Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In honor of Vaclav Havel...a Czech-inspired cabbage recipe

I am still in mourning over the passing of Vaclav Havel, a very inspirational leader. (If you don't know much about Havel, you can check out the article on CNN or one on NPR (or here) or the remembrance on Talk of the Nation to get a glimpse into the life of this writer-turned-president.) My way of dealing with grief is to cook.  Sometimes this takes the form of baked goods, but this time it took the form of comfort food.  Czech comfort food, that is, in honor of my favorite Czech.
Cabbage and (chicken) sausage -- yum!
Honey says that I am true to my peasant roots when I make food like this.  Some of my favorite meals are essentially peasant fare from around the world. When it comes to certain parts of Europe, however, I must say that the thought of eating lots of sausage and cheese does not appeal to me. That is why I like this dish -- plenty of vegetables and a bit of sausage.  I found the original recipe on allrecipes.com and over the years have tweaked it just slightly to make the meal to suit my tastes.

Czech Cabbage & Sausage (Marie's version)

  • 1 package chicken smoked sausage or turkey kielbasa, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 cup (or two, depending on availability & preference) diced bell peppers
  • 2-4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small head cabbage, shredded
  • 1 tbsp oil or butter
  • 1/4 c. balsalmic vinegar
  • salt & pepper, to taste
Melt the oil or butter in a skillet and fry the onions and garlic until soft and fragrant, about three minutes. Add sausage and cook for three minutes.  Add the rest of the vegetables and cook until soft.  (I usually end up cooking mine a bit longer because I like the consistency at around 15-20 minutes.)  If you use red and yellow bell peppers, this ends up being a very colorful dish -- one of the things I love about it.

Meanwhile, heat a stock pot of water until boiling. Add cabbage and cook until cabbage reaches desired tenderness (some people like it just blanched so it's very crunchy, I like mine cooked for a few minutes so that the cabbage is mostly soft with just a bit of crunch left).

Drain cabbage and place is a large bowl.  Add contents from skillet, balsalmic vinegar, and salt and pepper.  Toss until well-mixed.  Serve hot or chilled.

YUM.  And a fitting tribute, in some small way, to the man who has inspired me for many years.

It is hard to believe that the first full-length work that I read of Havel's was a little over a decade ago.  All of his hard work in the 1980s and 1990s was overshadowed, in my young mind, by the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Sadly, my own secondary school education did not teach me about all the various movements and revolutions across Eastern Europe in the 1980s.  Havel, if I did hear about him at all, was just a footnote.  Upon discovering his books in 2000, I was transported, amazed, and I vowed that if I ever had a chance, my students would learn about this man.  He showed that we can overcome great obstacles and that not all politicians are corrupt.  His writings revealed a belief in the necessity of morals and ethics and in the truth of human struggle. If I ever have a chance to teach again, I would love to share Havel with more young people so that he can continue to inspire generations even though he is now gone.

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