I generally think of stuffed cabbage as a hearty winter meal, and I don't cook much cabbage anyway, in the summer. The idea is to keep to the fresh vegs that are only good in the warm weather, and save the cabbages, winter squash, turnips and the like for the winter, when the tomatoes are pathetic, and the corn on the cob is no good. These solid citizens have something of the seasonal treat about them, when they are saved for the cold months.
But I have been getting gorgeous cabbages in my farmbox, and much as I love coleslaw, there is a limit. Most stuffed cabbage recipes have hearty meat-based fillings, but this one is lighter, being entirely vegetarian. It is stuffed with rice, wild mushrooms and fresh herbs. With a lightweight noodle kugel, made with some of the first local apples, it makes a tasty and seasonal complete supper. A sturdier, winter version of the cabbage can be made by substituting barley or kasha for the rice. The kugel can bulk up with the addition of some farmer's or ricotta cheese. Both of the warm weather dishes can be eaten hot, or at room temperature. The cabbage is made on top of the stove and in a slow cooker- so you needn't turn on the oven. The rolls can be dipped into yoghurt, or sour cream, if you like. I do.
These guys don't look awfully pretty in their picture, but they are somehow very appealing in person, and the cabbage smells great. I made them- both loosely adapted from Anya van Bremzen's Please to the Table, using the fat red cabbage and hard little early season apples I found in my farmbox this week. If you decide to try the cabbage, know you can make it in steps-stopping at each stage, and refrigerating the components until you are ready to continute. Furthermore, it reheats, and even freezes well, and though it is peasant fare, it is definitely festive enough for party food. This is how I made the cabbage:
1/2 oz. dried mushrooms, pref morels
12 oz white mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
2 cups water
1/4 cup flour
a red cabbage
2 large onions, chopped
large (22oz) can San Marzano tomatoes
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth , boxed or homemade (can also be made with a good beef or chicken broth)
1/2 cup flour
other fresh herbs of choice (I used fresh oregano)
Soak the mushrooms in the water. Strain the soaking liquid through a coffee filter. Cook the rice in the soaking liquid, until just done-about 15 minutes, adding additional liquid if necessary. Meanwhile slice the mushrooms, reconstituted and fresh, and cook them in some oil with the onions until the onions are transparent and just starting to brown. Remove from heat and combine with the rice and dill, and let the mixture cool. Don't wash the mushroom pot yet.
Bring a large pot of water (with a pasta strainer insert) to the boil and plunk in the cabbage. As the outer leaves begin to soften, pull out the cabbage. Leave the water boiling, and carefully remove the outer leaves-keeping them whole. Repeat until you have enough leaves. You will need about 14 leaves in all- and will have cabbage left over-pretty much uncooked, to make something else. Remove the bulky vein in the leaves with a sharp knife.
Now, fill the leaves. Place a few spoonsful of filling near the bottom part of the leaf, where it will fit in the natural curl. Fold in sides and roll up. Set on a cookie sheet. If you have not cooked the cabbage sufficiently, the rolls may be inclined to open. If so, just tie them up with a bit of kitchen string, which you can remove before serving. It is important that the rolls stay closed, as you are going to brown them.
Heat some more oil in the mushroom pan, dip each cabbage packet in flour, and brown briefly on both sides. Don't be tempted to skip this step, the sauce is super good when you do it, and boring when you don't. Really. As you finish browning each roll, set it neatly in a slow cooker, preferably one with an earthenware insert, in which the cabbage can be reheated. When all the rolls have been stacked in the cooker, add the tomatoes and broth to the browning pan. Bring to a boil and scrape off all the good browned on bits from the pan with a big wooden spoon. Pour over the cabbage in the slow cooker, add fresh herbs of choice, and cook on low all night-up to 12 hours, until everything is soft and smells heavenly. Reheat when ready to eat-it's best the next day.
The lightweight summer kugel has 2 cups of noodles, 3 eggs, 5 grated apples, sugar, cinnamon, bread crumbs, raisins (entirely optional, all you raisin-haters-you could even substitute a few chopped dates, eh?), lemon juice, and a bit of melted butter on top. Unlike the cabbage, it was made in the oven-375F, for 50 minutes. I ran the oven against the air-conditioner-wicked-I know. You could always have something else with your cabbage, if you are virtuous, and/or do not have a/c.
We had these two with my first assortment of farm and home tomatoes, with basil and pepper. And we had some of the basketball-sized seedless watermelon from the farmbox for dessert. I made extra cabbage, and froze some.