I was always intimidated by cabbage rolls.
I first had them as a kid at my German friend’s house. I was one of those annoying picky eaters when I was a kid. Actually I take that back, I WAS a picky eater until I went to Girl Guide camp one summer, where they actually try to make a man out you!!
It was a traumatic event. It was 10 years old, my first time away from home, deep in the woods, living in tents, with 15 year olds in charge of us and it rained the entire time! The food was frightful and sparse, luckily we didn’t have to kill it ourselves. It was a turning point in my life, I was never a picky eater after that! In fact that’s probably where my tendency to over eat began, because after that camp experience every meal felt like it could be my last!
But I digress. Back to the cabbage rolls that I had at my friend’s house. Normally I would have never eaten something so exotic in those days, but my friend’s mom’s cabbage rolls were the best!
Here is my version.
First you need to boil up a big pot of water. Then cut the core out of a medium size green cabbage.
Core a green cabbage
Then when the water is boiling, or even just about there, toss in the cabbage. Well, be careful cause boiling water can burn, but you know what I mean.
Cabbage in the pot
It won’t take long for the leaves to let go. So keep poking at it with a wooden spoon and the leaves will come loose. As they do, fish them out with some tongs and put them in a bowl of very cold, or ice water so it will stop the cooking and they will keep their shape and not get too soggy.
Cooling down the cabbage leaves
Meanwhile, or before you start boiling your cabbage, you will want to make your filling.
There are various “traditional cabbage roll” fillings so feel free to use the one of your choice but this is what I used.
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- 1 pound bulk spicy Italian sausage
- the left over smaller leaves of the cabbage once large leaves are removed, finely chopped
- 1 tsp smokey paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 pinch salt
- a few twists ground pepper
Mix well. I find the best way is to just get in there with your hands and squish it together.
Cabbage roll filling
Now it is very easy to make Vegan or Vegetarian versions of these by replacing the meat with extra rice and some sautéed vegetables like mushrooms, zucchini, carrots or combinations of these, as well as some cooked brown lentils for example.
Now you are ready to assemble.
Place a cabbage leaf on your work area:
Now if the bottom of the ridge or vein of the cabbage is too tough you can make small slits and remove the hard part to make the leaf easier to roll, but this one was just right.
Add the filling:
Filling on cabbage leaf
Then fold in the sides and roll up into a nice package with seam side down.
Then place into a lightly oiled baking dish in a single layer.
Cabbage rolls in baking dish
Then top with the tomato sauce of your choice.
Cabbage rolls in tomato sauce
At this point you could sprinkle with breadcrumbs, or some grated cheese or if you really wanted to be decadent, a little bit of brown sugar! But on this occasion, I left them o natural!
Place is a 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes till they get all bubbly.
They are just fine all by themselves or you could add some salad and bread to round out the meal.
Cabbage rolls in tomato sauce