Cheap and Cheerful Dinner: Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
The recipe I'm offering today is comfort food at its best--warming, filling, inexpensive, and incredibly good. The recipe also is super healthy with its emphasis on vegetables as well as protein. In this case, I use ground turkey to stuff the cabbage, but you can substitute ground beef or a mixture of beef and pork, if you'd prefer. Using the microwave to soften the cabbage means the preparation is easier than "in the old days." The cabbage rolls also break with tradition in using a higher mixture of spices--warm, sweet, and savory--than is usual in many stuffed cabbage dishes. Nonetheless, the result is delicious and far more interesting than "old school" recipes. I recommend going back to tradition, though, and serving the cabbage rolls with plenty of mashed potatoes, noodles, or rice to take advantage of the savory-sweet sauce.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls -- Serves 4+
1 head of green cabbage
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup of finely chopped or shredded carrot
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1/4 cup of raisins
1 teaspoon of salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon of pepper, divided
1 cup of soft bread crumbs
1/2 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of caraway seeds
1 pound of lean ground turkey
2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
Microwave the cabbage, covered with a damp paper towel, on a large plate for about 5 minutes or until the outer leaves are soft and pliable. Carefully remove the outer leaves, one-by-one, and set them aside. Repeat the microwaving process (reduce microwaving time to three minutes on the second round) and remove more leaves until you have 12-13 large, intact leaves. Pull off another couple of leaves, chop them fine, and place them in a large microwave-safe bowl (place the remainder of the cabbage aside for another use). Add the onion, garlic, and carrot to the bowl with the cabbage along with a tablespoon of water. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and microwave the veggies for about 5 minutes or until softened. Remove half the vegetables to another bowl and, to the remaining vegetables, add the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, crushed tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar, raisins, and half the salt and pepper. Microwave the tomato sauce mixture for 5 minutes, loosely covered to prevent splatters. Stir the sauce well to ensure the sugar has dissolved and to blend all the ingredients. To the remaining vegetables, add the remaining salt and pepper, bread crumbs, milk, caraway seeds, and ground turkey and mix everything well. You may need to add a little more milk or a little more bread crumbs to ensure the filling isn't too thick or too liquid. It should hold together like a meatball or meatloaf mixture.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and coat a large baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Taking a cabbage leaf, cut along both sides of the rib at the base of the leaf, making a V-shaped cut about half an inch up the leaf and removing and discarding the tough rib portion. Overlap the cut ends of the cabbage leaf and place a couple of spoonfuls of turkey filling in the middle of the leaf. Fold the bottom of the leaf over the filling, then the sides, then the other end. Place the filled cabbage leaf in the prepared baking dish and repeat the process with the remaining leaves and filling. Pour the sauce over the cabbage leaves and cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake the cabbage rolls for 45 minutes, remove the foil, and sprinkle on the cheese. Bake the rolls for 15-20 minutes more or until the sauce has thickened and the cabbage can easily be pierced with a fork. Let the rolls cool a few minutes before serving them.