Friday, May 30, 2008



It seems I was away for so long. I started this routine up again just yesterday. Is it really Friday? The calendar says it is. So here's something to eat.

This is a dish I invented from scratch many years ago and have been evolving and refining ever since, and it's so free-form it will probably keep changing. There are a couple of undiluted cans of soup in it that I'm sure the purists among you will reject right away, and I admit sometimes even I can't believe I'm dumping them in when I make this, but the end result is so satisfying and cozy that it's OK. Call it a quick and easy guilty pleasure and a sure-fire weeknight family pleaser. The smoothness of the sauce is counterbalanced by the crunch of the vegetables, and a culinary secret, slightly carmelizing a little tomato paste before adding anything else, adds depth to the flavor. Another secret: the cabbage disappears into the sauce but its sweetness remains, adding more depth.

If you're watching your cholesterol or have other issues with beef, use ground turkey. I never tried it with textured vegetable protein, but it would probably work. Serve over rice or your pasta of choice.

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 generous tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium ribs celery, coarsley chopped
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, grated (1 to 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
finely chopped garlic cloves, to taste
1 can undiluted cream of mushroom soup
1 can undiluted cheddar cheese soup
1 large can sliced mushrooms, undrained
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil

In a skillet deep enough to hold all ingredients, brown beef until it is no longer pink. Season beef with salt and pepper to taste while browning. Remove beef to bowl and set aside, pour fat from skillet.

In same skillet, heat olive oil to shimmering, then add tomato paste. Over medium-high heat, stir tomato paste into oil and cook until it darkens slightly, but doesn't burn, about 5 minutes. Immediately add all chopped vegetables, including garlic. Stir to coat everything with tomato-infused oil, and then stir-fry until vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in soups, mushrooms, Worcestershire and basil, then add reserved beef. Combine well. (At this point the pasty look of those soups will cause you to say, "what have I done?!" but go with it. The liquid from the veggies will dilute the soups to the desired consistency.) Lower heat, partially cover, and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If at the end of 20 minutes the sauce looks too thin, simmer uncovered 5 minutes more, or until desired thickness is reached. Check seasoning, serve immediately.


Anonymous said...

Another home run!

Ralph said...

Doesn't exactly fit for the grilling season, Z&M, but I figure there are still times during the work week when you might just want something quick you can toss together.