Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.
I wasn’t able to find grape leaves, so I went with the alternate suggestion of cabbage. Perhaps it was because of the type of cabbage I bought (savoy), but only the outer leaves were big enough to roll, and as I reached further in, I wound up with lots of filling left and no leaves to put it in. No matter- I chopped up the remaining cabbage and sauteed it up with the filling, adding in garlic, salt, pepper and honey to taste, and between you and me, it was better than the original. That one-dish wonder will absolutely be gracing my table again. I’ve included that recipe below too.
The recipe indicators to tell when the rolls were ready didn’t apply to cabbage leaves. The recipe describes doneness as “when the leaves are neither soupy nor dry,” but since the cbbage leaves didn’t absorb the water, I had to drain them on paper towels instead. I cut one open to tell if it was ready.
The filling smelled heavenly when I mixed it together, but it wound up not being as savoury as I anticipated, so I encourage you to tinker with the recipe to suit your taste. Don’t omit pouring the juice of one lemon over your rolls. The flavours really brighten.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
1 pound ground beef
1/3 cup basmati rice
1 tsp allspice
2 tbsps canola oil, for filling, plus 1 tbsp for cooking
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 cup pine nuts (the recipe says optional, but they are really good, so don’t omit!)
Large leaves of 1 savoy cabbage, removed and rinsed. Reserve remaining cabbage for alternate recipe below.
Juice of one lemon
Filling: Submerge rice in water and soak for thirty minutes. Drain. Mix together beef, rice, allspice, 2 tbsps canola oil, cinnamon, salt, pepper, onion and pine nuts.
Assembly: Plunge cabbage leaves in boiling water, a few at a time, to soften. Drain on paper towels. Cut off tough stems as needed.
Place a leaf down, vein side up. Put a small amount (2- 3 tbsps) filling in center, and roll up, tucking in sides to form a neat bundle. Set aside. Repeat with remaining leaves. Put aside any leftover filling for alternate recipe below.
Pour 1 tbsp oil in large pan, and place rolls tightly packed on top. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, until leaves begin to glisten. Pour lemon juice over top of rolls, and add water in to reach 1/3 of the way up the side of the pan. Weigh down the leaves with a heatproof plate to avoid unravelling, cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn heat down and simmer 40 minutes.
Using slotted spoon, carefully take out each roll and drain on paper towels. Enjoy with dipping sauce of choice or on their own.
Alternate recipe- to use up remaining filling and cabbage:
Chop up all remaining cabbage. In large saucepan, heat 1- 2 tbsps canola oil over medium-high heat. Add 2 chopped cloves of garlic and fry 30 seconds. Add cabbage and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, about 8 minutes or until cabbage begins to caramelize at edges. Taste as you go, it’s yummy. Add remaining filling from above recipe. Season with salt, pepper, and about 3 tbsps honey. Cook, stirring often, until beef has browned, taste and add salt, pepper and honey to your liking. Once you’ve reached the desired yumminess, turn off the heat and enjoy.