My childhood memories of cabbage are not the most pleasant. Usually sliced, boiled, drained and served with margarine on the side of the plate, to be pushed around with the fork until strands accidentally found their way onto the floor. The usual threat of eat your vegetables or no desert didn't help to move the forkful of cabbage to my mouth. Ugh!
I was re-introduced to cabbage in my 30's. It was a coleslaw full of crunchy slices with spicy green onions, grated carrots and beets with a creamy tart dressing. Piled next to rich sausages it was just the right combination.
Cabbage is very versatile and available between August and January. It is part of the Brassica family which includes kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, turnip and kohlrabi. The technical info is that it's a good source of Vitamin C and dietary fibre.
The common cabbage is a tightly wrapped head with waxy leaves coming in green, white and red. Chinese (Napa) cabbage and Savoy cabbage are dark or pale green, have a more delicate flavour and have looser, soft, crinkly leaves. They are perfect for stuffing.
The following is a recipe for Cabbage Rolls. Not perhaps the typical or traditional cabbage roll recipe but one I like.
1 head of Savoy Cabbage
4 slices of bacon cut into small pieces crosswise
1 large onion chopped fine
1 to 5 garlic cloves minced
1 to 1 1/2 pounds of a combination of ground beef and pork
1 - 28 oz. can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 small can tomato paste
2 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Bay Leaf
1 cup cooked rice
sugar (brown or white)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil or spray a 9 x 12 inch casserole pan.
Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Dip whole leaves of cabbage in the boiling water until softened, take out and lay on clean towels to drain.
Take those lovely pieces of bacon and put into a cold pan, turn on the heat, and fry until crisp. Scoop them out onto paper towel to drain.
Put the onions and garlic into the pan, sautee until soft and they smell yummy. Add the ground meat and fry until browned. Scoop the meat mixture into a large bowl and add the cooked rice and the bacon. Mix together well and set aside to let cool. My husband always says he likes the filling to have more flavour. So this is an opportunity to add fresh or dried herbs such as oregano, sage, and/or thyme.
While the meat and cabbage leaves are cooling make up a simple tomato sauce. Tinned tomatoes and tomato paste, a good splash of Worcestershire sauce, sugar (I prefer brown), drop in the bay leaf and salt and pepper. If you like you can add some finely minced onion and garlic to the tomato sauce. Put the whole works into a saucepan and let it bubble away while you make the rolls.
Now the fun!! Most people go on about how much work making cabbage rolls are and yes, they are time consuming. The flip side is the zen, the quiet moment of just sitting and getting the job done. A little music and it becomes your time away from everyone. How can they complain, you are making food for them!!
Have a little sharp knife handy to trim the cabbage leaves of any hard bits that make it difficult to fold and turn. Take a cabbage leaf and a healthy tablespoon of the meat mixture, put it in the middle 1/3 of the leaf. Turn the sides in and then roll up into a sausage shape. Continue with each leaf until done. The size of the rolls will be different and that's ok. Some people like to use a toothpick to hold the cabbage leaf in place, just remember to remove it when serving.
Now take that frying pan that you cooked the meat mixture in and add a bit more vegetable oil. Heat up on medium. What we are going to do is fry each cabbage roll, turning with tongs, until the leaves are a little golden brown all over.
This step is optional but honestly it softens the cabbage a bit more and gives it a lovely toasted flavour.
Take your casserole pan and spoon enough of the bubbly tomato sauce (remove the bay leaf) into the bottom to make a nice bed for the cabbage rolls. Now place your rolls, arranging the varied sizes to make one layer in the pan making sure to fill to the corners. Pour the tomato sauce over top. Cover with a lid or tin foil and bake for at least 1/2 to 3/4 hour until browned and bubbly.
Yes, you can use brown rice and you can make them veggie friendly by using carrot, turnip and spinach as the filling.
If you have some of the meat mixture left over it makes a great filling for an omelette the next day.
Eating just one will not be possible!!