Monday, April 03, 2006


(can be wheat-free)

I’m sure that all of us have had our share of tasteless vegetarian cabbage rolls filled with unadorned rice, cooked until soggy. I think that this is because carnivorous cooks don’t think vegetarians like flavor, so they just leave out the meat, bacon fat, etc., that give the rice flavor, and don’t substitute anything else! Here’ s my “meaty” vegetarian cabbage rolls—always well-received. I also offer you a different way of softening the cabbage leaves—no cooking required, just a little thinking ahead!

By the way, you can freeze the filled, uncooked cabbage rolls, so it pays to make lots. Thaw them out before cooking them . (There’s a microwave option below for cooking half the recipe at a time.)

1 large head of green cabbage

4 c. leftover cooked brown rice (OR use other cooked whole grains, such as quinoa, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, millet, etc.)
3 c. vegetarian “hamburger crumbles, or browned crumbled vegetarian “sausage”
1 T. roasted (Asian) sesame oil
2 medium onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. soy “bacon” chips (I like ClubHouse brand) or bits
OR 1/2 c. chopped vegetarian “Canadian back bacon” or “ham”
1 T. vegetarian worcestershire sauce OR 2 T. Lea and Perrins Steak Sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly-ground black pepper to taste
OPTIONAL: some chopped sauteed mushrooms
1 tsp. dried thyme

3 c. water
1 (5-6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 T. unbleached sugar, white beet sugar, Sucanat or brown sugar, or maple syrup
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt

3 DAYS BEFORE MAKING THE CABBAGE ROLLS: Place the cabbage (any unsightly outer leaves removed) in a plastic bag. Fasten shut and freeze the cabbage for at least two days.

1 DAY BEFORE MAKING THE CABBAGE ROLLS: Thaw the head of cabbage out.
After the cabbage has thawed, the leaves will be wilted and it should be fairly easy to separate them. I usually cut them from te stem one-by-one with a sharp knife and carefully peel off. It’s okay if they tear a little. Select 20-24 of the nicest leaves. (The rest can be used in soup.) If any of the leaves have a large ridge at the bottom, you can trim that even with the rest of the leaf, or cut it out.

TO MAKE THE CABBAGE ROLLS: Give yourself an hour to make them (not counting cooking the rice). They take two hours to cook, but during that time you are free to go about your business.

Before you start, cook the brown rice, if you haven’t already. Rehydrate the textured soy protein if you are using that instead of “crumbles”.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onions and garlic until the onions soften and brown a little.

In a large bowl, mix the rice, the “crumbles”, the sauteed onions and garlic, the “bacon”, Worcestershire or steak sauce, any Optionals you might be using, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

TO FILL THE CABBAGE ROLLS: Place each cabbage leaf on your work surface with the inside curve facing up, the stem end down towards you. Place a scoop of the filling in the center, towards the bottom of the leaf. Since the leaves will be of different sizes, there is no one measure for the amount of filling you will need. Fill it generously, packing it together, but not so generously that it spills out the sides when you roll them up. This will take a little experimenting on your part. If you have cut out the stem ridge from any of the leaves, pull the cut ends together before filling. Roll te filled leaf away from you toward the center. Fold in the sides (envelope-style) and then continue rolling up. Some people like to secure these with cocktail toothpicks, but I never do this.

Place the rolls, seam-side-down, in a large oiled baking dish or pan. Mix the Sauce ingredients together with a whisk and pour it over the cabbage rolls. Cover the pan and bake for 2 hours. Serve with commercial or homemade (see below) tofu sour crème.

MICROWAVE OPTION: For HALF THE RECIPE, you can microwave the rolls WITHOUT the sauce (in a microwave–safe baking dish, covered) for 9 minutes on HIGH. Make the sauce with HALF AS MUCH water (and use only half of the sauce, since you are cooking only half of the recipe). After the first 9 minutes of cooking, add the sauce, cover and cook 9 more minutes on HIGH.


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