So you are an immigrant. Perhaps Polish, like myself. You landed in a foreign country. You fell in love with the place, culture and people. You decided to stay and settle down. You got a job. You made yourself a cozy home. But something is still missing. You can’t put your finger on it. Perhaps it’s that special someone missing in your life? That person you have always dreamed about but you haven’t had time for? The person you can spend time with, talk to, and make you laugh. The person to share a meal with. You decided it’s time to start dating again. You subscribed to match.com
But wait? Did you just say “share a meal”? Oh, gosh. I have to be honest with you. If you are Polish and dating a foreign guy or a gal, it may get tricky here. Why? Simply because he or she isn’t Polish. And that alone, most likely, means completely different “taste buds”.
Well, what can I say? I’ve been there and noticed that traditional Polish cuisine can become problematic when it comes to introducing the food to a foreign person. While almost everyone loves our smoked and cured meats or sausages, some of our traditional cooked dishes are not the first choice for foreigners. Particularly dishes that involve cabbage. Honestly. This vegetable prepared in traditional Polish way is not always well received. I’ve noticed that as soon as some people hear that magic word “cabbage” they start acting uncomfortable. Perhaps because of its unpleasant smell? Well, you sure would get along with the Irish because their traditional way of cabbage preparation matches the Polish one. But that would be the match.com made in heaven. While your father would dream about the platter full of pungent cabbage rolls made according to your grandma’s recipe, it might just not be that sexy and flattering for your date. Especially the one that has never tasted this vegetable before.
But don’t worry. There is no reason to abandon your Polish heritage or your favorite Polish dishes and ingredients in order to impress your foreign date. You don’t have to start making rare steaks or boiling lobsters. There is a secret way to upgrade and elevate cabbage to the white tablecloth dining level.
The Carnival season is going on right now and perhaps you would want to treat your date with something uniquely Polish. So today, I would love to share my secret cabbage recipe with you. It will truly make your foreign date smack their lips. It will also win hearts of your Polish fellow-countryman. Because as they say all around the world: “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”.
So this Carnival season let’s get back to our Easter European roots and let’s return to the cabbage a reputation that it deserves. Let’s resurrect Polish cabbage rolls. Let’s introduce to our foreign or Polish date our traditional cabbage dish but in the most elegant and sophisticated way. It’s called “gołabki” (go-lum-pki). It can also be a very seductive and sexy dish because scientists announced cabbage to be one of the greatest aphrodisiac vegetables of all times. I’ve read that cabbage is supposed to be Viagra of the XXI century.
After trying this recipe you will put your grandma’s recipe away.
May your date turn into lifelong marriage! And Happy Carnival!
Polish Cabbage Rolls
Ingredient (for 10 cabbage rolls):
- 1 green cabbage (as young as possible, approximately 20 centimeters in diameter)
- 12 small fresh (or canned) Roma tomatoes (Italian Plum tomatoes)
- 1/2 pound of ground beef or lamb
- 1 cup of uncooked pearl barley
- 1 egg
- small bunch of fresh dill
- small bunch green onions with chives
- 2 tbs of fresh marjoram (or dried)
- 2 big cloves of peeled garlic
- 8 big cloves of unpeeled garlic
- balsamic vinegar
- salt, pepper, and to taste
- vegetable oil
- extra virgin olive oil
- Wash all vegetables thoroughly.
- Tomatoes and 6 unpeeled cloves of garlic spread on the baking pan, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and bake in preheated to 375 degree oven (190 Celsius) for about 20-25 minutes; cool down and gently peel off tomatoes and garlic; chop finely 2 tomatoes.
- Take off tough and spotted leaves from outside of the cabbage, and then blanch the entire cabbage head by gentle dropping it into a big pot of boiling water for about 5-10 minutes (the cabbage should be entirely covered with water).
- Take cabbage out of the pot; let it cool down and drain any remaining water (set the water in the pot aside it will be needed for later).
- Carefully separate each leaf from the cabbage without making holes in it and gently pat dry with a paper towel; horizontally cut off thick stems from the leaf so it can be as flat as possible (you should be able to get 10 perfect leaves).
- Cook barley according to instruction on the package until al dente (about 5 minutes less than instruction on the package); drain, rinse off and let it cool down.
- Chop finely two peeled cloves of garlic.
- Chop finely green onion with chives; heat up small amount of vegetable oil on a small pan and when is hot fry chopped green onions until slightly brown (be careful not to burn); set it aside and cool down.
- In large bowl mix together raw meat, egg, fried green onions, chopped garlic and half of the cooked barley; work it well with your fingers into a homogeneous mass; season with salt, pepper and marjoram.
- Place in each leaf of cabbage a small amount of ground meat leaving enough room on sides, so it can be easily wrapped; fold over the meat symmetrically two opposite sides of the leaf first and then roll the other two sides over it (be careful not to rip or make holes in any leaves).
- Heat up oil in a large frying pan and fry cabbage rolls on both sides to the point when the cabbage gets slightly burnt, generously sprinkle with balsamic; add to the pan 2 cups of water remaining in the lard pot from blanching the cabbage, 2 chopped tomatoes and few springs of dill; cover up and simmer for about 60 minutes (flip rolls after 30 minutes); add remaining 10 tomatoes, few more springs of dill, marjoram, remaining cooked barley, season everything to desired taste with salt and pepper and sprinkle again with balsamic; slightly turn up the heat and start reducing juices from the pan until cabbage rolls and tomatoes get nice, golden sear.
- Reduce the sauces from the pan until they thicken up.
- Before serving elegantly arrange each roll on the plate with a whole tomato and spoon of barley, display around caramelized strips of cabbage leaves, cloves of garlic and springs of dill from the pan (look at the picture for reference).
Pour a nice glass of red wine (Merlot is perfect pairing with this dish) and enjoy the dish with your date!
Click here to read this in Polish: “Świąteczne gołąbki w sam na randkę z cudzoziemcem i tymi, którzy nie lubią kapusty”.