Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cabbage Rolls
With big fresh heads of bright green cabbage on sale at the market this week, I just had to have an old favorite: stuffed cabbage.

I use the same basic stuffing for cabbage leaves as I do for red peppers , but add a little sweet and savory surprise: raisins and olives. In this case, Italian brine-cured Gaeta olives, finely diced and mixed with my favorite Lundberg mahogany rice, diced celery and diced onion and minced garlic.

My friend, Helen, gave me a jar of the olives. Her mother used them in her stuffing for peppers, but instead of rice, she used bread as a base. Gaeta olives are often dry cured, which makes them very black and wrinkled, or brine cured which leaves them dark purple and smooth skinned, much like a Kalamata olive, which would be a good substitute.

I used the big bright green outer leaves of the head for stuffing. After washing them well in cold water, I let them sit in a wide pan of hot water to soften them. Cutting out the center hard stem makes the leaves easy to work with. Treat the leaf as you would a tortilla for stuffing a burrito. Lay it on a flat surface, put a couple of tablespoons of filling about a third of the way up the leaf (use an amount of filling to match the size of the leaf. Too much filling and it will pop open) then roll up and fold in the sides. Place the roll, seam side down, in a baking dish.

The rolls should cook with some liquid. They can be steamed or simmered on top of the stove, or as I prefer to do it, the lazy man's way, covered and baked in a 350° oven for about an hour.

I like a bit of tomato sauce in the braising liquid. On this occasion, I used a cup of diced tomatoes which had been cooked down with garlic and herbs (leftover pizza topping). I added the cup of tomato sauce to 2 cups of very hot veggie broth and poured that over the stuffed rolls. I had a bit of filling leftover, so as not to waste, I spread that evenly over the rolls before adding the sauce. A can of tomato sauce stretched with veggie broth would do as well, or just broth without the added tomato is fine, too.

This is another easy meal that adapts to what's on hand and is easy to make with a little practice.

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