Friends! It has been too long! I passed the exam I was studying for and slumped into an exhausted, thumb-sucking ball for a month post-test. Lots of celebration, lots of yoga, and one trip to San Fran to see great friends later- I’m back! Back and cooking again. It’s fall in Saint Louis and the change-of-season cooking bug has bitten me again. My favorite bite. I’m so happy to be back in a bit of a routine and I’ll tell you- being back to writing and sharing on a!g feels fantastic. Let’s get cooking.
Sometime in the whirlwind that was the first 3 quarters of 2014, my husband was diagnosed with a severe gluten intolerance (possibly celiac disease… this caused major malnutrition- what the heck! poor guy just wanted some sandwiches!). Most of what I cooked on a daily basis before the diagnosis was gluten free, save for a cake or bread project here or there, but this news has majorly changed what’s coming into and being prepared in our kitchen.
Considering his dietary needs and my hankering as of late for cooked cabbage (all my life, I’ve been waiting to become that small, ethnic grandmother I know I’m supposed to be), I freestyled a pot of the humble golumpki, or, cabbage roll for dinner last night. My version has beef but it can easily be omitted to make a vegan version; you also have a stovetop or crockpot choice to make.
GOLUMPKI (CABBAGE ROLLS)
- I large head cabbage, core removed
- 1/2 lb portobello mushroom caps (increase to 1lb for vegan rolls), chopped fine
- 1 lb high-quality lean ground beef
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 parsnip, shredded
- 1 large carrot or 1 cup baby carrots, shredded
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cup brown rice, uncooked
- 1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- tomato sauce or juice, to taste (2-14.5 oz cans tomato sauce/1 -28 oz can crushed tomatoes OR 1-14.5 oz can tomato sauce and large can tomato juice, see super-serious Note On Tomato Sauce below)
This is a homey meal that comes with a homey preparation: it’s simmered on the stove for 2 hours or can be made in a slow cooker. So, not a top pick for nights when you need a quick meal, but a great pick for easy, warm nights with a glass of red wine to help you cook and some jazz on the radio. Now that you know this and have cleared your calendar, boil a large pot of water and core the cabbage with a large knife. When the water is boiling, remove the pot to a trivet, place the cabbage in the hot water core side-up, and cover. Let this sit for 10-15 minutes while you prep your veggies.
Heat the oil over medium in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot. Make sure it has a lid if you’re not going the slow-cooker route. Veggie prep!! Save yourself some time and shred the carrot and parsnip in a food processor. This is also how I chopped the portobellos. Just pulse, pulse, pulse until you have a small chop. I diced my onion because I love dicing onions, but the onion could absolutely go the food processor route. Mince the garlic and set aside. Add the onion to the oil and sauté, stirring occasionally. Put the thyme, parsnip, carrot, celery, and mushrooms in a large bowl as the onion cooks (keep the garlic set aside).
When the onion is translucent, add the bowl o’ veg. Stir it all up and salt and pepper the mix generously. This mixture will release quite a bit of liquid, so allow the liquid to cook off. It helps to create a well in the middle as the veggies cook- the liquid will gather there and simmer away.
When the liquid is almost all the way gone, splash a bit more olive oil in the well you’ve created and add your garlic, stirring until fragrant.
Remove from heat and stir well. Pour back into the large bowl and let cool for a few minutes… and let’s get back to the cabbage. The cabbage will be soft and pliable now. With tongs, peel off about 15 leaves, one by one.
I cut out the large, tough vein in the leaves, but you don’t have to. Set the leaves aside and mix the ground beef, rice, and tomato paste in with the veggie mixture. Salt and pepper again, and mix a second time. This is your filling! You’re almost ready to leave the kitchen!
Grab the pot you cooked the veggies in OR your crockpot, whichever you’ll be using. Take a cabbage leaf and scoop 1/4-1/3 cup of the filling into the leaf depending on the leaf’s size, rolling the bottom, then sides, and then top down around it. I didn’t photograph this process, but here’s a helpful 20 second video made by someone who did. It’s very easy. Arrange the little bundles snugly in the pot or crockpot. You’ll have 2-3 layers of bundles, depending on the size of your pot.
Now for my Note On Tomato Sauce: allow my trial and error to guide you, grasshopper. I throw myself on the cooking pyre for YOU, for youuuu. Okay, so I poured two cans of tomato sauce and a large can of crushed tomatoes over my cabbage rolls. The combo was too thick and too seasoned, and overpowered the more delicate flavors of the rolls. If you’re a big tomato fan, by all means- go this route. Otherwise, I strongly suggest using one can of tomato sauce (or 2 cups of your favorite jarred or homemade sauce) and pouring in tomato juice or V8 until the mixture reaches the top of the rolls. Up to you. Comme ci, comme ça.
If you’re using a crockpot, cover and set to low for 8 hours. You could refrigerate the crock at this point and start it in the morning, if you’d like. If you’re cooking on a stove top, bring the tomato mixture to a boil and then cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 2 hours. What will you do in those 2 hours? I read about *nothing* in Allure and we watched some DVR’ed triathlon, because we are that cool. So! Kick up your heels…
…and, as on a cooking show, I’m sorry, but your long cooking time has magically elapsed and it’s time to head back into the kitchen. Everything’s easy from here, though: serve. With sour cream, if you’d like, or mashed potatoes on the side. There’s a picture of a pretty roll up top, but you will lay waste to your cabbage rolls and they will look like this: