My best stuffed cabbage leaves
Aspen, CO Colorado
My recipe for beef-stuffed cabbage leaves was cut out of a magazine decades ago and attached in four pieces with now-yellowed cellophane tape to a couple of index cards in my wooden recipe box.
When I went to make cabbage rolls last week, I discovered that the scraps of the recipe had fallen off the cards and into the bottom of the box, with one piece missing. When I searched through my cookbooks for the missing information, I found nothing similar so I had to do it by memory and guessing.
Since the end result was good, I thought I’d better pass the recipe along before it completely disappears. The dish is somewhat labor intensive by my standards, but you can make a lot of it and it saves well, with the additional benefit of containing all the basic food groups for a meal-in-one.
Buy a medium-sized cabbage (two more weeks of Farmer’s Market!), discard two or three of the outer leaves and cut around the core, detaching it from the next few leaves. Hold the cabbage under cool running water and gradually work the leaves off, one by one, letting the water help you to separate them, continuing to cut around the core as you go along.
Boil the leaves in salted water for two or three minutes, setting them on paper towels to drain.
Thoroughly mix together a pound of raw ground beef with 1 and 1/2 cups of cooked rice, one medium chopped onion, 1/2 teaspoon of rubbed sage, four tablespoons of melted butter, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and 1/2 cup of dried bread crumbs.
With the base of the cabbage leaf towards you, put a glop of the mixture in the bottom quadrant of the leaf, roll it up, tuck in the sides making a “pillow,” then place the cabbage roll into a buttered baking dish. Continue until the meat mixture is used up. You can make fewer rolls with more filling in them or vice versa.
The tomato sauce was on the missing piece of the recipe, but I remember the basics. This is a very mild sauce. Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter, add a couple of tablespoons of flour (your basic roux), stir that until smooth and add three little cans of spicy tomato juice, stirring until slightly thickened. To taste, add chili powder (not too much), onion and/or garlic powder or juice.
I also added some Goya Adobo seasoning, now available in our local markets ” get the one that says “with cumin” because the others have MSG. I learned about this from my mother’s Jamaican caretakers and it’s good in almost everything.
You could also throw a couple of cans of Del Monte stewed tomatoes, Italian style, into the blender, cook it down to desired thickness and use that, or any other favorite tomato sauce recipe that isn’t overbearing.
Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an hour at 375 degrees. Even people who hate cabbage like this dish. Mine could have used more sauce, so next time I’ll use four cans of spicy V8 juice.
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