CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

Stuffed cabbage rolls are likely a favorite of many who are fans of the cruciferous vegetable of the family Brassicaceae, which also includes cauliflower, kale, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. (The veggies get their name because their four-petaled flowers look like a crucifer, or cross.)

The importance of the Brassica family of foods to our diet cannot be overstated. Cruciferous vegetables contain lots of soluble and insoluble fiber, vitamins C and B9 (folate), potassium, selenium and phytochemicals, which some studies suggest may lower rates of a variety of cancers, including breast, pancreatic, bladder, lungprostate and colon cancer.

Of course, cabbage is one of those vegetables that you either love or hate. A lot of that has to do with our sense of smell or olfaction. Some people detest the smell of cooked cabbage while others relish it. You can count me among the latter.

And that leads me back to stuffed cabbage rolls. We’ll probably being eating a lot of them this fall and winter because of the bumper crop of cabbage we have in our garden. I put 41 plants into the ground this spring, all started indoors back in March. Much of it will go into sauerkraut, which I will start in on the next week or two, but 41 cabbages are well more than are needed for our sauerkraut tastes.

This past week, my first cabbage — a 6-pounder — split, sending me in search of a recipe for unstuffed cabbage rolls, which take much of the time and effort out of the preparation of the classic version, which requires steaming a head to soften the leaves for rolling. That process has become  a little too drawn out for me.

The recipe that caught my eye was from the Evolving Table website. With a just a few minor revisions, the entree was on our dining room table in about 30 minutes, a far cry from the time it would have taken if I had used the a conventional recipe.

I’m looking forward to making the unstuffed cabbage rolls many more times over the next couple of months. So, if you’re planning a visit and can’t stand the smell of cooked cabbage, you better give me a call beforehand.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
2 tablespoons oil, divided
1 small sweet onion finely diced
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 pound ground beef, venison, turkey or bison
7 to 8 cups cabbage, shredded
1 pint or 15½ -ounce can tomatoes, crushed
8 ounces tomato sauce canned
1 cup rice, cooked (white or brown)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1½ teaspoons salt, to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon, oregano, dried
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large skillet along with the diced onion and cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking for 30 seconds, or until it becomes fragrant.

Push onion and garlic to the side and add the ground beef. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the meat is no longer pink. Mash with a potato masher to get fine crumbles and then drain any excess fat.

Push the meat and onions to the side and add in an additional tablespoon of oil along with the cabbage. You may have to add this in batches if your skillet isn’t large enough. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes, adding in more cabbage as you go.

Once the cabbage has softened, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, cooked rice, Worcestershire sauce and remaining seasonings. Stir everything together until well-combined.

Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve immediately with a sprinkle of additional chopped parsley.


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