Sunday, March 24, 2013

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage is a wonderful vegetable whose versatility goes way beyond the seasonal favorite, corned beef and cabbage.  It's great cooked in soups and stews as well as raw in a wide variety of slaws and salads.  One of my personal favorites is simply steaming wedges of cabbage and serving them with plenty of butter, salt, and pepper.

Raw heads of cabbage can be stored for long periods; and cabbage pickles easily, too.  With little more than cabbage and salt, you can make a tasty sauerkraut that will keep in the fridge for about 6 months (see recipe from 4-20-12, spices optional).

Today's recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls is an old family favorite that I've modified slightly over the years.  Though there are several steps, it's not difficult.  And you'll end up with enough to serve a hungry family.  Leftovers keep well in the fridge for about 3 days, or you can freeze stuffed cabbage rolls (after cooking them) for 3-6 months.

I like to use my own, home-made Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce (see recipe from 9-24-10).  I keep quarts of it in the freezer.  But if you don't have any sauce of your own, canned tomato sauce is fine, though you may want to adjust the seasoning a bit.

For 12-16 rolls:

12-16 cabbage leaves, removed from the head*
1 t olive oil
2 small carrots, finely chopped
1/4 small onion, finely chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 C cooked rice
1 egg
1/2 t salt, or to taste
1/4 t pepper, or to taste
1-1/2 C Slow Cooked Tomato Sauce + 1/2 C water OR 2 C canned tomato sauce

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Steam the cabbage leaves with a little water in a covered pot or vegetable steamer until the leaves are pliable, but not soggy.  Remove the leaves to a colander and set aside.

3.  In a small skillet, heat the oil and saute the finely chopped carrots and onions over low heat until just barely soft.  Turn off heat and set aside.

4.  In a bowl, mix together the ground beef, cooked rice, egg, salt, pepper, and sauteed onions and carrots until well combined.  You can do this with your hands, if you like.

5.  Test the seasoning of the meat mixture by making a tiny patty with a teaspoon of filling and cooking it (on both side) in a skillet (I use the same skillet that I cooked the carrots and onions in).  Add more salt and pepper to the meat mixture if necessary.**

6.  To assemble the cabbage rolls:  Working with one wilted leaf at a time, place a few tablespoons of the meat mixture in the center of the leaf.  Fold the sides of the leaf into the center, then roll up the leaf.  Place each rolled leaf in a non-reactive baking dish with a cover.***  Repeat with remaining cabbage leaves and meat mixture.

7.  If you're using a thick tomato sauce like the Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce, you may need to thin it a bit with water:  Place the tomato sauce and water in a medium bowl and whisk together until well-combined.  If you're using canned tomato sauce you probably don't need the water, but taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar, or herbs, as desired.

8.  Pour 2 C tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls in the baking dish, spreading it evenly.  Cover and bake in a 350 degree F oven for 1-1/2 hrs or until the sauce is bubbling and the meat is cooked through.  Serve hot or cool and refrigerate for later use.  Re-heat before serving.

*Save the rest of the cabbage foe another use, like cole slaw.
**Feel free to add other seasonings if you like.  Hot red pepper gives this dish a spicy zing.  A little paprika is another nice addition.
***I like to use a glass baking dish or a baking dish with a glass cover so I can see what's going on inside, but any covered baking dish will do, as long as it's deep enough to hold the cabbage and the sauce snugly   If you don't have a covered baking dish, you can use any non-reactive baking dish and cover it with foil.

Friday's bounty included:

From Ranch Santa Cecilia:  Murcott tangerines;

From Jimenez Family Farms:  Broccoli, arugula, broccoli rabe, carrots, cabbage, spinach, butternut squash, and yellow onions; and

From County Line Harvest South:  Green bor kale, lettuce, baby beets, and spring onions.

By the way, fresh cabbage comes in several colors.  Here's a photo of a stunning head of red cabbage from a friend's garden.



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