With all the cold, damp, rainy or snowy weather we have been experiencing lately in the Carolinas, I have gone back to my roots to re-discover some “stick to the ribs” meals I grew up with as a child in Cleveland.
My ethnic background is Italian (actually Sicilian on my mother’s side) and Hungarian on my dad’s side.
Italian cooking comes naturally to me – it’s almost effortless for me to throw together a delicious pasta, risotto, or soup with whatever I have on hand.
On the other hand, Hungarian cooking requires a lot of thought and work to adapt its meat-intensive recipes to my meatless orientation. The Hungarian dishes I remember from my childhood all relied on beef, pork, veal, or chicken laden with sour cream. Not exactly a recipe for a heart-healthy diet! (Which is why my dear dad left this planet at the untimely age of 47.)
I searched the internet in vain to find someone else who had tried to make real Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage using plant-based protein. I found plenty of recipes for “hippy” stuffed cabbage (using combinations like barley and mushrooms or rice, nuts, and raisins) – most of which I’ve made before.
But I found no Hungarian stuffed cabbage that used plant-based stand-ins for the beef or pork based meal I remember from my youth.
I consulted my grandmother’s Hungarian cookbook from the ladies group in her church, and talked with both my mom and my wonderful cousin, Kathy Kovach, before I began cooking. My dear cousin Kathy was such a big help.
While I didn’t remember my grandmother’s stuffed cabbage as well as Kathy did, she gave me some great tips.
Hungarian stuffed cabbage is supposed to be made with uncooked white rice – which seems odd, but which cooks completely when stuffed in the cabbage roll as it cooks in the fat from the ground beef and/or pork and the tomato juice and water or stock in which everything simmers. Since my Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef Beefy Crumbles meat analogue was not going to have much fat (except for the minimal amount of extra virgin olive oil in which I sautéed it), I opted for partially cooked brown rice – which I think worked extremely well – and gave my recipe a lot more fiber.
My version may have more tomato than my grandmother’s and a little less sauerkraut – but my hubby and I both thought it was delicious, filling, and definitely stuck to our ribs!
- 1 cup organic long grain brown rice
- 1 medium head green organic cabbage, trimmed to remove outside leaves and cored
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ large onion, minced (about 1 cup)
- 1 11 ounce package Beyond Meat Beef-Free Crumbles, Beefy style (frozen or partially thawed)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 18 oz Muir Glen Organic diced tomatoes
- 18 oz jar Wildbrine dill & garlic sauerkraut (or arame & ginger sauerkraut salad which is what I had on hand and which was fabulous)
- 1 Not-Beef cube (or 1 teaspoon of Better Than Boullion Vegetarian No Beef Base) dissolved in 1½ cups of hot water
- 1 cup of Follow Your Heart Vegan Sour Cream (or 1 cup of Organic Valley Dairy Sour Cream, if you don't want the dish to be vegan)
- Cook 1 cup of brown rice in about 2 cups of water for about 40 minutes, so that it is 10-15 minutes shy of being thoroughly cooked.
- Fill a large pasta pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the apple cider vinegar, bay leaves, and sea salt.
- Add the whole head of cabbage, and cook for about 7-10 minutes. Drain in a colander and let the cabbage cool.
- When the cabbage is cool, begin removing the leaves, one at a time. Cut away the tough rib down the center of each leaf with a sharp paring knife, and set aside until you have at least 12-16 leaves.
- Heat a large skillet and add the olive oil. (My grandmother's recipe would have used lard!)
- Saute the onion for 5 minutes and then add the Beyond Meat Beef-Free Crumbles. Saute for 5-7 minutes or so until done (depending on whether they are frozen or partially thawed.)
- Season with paprika, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix in 1 cup of the partially cooked brown rice. (So if you started with 1 cup of uncooked rice, you will now have 2 cups of partially cooked brown rice - you want to mix only half of that into the beefy crumbles mixture and use the other cup for another purpose.)
- Lay out each prepared cabbage leaf on a plate, and put no more than 2 tablespoons of the ground beefy crumbles/rice mixture at the base of the leaf. Fold it over once, and then fold in the sides before rolling it up into a lovely stuffed cabbage roll. You're going to be putting these rolls side by side in the slow cooker seam side down, but feel free to secure the roll with a toothpick if needed.
- Put half of the diced tomatoes in the bottom of the slow cooker. Begin putting your completed cabbage rolls seam side down in over the tomatoes as you complete them. You should be able to get two rows of 6-8 cabbage rolls going lengthwise down your slow cooker, depending on its size.
- Cover the cabbage rolls with the remaining diced tomatoes, then the sauerkraut, and pour on the diluted "beefy broth".
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce heat to low and cook for at least 4 hours.
- Five minutes before you're ready to serve, add vegan sour cream or sour cream on top of the rolls for the last five minutes. Feel free to add more at the table.