Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mastering the Art of the 10:30 dinner

So Emily did come over last night and we did make something with rice. We decided on spicy stuffed cabbage, which consists of ground beef (grass-fed), brown rice, onions, raisins, pine nuts, dill, cumin, cinnamon, and clovers stuffed into cabbage leaves, doused in beef stock and baked for an hour. Doesn't sound too difficult.

I started soaking the rice at 11am to get in the requisite 7 hour soak. Check. Then ran some errands and ended at the grocery store. I spent nearly half an hour in the bulk spice section alone! Cardamom pods, arrowroot, dried thyme, cumin seeds, ground was fascinating. I made three circles around the store paying such close attention to the cookbook in my arms that I kept bumping into old people with carts. I finally had it all. Well, all except the fresh dill--I figured I could harvest that from the alley down the street.

I make it home, Emily shows up at 6:30 with ingredients for a roast squash, roast beet, goat cheese and hazelnut salad, and after harvesting the dill, we get started around 7. First mistake-starting around 7. We start chopping and prepping and boiling and roasting, get the rice on the stove and then I realize that after the rice finishes and the cabbage leaves get stuffed, they still need to bake for an hour. Crap. Ok. No problem. The rice will be finished at 8:05, we stuff the cabbage and bake and eat a bit after 9. We finish getting the beet and squash salad ready and steam some sweet corn on the cob (from the Ballard Market!) while we wait for the rice. 8:05. I open the lid to the pot and see brown rice--good--sitting beneath an inch of water--bad. Again, crap. Out comes the rice cooker (which the cookbook makes no mention of, so I tried to avoid it) and get the rice going in that--it'll take another 45 minutes. We eat the salad and corn, start a movie and wait. Rice finally finishes, we brown the beef, rice, onions and spices, awkwardly stuff the cabbage leaves, (more like making cabbage sandwiches) pour on the beef stock and start baking.

After all that, when they finish baking, we still have to pour off the stock and reduce it on the stovetop in order to use it as a sauce for the stuffed cabbage. That takes 15 minutes. But then, we dish up the cabbage sandwiches, pour on the sauce and, voila! Dinner is served. At 10:45.

All things considered, it did taste very good. And as I was reflecting on whether it was actually worth the nearly 4 hour preparation, Micael reminded me that yes, it was. That sometimes, not always, but special sometimes, part of eating is the time you share with people as you're preparing to eat. It may take all day. In fact, if it does, that might just be what makes the meal so good.

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