recipe

CABBAGE ROLLS

Daring Cooks
December 2013

Hello fellow challengers! I’m Olga, this month’s host and member of the Daring Kitchen since 2011. Isn’t it perfect timing for comfort food, something warming, filling…? For me, the pinnacle of this type of food is stuffed cabbage rolls. That is why I have chosen it as this month’s challenge. I hope I have met your expectations for something new (or maybe not that new!) and exciting.

So, we are cooking Stuffed Cabbage Rolls!

Love of stuffed cabbage has run in my family for generations. I remember my mother cooking them with my grandmother and aunts. Actually, in Ukraine, where I’m from originally, stuffed cabbage is a national favorite. There are many versions of this dish!

It was a real challenge for me when several years ago I quit eating meat. I missed my meat-stuffed cabbage rolls so much… until I discovered that fish or vegetable stuffed cabbage is equally good, if not better!

Please note that while the process of making cabbage rolls seems to be complicated, in reality, it’s not and the recipe itself is very forgiving and flexible and gives you a lot of room for creativity. Let’s roll?!

Recipe Source:
Below are family recipes. The first one, with meat stuffing, is considered a Ukrainian classic, which was developed, I believe, over centuries in Eastern Europe. Fish stuffed cabbage rolls were developed by me in desperation to replace meat in my cabbage rolls J Third recipe is a vegetarian version which I cook for the non-meat eaters in my family.

Blog-checking lines: November’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge had us on a roll! Olga from http://www.effortnesslessly.blogspot.com/ challenged us to make stuffed cabbage rolls using her Ukrainian heritage to inspire us. Filled with meat, fish or vegetables, flexibility and creativity were the name of the game to get us rolling!

Posting Date:
December 14, 2013

Download printable file HERE

Note:
– Cabbage leaves have to be precooked to get them pliable enough for rolling. I cook whole cabbage first and then separate the leaves. It’s a fun process, just be cautious when working with a large knife and boiling water.
– Do not underestimate rice as a filling – it gives a nice tender texture to the filling because it absorbs the wonderful vegetable and meat juices! Authentic versions of stuffed cabbage have to have rice in them J. If for any reason you do not want to include rice, substitute it with another grain or vegetable(s) rather than omit it altogether. It will help to keep the stuffing tender and juicy.
– Do not be tempted to mix dry rice into your stuffing mix – rice has to be pre-cooked first to half-cooked at least. If you put dry rice into the stuffing mix, it will absorb too much liquid from your sauce and you will end up with tough rolls with no sauce. It’s better to put overcooked rice into the stuffing than raw rice (at all).

Mandatory Items:
It’s mandatory to make cabbage filled with any type of stuffing you wish. There are so many variations of cabbage rolls: Hungarian, Sweden, Polish, Finnish and so on. Please choose any or turn on your creativity switch and go with your own version.

Variations allowed:
In case you can’t make cabbage rolls for dietary reason or can’t find a cabbage (I guess it can happen!), use another leafy vegetable such as kale, collard green or chard to fill with meat, fish or vegetable stuffing. If you think you won’t like cabbage rolls, please give it a chance – make these cabbage rolls, you won’t regret it!

Preparation time:
There are five major steps in the process of cooking stuffed cabbage rolls. One cabbage makes about 20 rolls, the preparation time for each step, approximately, will be as the following (you can overlap these steps so that total time will be about 2 hours):
– Pre-cooking rice – 15 minutes
– Pre-cooking cabbage and separating leaves – 40 minutes
– Making stuffing – 20 minutes
– Rolling/stuffing process – 20 minutes
– Making sauce and finish cooking cabbage rolls in an oven or on a stove top – 1½ hour

Equipment required:
You will need the following equipment:
– Medium pot to cook rice or/and lentils
– Large pot to pre-cook cabbage
– Grill fork with a long handle (optional) for a process of separating cabbage leaves
– Oven-proof dish, dutch oven or regular pot to cook rolls
– Meat grinder (optional)

Meat Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Servings: 8-10

Ingredients
1 green cabbage
2 lb (900 gm) pork (or 4 cups of ground pork)
2 lb (900 gm) beef (or 4 cups of ground beef)
1½ cups (360 ml) (10½ oz) (300 gm) dry rice
2 yellow onions, medium size
2 carrots, medium size
6 tablespoons (90 ml) olive oil (or other vegetable oil), divided
5 garlic cloves
4 cups (1 litre) tomato puree (or 4 tablespoons (60 ml) of tomato paste)
1½ teaspoons (9 gm) salt (or to taste)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) (1½ oz) (45 gm) sugar (or to taste)
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) black pepper
3 bay leaves


Directions:

Pre-cook rice:

– In a large pot, bring about 3 quarts (3 litres) of water to a boil.
– Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes.
– Drain rice using a colander, set aside.

Pre-cook cabbage and prepare cabbage leaves:

– Using a large chef’s knife, remove core of the cabbage. Please be careful doing this, there is no need to cut out too much (see pictures below).
– To determine how much water exactly you will need to cook the whole cabbage: in a large pot, place your cabbage and pour enough cold water to cover the whole cabbage entirely. Remove cabbage from the water now place the pot with the water in it on the stove top.
– Bring water to a boil. Stick grill fork firmly into the cored center part of the cabbage and carefully place your cabbage into the boiling water, cored-side up. Be cautious, do not make a splash of hot water.
– Let cabbage cook for about 5 minutes. During the entire process of cooking the cabbage and separating leaves keep heat on its lowest setting so as to have the water barely boiling or near the boiling point.

– I like to separate the leaves without taking the cabbage out of the simmering water. It works better for me it eliminates splashes of hot water which can happen when moving the whole cabbage back and forth between pot and plate. So, I keep my cabbage in the pot at all times and use a long-handled grilling fork, sticking it into the core of the cabbage and using a regular fork or tongs to separate and remove the leaves, one by one, then transferring them onto a large plate. To separate the leaves right in the pot, pick a leaf at its thickest end and lift cabbage with your grill fork just a little bit, so as to release the bottom part of the leaf. While the whole process seems intimidating, it’s actually easy and even fun to do. Just be careful and keep the water barely simmering (or just below boiling point).

– Another way of separating leaves is taking the whole cabbage out of water (use a grill fork here too, sticking it firmly into the center, core part, of the cabbage). Then separate the leaves off the cabbage. When you reach the inner tough layer of leaves, return the cabbage back to the simmering water. After 5 minutes or so take it out and continue to separate leaves. And so on. It’s not my favorite way to get cabbage leaves because it involves moving the cabbage back and forth since this can create splashes of hot water. So be extra cautious if you choose this method.
– When you reach the layers where leaves are too small and too bumpy, stop the process of separating leaves and save the remaining cabbage to use elsewhere (soups, stews or salads).
– When leaves are cool enough to handle, cut off the tough ribs on each leaf. Now, the leaves are ready for filling.

Making Stuffing:

– Cut pork, beef and onion into 1-inch (2½ cm) pieces. With a meat grinder, grind pork, beef and onion into a large bowl. If you use store-bought ground pork and beef, transfer it into a large bowl add 1 onion, process with a couple of tablespoons of water into a fine paste.

– Into the same bowl, add your half-cooked rice prepared in the first step.
– Finely chop another onion. Using a coarse grater, grate the carrots. With 3 tablespoons of olive oil, in a skillet, cook the chopped onion and grated carrots for about 5 minutes, just until soft.
– Add the cooked onion and carrots into a bowl with the ground meat and raw onion. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.

– With your hands (use gloves

Rolling Cabbage Leaves:

– Place about one heaping tablespoon of stuffing on a cabbage leave, closer to the tough edge. Roll leaf, envelop-style, tucking sides inside (refer to my pictures please).
– Place rolls, seam side down, into a oven proof dish (if cooking them in an oven) or into a large pot (if cooking them on a stove top). Sometimes I place a couple of torn leaves on the bottom of pot to prevent rolls sticking, especially if I cook my cabbage rolls on the stove top.
– Continue stuffing until you run out of leaves or stuffing. Most often, miraculously, I have the exact amount of stuffing needed for all my leaves. If I have stuffing left, I make little meatballs and scatter them around on top of the cabbage rolls to cook. If you have leaves left, just spread them on top of the rolls – they will be delicious too! I know some cooks that make a lot of stuffing on purpose, just to have those extra “bonus” meatballs in the pot Smile

Making sauce and finishing cooking cabbage rolls in the oven or on the stove top:

– Finely mince garlic. Take a large pan and using the remaining olive oil, cook garlic for one minute, stirring.

– Add tomato puree or paste. Cook, stirring for another minute and then add enough water to have about 2 quarts (2 litres) (8 cups) of sauce. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes.

– Season sauce with a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, bay leaves and about 3 tablespoons of sugar (adjust sugar depending on acidity of your tomato puree). Taste and adjust seasoning. Sauce shouldn’t be bland – remember that the cabbage leaves are not salted.
– Pour sauce on top of the cabbage rolls. It should almost completely cover the rolls. If there is not enough sauce, add water right into the pot with the cabbage rolls. If cooking in an oven, tightly cover baking dish with foil and cook in a pre-heated moderately hot, 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5, oven for 1½ hours. If you cook the rolls on the stove top, cover pot with a lid and simmer for 1½ hours on its lowest heat setting.

Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls

Servings: 8-10

Ingredients
1 small green cabbage
1 small purple cabbage
2¼ cups (540 ml) (1 lb) (450 gm) dry brown lentils
1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 gm) dry rice
2 yellow onions, medium size
2 carrots, medium size
2 parsnips, medium size
1 green bell pepper (capsicum), medium size
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) paprika
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup (240 ml) (1 oz) (25gm) chopped fresh parsley or cilantro (coriander)
6 tablespoons (90 ml) olive oil (or other vegetable oil), divided
5 garlic cloves
3 cups (750 ml) tomato puree (or 3 tablespoons of tomato paste)
1 can (14 oz) (400 gm) diced tomatoes (or 2 cups of chopped tomatoes)
1½ teaspoons (9 gm) salt (or to taste)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) (1½ oz) (45 gm) sugar (or to taste)
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) black pepper
3 bay leaves
1-2 teaspoons of sriracha sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)

Directions:

Pre-cook rice and lentils:

– In a large pot, bring about 3 quarts (3 litres) of water to a boil.
– Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes.
– Drain rice using a colander, set aside.
– In another pot, cook lentils in the same way as rice but instead of 6 minutes, cook them for about 10-15 minutes in simmering water until lentils are almost done, soft but still holding together and not falling apart. Drain and set aside.

Pre-cook cabbage and prepare cabbage leaves:

– Please refer to the previous recipe description and pictures for this step. But this time, you will need to separate leaves for the purple cabbage also. I use two kinds of cabbage, green and purple, just for fun. Two colored cabbage rolls looks especially festive on a holiday table.

Making Stuffing:

– Finely chop onion. Using coarse grater, grate carrots. In a pan, using 2 tablespoons of olive oil, cook onion and carrots until they are soft, about 5-8 minutes. Transfer cooked onion and carrots into a large bowl where you will mix your stuffing.
– Grate parsnips. Chop green bell pepper (capsicum) finely. In the same pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and cook parsnips and pepper for about 5-8 minutes until soft.

– Add cooked parsnips and pepper, pre-cooked lentils and rice, paprika, hot pepper flakes, chopped parsley (or cilantro) and 1 teaspoon of salt into the bowl with the cooked onion and carrot. Mix stuffing well with your hands.

Rolling Cabbage Leaves:

– Please refer to the previous recipe description and pictures on how to fill the stuffing into the cabbage leaves.

Making sauce and finishing cooking cabbage rolls in the oven or on the stove top:

– Finely mince garlic.
– To make the sauce, in a pan, using the remaining olive oil, cook garlic for one minute, stirring.
– Add tomato puree (or paste) and chopped tomatoes to the pan with garlic. Cook stirring for another minute and then add enough water to have about 2 quarts (2 litres) (8 cups) of sauce. Bring to a boil and cook stirring for 2-3 minutes.

– Season sauce, adding about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, bay leaves, sriracha sauce and about 3 tablespoons of sugar depending on the acidity of your tomato puree. Adjust seasonings to taste. Sauce shouldn’t be bland, remember that the cabbage leaves are not salted.
– Pour sauce on a top of cabbage rolls. Add water if needed to cover rolls almost completely. If cooking in an oven, tightly cover baking dish with foil and cook in a pre-heated moderately hot, 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5, oven for 1½ hours. If you cook the rolls on the stove top, cover pot with a lid and simmer for 1½ hours on its lowest heat setting.

– Serve with a dollop of sour cream. If you are not used to sour cream as a garnish, I would insist, at least, to give it a try – it may open a whole new world Wink My firm belief is: anything tomato based has to go with sour cream on top Smile

Fish, Rice and Fennel Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Servings: 8-10

Ingredients
1 savoy cabbage (or regular green cabbage)
7-8 fillet of tilapia (or fish fillet of your choice)
2 cups (500 ml) (14 oz) (400 gm) dry rice
1 yellow onion, medium size
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz) (30 gm) butter
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) black pepper
3 tablespoons (45 ml) (1½ oz) (40 gm) ghee (or butter, or olive oil)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) (1 oz) (25 gm) flour
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 cup (250 ml) (1 oz) (25 gm) chopped cilantro (coriander) or parsley
1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine or stock
3 tablespoons (45 ml) of your favorite fish seasoning such as Old Bay (or just salt and pepper)
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream (>35% fat)
4 cups (1 litre) vegetable stock (or chicken or fish stock)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
3 bay leaves

Directions:

Pre-cook rice:
– In a large pot, bring about 4 quarts (4 litres) of water to a boil.
– Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes.
– Drain rice using a colander, set aside.

Pre-cook cabbage and prepare cabbage leaves:
– For this step, please refer to the first recipe’s description and pictures.

Making Stuffing:
– In a skillet, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook fennel until soft, about 5-10 minutes. At the end of cooking, add 2 tablespoons of butter, stir.

– In a large bowl, mix together pre-cooked rice, cooked fennel, chopped parsley (or cilantro), 1/2 teaspoon of salt and black pepper.

– Prepare fish fillets. Cut fillets into 1.5”x 4” (4cm x 10cm) pieces. If using tilapia, cut fillet lengthways into two pieces. Then cut each piece into two pieces – one large and another one half as small. When assembling, you will be using two small pieces in some rolls; and some rolls will have a single (bigger) piece of fish. Season fish pieces with a seasoning of your choice or just salt and pepper.

Rolling Cabbage Leaves:

– Place about one tablespoon of rice/fennel mix on a cabbage leave, closer to the tough edge. Place fish piece on a top of rice and roll leaves, tucking sides inside (refer to my pictures please).

– Place rolls, seam side down, into an oven proof dish (if cooking them in an oven) or into a large pot (if cooking them on a stove top). Sometimes I place a couple of torn leaves on the bottom of the pot to prevent rolls sticking, especially if I cook my cabbage rolls on the stove top.

– Continue to roll cabbage leaves until you have run out of leaves or stuffing.
– Tightly pack the rolls into a pot. Usually when I finish stuffing the leaves, I’ve got two layers of cabbage rolls, some bigger than others. I like to have them in different sizes, I consider it a bonus feature – after all, sometimes you want to have one and a half rolls, right? If you wish to have all your rolls the same size – just cut larger leaves in half before stuffing them.

Making sauce and finishing cooking cabbage rolls in an oven or on a stove top:

– Finely chop onion.
– In a large pan or skillet, using ghee (or butter, or olive oil), cook onion until soft, about 2 minutes.

– Add flour, turn heat down and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes.
– Add wine (or stock). Cook stirring for 1 minute. At this point it’s better to switch from your spatula to a whisk.
– Add heavy cream, stir. Then, in batches, stir in all the vegetable stock. Do not let sauce boil, but keep it near the boiling point.

– Season sauce with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, some black pepper and bay leaves.

– Pour sauce on top of the cabbage rolls. Add water, if needed, to cover rolls almost completely. If cooking in an oven, tightly cover baking dish with foil and cook in a pre-heated moderately hot, 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5, oven for 1½ hours. If you cook the rolls on the stove top, cover pot with a lid and simmer for 1½ hours on its lowest heat setting.

– Serve with a dollop of sour cream mixed with an equal amount of heavy cream.


Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:

Stuffed cabbage rolls are one of those dishes that benefits sitting in the fridge overnight. Some like them browned-up in a skillet next day.
The pot with the stuffed cabbage rolls will keep in the fridge for several days. They freeze very well also (though I personally have never done this because cabbage rolls are a very popular dish and I don’t tend to have leftovers to freeze them for later use).

Additional Information:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ckKeuH9j9A
http://www.amazon.com/Cabbage-Rolls-Step-step-Ukrainian-ebook/dp/B00BI2AK5O/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjHObI7iU8Q
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GysFjlU3XN0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIOYOjyiffQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDm24l_ndSM

Disclaimer:

The Daring Kitchen and its members in no way suggest we are medical professionals and therefore are NOT responsible for any error in reporting of “alternate baking/cooking”. If you have issues with digesting gluten, then it is YOUR responsibility to research the ingredient before using it. If you have allergies, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are lactose intolerant, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. The responsibility is YOURS regardless of what health issue you’re dealing with. Please consult your physician with any questions before using an ingredient you are not familiar with. Thank you! Smile

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