The Law of Cabbages

This is the time to consider foods like cabbages and pumpkins, which are both hearty and comforting.

You can make a sweet-and-sour cabbage cake casserole, which takes time to assemble, but once it's baked it can mellow for as long as three days in the refrigerator. Reheating it is easy. It is based on those familiar sweet-and-sour stuffed cabbage recipes, but instead of rolling the meat filling inside a cabbage leaf, here they are simply layered. The sweet tomato marmalade makes the presentation special.

The brown-sugar swirl pumpkin bundt cake is the perfect dessert for this meal. It's simple and homespun. You may also want to offer mixed dried fruits such as apricots, prunes, pears and figs as well as roasted pecans along with the cake; they add a nice touch to the dessert.

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This is one of those dishes that benefits from up to three days in the refrigerator before serving; the flavors meld together perfectly. It's best to serve this cake right from the casserole. As with most cakes, the first slice is not always perfect.

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SWEET-AND-SOUR CABBAGE CAKE CASSEROLE

1 (2 3/4-pound) head cabbage

1 tablespoon oil

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 medium Spanish onion, minced

1 cup soft bread crumbs

12 pitted prunes, minced

1 1/2 pounds ground lean pork, beef or veal

1 large egg

2 large egg whites

1 teaspoon allspice

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Salt, pepper

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can stewed tomatoes (with no salt)

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Sweet Tomato Marmalade

Cut an X about 1/2-inch deep into cabbage core. In large pot cook cabbage in 4 quarts of boiling salted water 10 minutes. Drain. When cool enough to handle, remove large outer leaves that have softened. There should be about 12. Cut out thick, hard veins. Coarsely chop enough remaining cabbage heart to measure 1 3/4 cups. Reserve remaining heart for another use.

Heat oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add garlic and onion. Cook until very tender, about 6 minutes, stirring often.

Transfer cooked garlic and onion to large mixing bowl. Add bread crumbs, prunes, ground meat, egg, egg whites, (save remaining egg yolk for another use) allspice, mustard, 1 3/4 teaspoons salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. To test meat so seasoning can be adjusted, cook very small amount on stove top or in microwave oven. Adjust seasonings to taste.

To assemble, arrange 3 cooked cabbage leaves on bottom of 3- to 4-quart heavy casserole. Add 1/3 of meat mixture, spreading evenly. Layer 3 more leaves, covering meat. Repeat layering, ending with cabbage. Lightly compress with hands.

For sauce, mix tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and 1/2 teaspoon salt in food processor or blender. Pour over cabbage cake.

Bake at 350 degrees, covered, 2 hours. Let cool with cover askew. Can be made 3 days ahead and refrigerated. To reheat, bake, covered, 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Serve in wedges, spoon some casserole juices over and garnish with dollop of Sweet Tomato Marmalade. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Each of 6 servings contains about:

513 calories; 1,447 mg sodium; 120 mg cholesterol; 27 grams fat; 48 grams carbohydrates; 24 grams protein; 3.64 grams fiber.

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Sweet Tomato Marmalade

2 tablespoons safflower oil

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 medium onion, minced

6 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons brown sugar, packed

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in medium non-aluminum pot. Add garlic and onion. Cook until tender but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low-medium heat until thick, about 50 minutes. Stir often, especially toward end of cooking, to avoid burning. If any liquid remains, increase heat to high and quickly boil off. Stir in remaining oil.

Can be refrigerated up to 4 days or frozen up to 3 months. Gently reheat on stove top or in microwave oven. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot. Makes about 1 3/4 cups.

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BROWN SUGAR SWIRL PUMPKIN BUNDT CAKE

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup light sour cream

3 3/4 cups cake flour

1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons vanilla

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin puree

3/4 cup walnuts, chopped

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

In bowl combine baking soda and sour cream. Set aside. In another bowl sift flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

Use mixer to cream butter until fluffy. Add eggs and egg whites, (save remaining egg yolks for another use) beating in 1 at time. Add vanilla, pumpkin puree and sour cream. Mix well. Add sifted ingredients. Mix well.

Combine walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon and mix well.

Cover bottom of generously greased 12-cup bundt pan with roughly 1/3 batter. Cover with roughly 1/3 swirl in thin layer. Use knife to cut through batter in several places. Cover with another portion of batter in about 1-inch layer. Use about 2/3 of remaining swirl, coating layer evenly. Add remaining batter, spreading evenly. Spoon on remaining swirl. Use knife to cut through batter for swirl.

Bake at 350 degrees until wood pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Do not overbake. Let stand in pan on cooling rack about 20 minutes. Invert onto rack and then set upright on rack to cool completely. Best made day ahead and kept at room temperature, wrapped airtight. Cake may also be frozen as long as 3 months. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Each of 8 servings contains about:

735 calories; 515 mg sodium; 100 mg cholesterol; 26 grams fat; 119 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 1.61 grams fiber.

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