Saturday, December 14, 2013

Three Way Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are my all times favorite dish, ever. Even after conversion to vegetarianism, I adjusted proclaiming vegetarian stuffed cabbage my new favorite. Here are stuffed cabbage roll recipes for all of us: carnivores,  pescetarians and vegetarians going on vegans :)

Blog's Category: USSR-era Recipes, Vegetarian



Intro

Let's start with a traditional recipe - plain old cabbage rolls stuffed with ground meat. The recipe my mom, my grandma (and so on) followed and passed from generation to generation. This recipe is called traditional for a reason - it is very versatile, suits to a taste of majority of the people and utilizes common local produce - no exotic ingredients what-so-ever.

In Ukraine, stuffed cabbage rolls is a national staple dish. It's beloved by all and served at all more or less big events - birthdays, national holidays, weddings and [sigh] funerals. It's often chosen as weekend project to have ready-to-serve meal to feed a family through the week. Nope - we never freeze our "golubtsi" (cabbage rolls in Ukrainian) - just because no that big of a pot exists to have them left over to be frozen :). Also they keep just great in a fridge for a whole week and just getting better ;).


What is it?

It's a mix of nicely seasoned ground meat, rice and vegetables, rolled up into cabbage leaves and cooked in a [usually] tomato based sauce. Served with sour cream - this is the must.

Taste Description

Can you just imagine how many flavors are brewed here together? It's impossible to describe the taste. I just can tell that it is the most comforting and homey taste known to me. You just have to strike the right balance between sweet-and-sour-and-salty, infuse it into a natural flavors of basic vegetables - cabbage, carrot, onion, tomato, wrap it all around meat and rice; and the dish will pay you off with a greatest taste ever.


How to Serve

Serve hot, with a generous dollop of cold sour cream. Cabbage rolls are great the next day, warmed up in a microwave or, even better - seared up on a skillet with a little olive oil and of course do not forget about sour cream ;)


Meat Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
  • 1 green cabbage
  • 2 lb pork (or 4 cups of ground pork),
  • 2 lb  beef (or 4 cups of ground beef)
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 1 yellow onion, medium size, chopped
  • 1½ cups rice, half-cooked and drained
  • 2 carrots, medium size, coarsely grated
  • 6 tbs olive oil (or other vegetable oil), divided
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups tomato puree (or 4 tablespoons of tomato paste)
  • 1½ tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 3 tbs sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 3 bay leaves

- Precook cabbage: core and carefully plunge into a large pot with a boiling water. Keep water barely boiling and, carefully, using two large forks, separate leaves from a cabbage and pile them on a large plate until cabbage head will be too small to separate any more leaves. Take pot from a heat. Use remaining cabbage for some salad or stir fry.

- Cut off thick ribs on each cabbage leaf ( see pictures below).  

- Prepare vegetables for filling: In a little bit of olive oil, cook half of the onion just until soft. Add carrots and cook, stirring for about 3-4 minutes just until soft.


- Grind both meats for filling. Grind quartered onion as well into the same bowl with ground meat.

- Prepare filling by thoroughly mixing together ground meats and onion, cooked onion and carrot, 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of black pepper. For a better job use your hands.

- Prepare sauce: on a remaining olive oil, cook garlic brifly, then add tomato puree (or paste). Cook, stirring for one minute and then add enough water to have about 2 quarts 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 the acidity of your tomato puree). Taste and adjust seasoning. Sauce shouldn’t be bland – remember that the cabbage leaves are not salted.

- Roll cabbage by placing one heaping tablespoon of filling on a cabbage leaf and roll it up tucking sides inside (see pictures below).

- 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 pot to prevent rolls from sticking to a bottom, 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!

- 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 to 375°F oven for 1½  hours. If you cook the rolls on the stove top, cover pot with a lid and simmer for 1½  hours on the lowest heat setting.
 
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IN PICTURES
Pre-cook rice until half-cooked by pouring dry rice into a large quantity of boiling water and cooking it for 6 minutes. Drain and set aside to use it in a filling.
Thus filling has: ground pork, ground beef, ground raw onion, cooked onion, cooked carrots, salt and pepper. This is the basic "minimum" to have tender, flavorful filling with a wonderful texture.  The more fatty your pork cut is, you used for filling, - more juicy your filling will be. So, use your own judgment how healthy versus how juicy you want your filling be :) Or use leaner meat but more vegetables (onion and carrot) and more olive oil in your filling to keep the juiciness level up.

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Intro

Out of desperation, I come out with this weird Fish Cabbage Rolls. Weird just until you have a bite... After taking that divine bite you understand that life is still beautiful despite the fact you don't eat meat anymore... I hope you understand that I'm joking - no regrets on quitting meats whatsoever. I just needed to deal somehow with loosing my favorite dish - cabbage rolls stuffed with meat. So why not replace it with fish.. or lentils.. or something else protein-based? ..and this recipe was born. Of course there were a lot of recipes of salmon wrapped in a cabbage leaves but what about more down to earth sorts of fish such as tilapia, sole or even pike? Again, why not - here is tilapia stuffed cabbage rolls!


What is it?

Piece of tilapia fillet, placed on a vegetable-spiked rice. Then this little stack is wrapped in a cabbage rolls and cooked in a rich cream based sauce.

Taste Description

Smooth, rich and flavorful, it has perfect texture and heavenly tenderness. Not fishy at all, it has light seafood flavor which paired perfectly with classic b├ęchamel sauce used for cooking the rolls. Many subtle flavors, those of cabbage, fennel, rice and other ingredients, united, create harmonious deliciousness you will love.


How to Serve

Serve hot or warm, with a little bit of sour cream and fresh herbs, sprinkled on a top.

Fish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls


1 savoy cabbage (or regular green cabbage)
7-8 fillet of tilapia (or fish fillet of your choice)
2 cups dry rice
1 yellow onion, medium size
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
2 tbs butter
1 tsp black pepper
3 tbs ghee (or butter, or olive oil)
3 tbs flour
2 tbs olive oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 cup chopped cilantro (coriander) or parsley
1 cup dry white wine or stock
3 tbs of your favorite fish seasoning such as Old Bay (or just salt and pepper)
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups vegetable stock (or chicken or fish stock)
1 teaspoon salt
3 bay leaves
- 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.
- Precook cabbage: core and carefully plunge into a large pot with a boiling water. Keep water barely boiling and, carefully, using two large forks, separate leaves from a cabbage and pile them on a large plate until cabbage head will be too small to separate any more leaves. Take pot from a heat. Use remaining cabbage for some salad or stir fry.

- Cut off thick ribs on each cabbage leaf
- To make 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.
- Make cabbage rolls: place about one tablespoon of rice/fennel mix on a cabbage leaf, closer to the tough edge. Place fish piece on a top of rice and roll leaves, tucking sides inside
- 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. 
- To make sauce, 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 to 375°F 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 (optionally mixed with an equal amount of heavy cream to thin it out a little bit). Don't forget to enjoy!
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IN PICTURES

How to prepare cabbage leaves, see pictures above. 

Cooking fennel for stuffing mix.

Stuffing mix: rice, fennel, parsley and seasoning.



I cooked my cabbage rolls on a stove top. To keep rolls from sticking to the bottom of a pot, place some leaves leftovers first.

..and then pack your rolls

..and another layer of rolls.

Starting sauce: it is b├ęchamel-type sauce based on cream.

















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Intro

That's funny, but some dedicated carnivores I know prefer these vegetarian cabbage rolls to meaty one! Perhaps because lentils, texturally, are very close to ground meat here and flavors are just overwhelming, with some nice spicy kick.


What is it?

All as should be: stuffing, rolled in a cabbage leaves, and cooked in a tomato based sauce.

Taste Description

Big flavors of parsnips, fresh herbs and garlic are supported by more muted but so homey flavors of other vegetables. Bold and somewhat spicy sauce makes this dish even brighter. Multilayer-textured filling, encased into soft, buttery cabbage leaves and smothered into dazzling-red sauce is near the perfect vegetarian stuffing ever (nothing is perfect, right?). As always, cold sour cream these rolls should be served with, will tone done and bring yet another dimension to the whole experience of enjoying it. 


How to Serve

Of course, serve with cold sour cream on top! Try and you won't regret :) It will make the dish non-vegan but so much better ;)

Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls



1 small green cabbage


1 small purple cabbage (optional, just to have other fun colored rolls)


2¼ cups dry brown lentils

1 cup dry rice
2 yellow onions, medium size
2 carrots, medium size
2 parsnips, medium size
1 green bell pepper  (capsicum), medium size
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro (or both)
6 tbs olive oil (or other vegetable oil), divided
5 garlic cloves
3 cups tomato puree (or 3 tablespoons of tomato paste)
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes (or 2 cups of chopped tomatoes)
1½ tsp salt (or to taste)
3 tbs sugar (or to taste)
2 tsp black pepper
3 bay leaves
1-2 tsp of sriracha sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)
- Pre-cook rice: in a large pot, bring about 3 quarts 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.

- To start on 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 of 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.

- Assemble cabbage rolls as usually: place about 1.5 tbs of stuffing on a cabbage leaf closer to the base of leaf and roll, folding side edges over your stuffing. 
- To make sauce, finely mince garlic. Then, 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 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 your taste. Sauce shouldn’t be bland, remember that the cabbage leaves are not salted.

- 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). Place a couple of torn cabbage leaves on the bottom of a pot to prevent rolls from sticking to the bottom, especially if you cook your cabbage rolls on a stove top. 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 to 375°F oven for about 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 a 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 ;) My firm belief is: anything tomato based has to go with sour cream on top :)
 
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IN PICTURES


Do not forget to cut off thick ribs to have nice folding, flexible leaves to work with (see pictures above how I did it with green cabbage).

Parsnips are underdogs of a culinary world here. Too bad because this root vegetable brings so much flavor to soups, stews, vegetable roasts and has a nice sweet-ish taste.




Stuffing mix: cooked carrots and onion, cooked parsnips and bell pepper, fresh cilantro and parsley, half-cooked rice and lentils, some salt, hot pepper flakes and paprika.



Add a tablespoon of cumin to your sauce (or stuffing) if you wish so, but it's totally optional.





Not that much appealing visually, right? But trust me, it's gems that are hiding underneath of dark-red, charred blanket :)

Here they are.. gems. I crave them again..


4 comments:

  1. Wow - you did an amazing job putting this challenge together! I made mine & put a picture up on DC, but have yet to write it up.

    Thank you for putting this one together!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beautiful pictures make it very clear and helpful text.
    Thanks so much,

    I am vegetarian and looking for non-red or black pepper flavored version.
    Any ideas?
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stuffed cabbage recipes are very flexible and forgiving. Just omit red pepper, black pepper or replace them with other type of pepper, your favorite herb or vegetable. Good luck!

      Delete
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