Wait, where’d September go? (featuring Vegan Stuffed Cabbage with Sweet and Sour Tomato Sauce)
Amelia had stayed in bed for longer than usual. She’s always a bit loungy in the morning, but this Monday she seemed different. She looked off. I sat next to her and asked if she was ok. She stared with deadened eyes at my knee, not moving or interacting. I squeezed her tightly and started to feel a slow panic approach. Amelia, or Meals as we call her, is our 3-year-old schnauzer/ lab. She’s not allowed to get sick.
I went downstairs and finished my coffee as I slid on my sneakers. I’d take her for a walk and then maybe call the doctor. Meals came downstairs slowly, but with tail wagging. She didn’t really look sick. She looked detached. Disinterested. Apathetic. It’s like our dog was suddenly becoming our cat.
We walked for a while in our quiet Portland neighborhood and I saw her mood lift a bit. She isn’t sick, she’s just down. Do dogs get seasonal affective disorder? I realized I had been feeling the same way. Where did the summer go? And September? It just disappeared. How can it be October already? There’s a feeling of powerlessness when the new season is suddenly upon us. This year it was like there was no foreplay at all. It’s just whammo: October. Don’t get me wrong, October is my favorite month. My birthday is in October, I got married in October, Amelia came into my life in October. It’s full of prizes and beauty- this month. I just didn’t think it was going get here so quickly.
There’s a funny food thing that happens with each change of season. Our brains take a moment to readjust to what our bodies already know. I am a firm believer in our body’s ability to recognize and celebrate fresh food that’s in season. Just because there are tomatoes in the supermarket in January doesn’t mean they will taste good. Our world of convenience has made a lot of fresh ingredients available that conflict with nature. So, in late September, we go buy tomatoes and blueberries and peaches because there they are on display and they were so sweet and succulent only weeks before, and they suddenly taste like nothing. And our brains can’t catch up to our bodies, which know the season has passed. Our bodies are ready for squash and beets and cabbage, apples and cranberries and chestnuts, but our minds are still thinking about sunbathing while slurping on watermelon and strawberries. It takes a moment for our brains to catch up.
That being said, Amelia eats kibble 365 days a year. She has a lot of issues for having it so easy.
By Wednesday, Amelia was back to her old self and I was starting to feel more optimistic. Maybe the reason September flies by is because October is so glorious. Maybe we don’t need much foreplay when the main event is so spectacular.
I decided to stop fighting my body and leaped into fall with a classic vegan recipe. It’s sweet and tangy and a little spicy, just like autumn. It’s the perfect side dish for a roast chicken or beef, or an accompaniment for another veggie dish like roast Brussels sprouts or asparagus.
Stuffed Cabbage with Sweet and Sour Tomato Sauce
Makes 10 stuffed cabbages
- ½ cup white raisins
- 10 savoy cabbage leaves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups cooked wild rice
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- 1 zucchini, finely diced
- 4 long Lacinato kale leaves, chopped
- ½ cup blanched almonds, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon hot paprika
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- Plump the raisins by soaking in a bowl of warm water for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the cabbage leaves and let simmer for 5 minutes. Drain.
- In a sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onion until it softens and then add the garlic. Saute for a minute and then add the zucchini, raisins, kale, and almonds. Stir in the cooked wild rice, season with salt, pepper, and the hot paprika, white pepper, and nutmeg.
Sweet and sour tomato sauce
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- In a small saucepan, heat the oil until hot. Add the onion and sauté until it softens. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds, then the crushed tomatoes. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the vinegar and the brown sugar and cook, uncovered over medium heat for another 15 minutes, stirring every once in a while.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Stir about ½ cup of tomato sauce into the rice mixture.
- Take each cabbage leaf and fill the base of the cabbage leaf with ½ cup of rice mixture. Roll from the bottom up, folding in the sides to make a nice little package. Line the rolls up in an oven-safe pan and then spoon sauce over the rolls.
- Bake rolls in oven for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.