Back in June, I put an open ended question out there: What cookbook would you take with you on a journey if you could only take one?

When it came time to actually pack for Spain, I was close to taking no cookbook at all. Matt & I managed to fit everything we brought to Spain into the luggage we brought on the plane with us. Yes, you ought to be impressed- especially since I had to bring both a pregnant and post-pregnant wardrobe! I sure hope I fit back into everything I brought in a few months.

With so much crammed into my bags, I ended up packing the Joy of Cooking into the backpack I carried with me on the plane. It became my layover reading, as it had been my road trip reading, and I ended up being incredibly happy I had brought it. Armed with the wealth of recipes, ingredient conversions, and handy tips in the book, I was able to piece together meals from day 1 in Spain, despite the differences in supermarket produce and measurements.

Up until now, looking for recipes usually entailed a bit of internet hunting, and probably combining two or three different recipes. I didn’t realize what a trove of classics could be found in the Joy of Cooking, and without internet access, I was forced to make them without cross-comparison with 6 other sources. The result? Consistently tasty and reliable meals.

Joy’s recipe for stuffed cabbages is simple and delicious. It also yielded about twice as much as I expected, and I froze the extra rolls for a second meal with great results.

Stuffed Cabbages

From the Joy of Cooking

Combine in a bowl 1 lb ground beef, 1 egg, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup uncooked white rice, 1/2 cup water, and 1 each chopped carrot, onion, and clove of garlic. Core a head of green cabbage and plunge into a pot of boiling, salted water. After 5-10 minutes, remove the softened outer leaves. Return the rest of the cabbage to the pot to continue softening – but be careful not to leave it too long! Trim the spine off each leaf to make them easier to roll, and stuff each with about an inch of rice mixture, leaving a good margin when rolling them up. The rice will expand during cooking.

Chop the remaining cabbage leaves and add to a pot of hot oil along with a chopped onion. Add 1/2 cup white wine, one 28 oz can of tomatoes in sauce, broken up by hand, 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar and the juice of a large lemon. Here, Joy also calls for a few things I couldn’t get readily but without which the recipe was still good: 1/2 cup raisins, 8 crushed gingersnaps and 2 chunks of sour salt. I’d be interested to see how these items change the end result.

Place the cabbage rolls seam side down in the sauce; add water to cover if necessary. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Serve hot with sour cream.

Note: Sour cream is difficult to come across here (i.e. I haven’t seen it anywhere) but I’ve created a good imitation by mixing creme fraiche, yogurt, and lemon juice.

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