it. Actually, he even kind of looked like that picture of Gandalf, which seems pretty meta. Is that meta? I think it’s meta. Also, what’s meta?

So anyhoo, after the race, we went to the Ithaca Farmers’ Market to get the box of surprise organic vegetables. A culinary Christmas, if you will. Among much else, we got a big cabbage and two giant zucchini, which could only mean one thing.

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Oh boy!

That’s right, an alarm went off in my Palestinian soul, and just like that – it was mezze time.

Forgive me, all of my mother’s sisters, who would be horrified to know that I have dared to change the ancient (and I mean really) family recipe for these most fundamental of dishes. Actually scratch that – they’d be proud.

You know? What the hell, let’s just say this was my favorite aunt’s recipe. It isn’t hers, but it’s one I think she would have loved.

Aunt Clem’s stuffed cabbage
Remove the leaves from a head of cabbage and either dip in boiling water or microwave to soften. Using a sharp knife, cut out the center rib to make the leaves easier to roll. Set aside.

Combine 1 pound ground beef with 3/4 cup long grain white rice and 3/4 red (shelled) lentils. They have to be shelled because you want them to disappear when they cook. Add 1 1/2 tsp each: garlic powder, dill, allspice, cinnamon, paprika and cumin. Salt to taste and mix by hand.

Roll the mixture into a cabbage leaf – the technique is hard to describe, but basically put the leaf rib side down, roll away from you stem side first, tucking the sides in as you go. Place the rolls seam side down in a baking dish, and cover with water, lemon juice, olive oil and salt.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 for at least an hour. (It wont hurt to leave them in for longer) They are done when the rice inside is cooked. Let them cool a bit before serving, you could even serve at room temperature (but not cold, as the rice gets starchy).

For me, the secret is the lentils, which disappear into the meat, but leave a rich taste that adds something special to this well known dish.

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