Although we are still a few weeks away from the fall solstice, summer is usually considered over with the beginning of the school year and the celebration of Labor Day. The weather may remain on the warm side, but our mind-set turns to autumn. Besides back to school, football and the approaching holidays, “what’s for dinner” conjures thoughts of soups, stews and other one-pot dishes. They always serve well during the school year because they are a complete meal requiring only a side salad and bread.
One of my favorites is cabbage rolls. I didn’t grow up with the dish. Although it is a comfort food, it is not typically associated with southern cooking. Cabbage rolls have roots in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia and are often served in Jewish households.
It was in the 1960’s that my mother, Gloria Shouse, clipped a recipe for cabbage rolls from the newspaper. The dish immediately became a favorite of our family. Years later, I re-submitted Mother’s recipe to the “Arlington Citizen Journal” on her behalf. Although I chose a different recipe for my demonstration, the recipe that turned my family on to cabbage rolls is attached.
In spite of getting a bad rap due to its “bouquet” while cooking, cabbage is loved by many and for good reasons. Cabbage has the highest amount of some of the most powerful antioxidants found in cruciferous vegetables. Research has shown these compounds to protect against several types of cancer, including breast, colon, and prostate cancers. They also help lower the LDL or "bad cholesterol" levels in blood, which can build up in arteries and cause heart disease. High in vitamin K, cabbage is a known preventative for Alzheimer’s. Those are a few of the reasons to include cabbage in your diet. Besides cabbage rolls are delicious—often served at special holidays.
Let’s make cabbage rolls.
The recipe that I selected to use today is a very simple, basic recipe with only a few ingredients. There are many recipes for cabbage rolls, some include cinnamon and nutmeg for a sweet and sour version. Once you know how to harvest the leaves and fill and fold them, you can experiment with a variety of fillings.
Here’s what you need:
1 large head cabbage
1 cup quick-cooking rice, cooked and cooled (I used Trader Joe’s prepared rice from the frozen food case.)
1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon salt or to taste. (Remember, canned soup is salty.)
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon caraway seed
Pinch of sweet Hungarian paprika
Dash of garlic powder
1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed tomato soup, undiluted, divided
1/2 cup water
½ cup sour cream
Cook cabbage in boiling water only until leaves become tender. This cooking technique is blanching. Reserve 8-10 large leaves for rolls and set aside remaining cabbage.
The method I chose for removing the leaves was one that I think I may have invented. I carefully snipped with kitchen shears one leave at a time at the core. I removed the leave from the cabbage to a paper towel and snipped another. I don’t know if it is a tried and true method, but it worked for me. I got big “all-in-one-piece” leaves.
In a bowl, combine beef, onion, rice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, paprika, caraway seed, garlic powder and 1/4 cup soup. Put 2 to 3 tablespoons meat mixture on each cabbage leaf. Fold in sides, then fold core end up and remaining end down to completely enclose meat. (Looks sort of like a burrito.) Place each roll seam side down in a Dutch oven that has been sprayed with cooking spray and lined with some leftover cabbage leaves. Combine remaining soup and water; pour over the cabbage rolls. Cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook and simmer on low for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until rolls are tender and meat is cooked thoroughly.
Remove rolls to a serving platter. Add sour cream to sauce. Spoon sauce over rolls and serve immediately. Yield: 4-6 servings.
The cabbage rolls provide a complete meal with no additions. However, many people like to serve them with mashed potatoes or bread and salad. A simple apple crisp would make a perfect ending. Enjoy!