Sadly, aside from Peter Rabbit, the rest of my family is really not completely in love with cabbage. Sometimes call the workhorse of the winter kitchen; cabbage is one of the few green vegetables that can be stored from harvest in the fall until spring in my root cellar.
The first cabbages were brought to the United States by the French explorer Jacques Cartier on his ocean crossing in 1541- 42. An excellent source of Vitamins K and C, cabbage is an especially important seasonal, local, New England winter food, as the tightly packed heads with overlapping leaves grow better than lettuces in colder weather.
While cabbage is the backbone of winter salads, this hearty green is also delicious when cooked. The leaves melt into sweet tenderness when prepared slowly in braises, stir-fries and soups. The outer leaves, once removed from the head, make excellent wrappers for stuffings filled with savory vegetables and meats.
The inspiration for Vegetable Stuffed Cabbage Bundles came to me from a 2005 Gourmet magazine. While some folks surf the web for recipes, I still enjoy leafing through old books and magazines for more dated recipes and menu ideas.
In this preparation, the cabbage is cored, then dropped into a pot of boiling water to soften the outermost leaves, which are then stuffed with a savory filling of mashed potato, and sautéed vegetables. Delicious and satisfying enough for a vegetarian entrée, the stuffed leaves, or bundles, may also be prepped in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Come mealtime, pop the pan in the oven while the meat component is cooking.
Like many recipes, this formula is merely a guide. If you’re not feeding vegetarians, try cooking the stuffing vegetables in bacon fat. Chop some ham or cooked bacon and add it to the mix. Prepare extra mashed potato, and vary the vegetables to include leeks, sweet bell peppers, or parsnips.
An important food during the Dark Ages, cabbage is abundant in both peasant and wealthy cuisines. Food historians credit stuffed cabbage with German cuisine, but these bundles, prevalent also in Asian, African and European cuisines, can also be steamed or simmered in a tasty broth. There are few vegetables that grow so robustly and look so abundant. Take a tip from Peter Rabbit and enjoy your cabbage.
VEGETABLE STUFFED CABBAGE BUNDLES
- 1 head leafy green cabbage about 2 – 3 pounds
- 1 cup chopped onion
- ½ cup grated carrot
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups mashed potato
- ½ cup yogurt
- 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese about 3 ounces
- 2 tablespoons bottled horseradish
- 2 scallions or green onions chopped (optional)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¾ cup breadcrumbs
- Sea salt and fresh pepper
- Assemble ingredients and tools. Bring a 6 – 8 quart pot of salted water to a boil. If planning to bake cabbage bundles immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Remove the damaged or dirty outer leaves from the cabbage. Core the cabbage.
- Carefully lower the cabbage into the boiling water.
- As the cabbage starts to cook, remove the outer leaves with tongs, until you have 6 blanched cabbage leaves. Set aside.
- Cook the remaining cabbage until just tender. Remove from heat to a colander and drain. Coarsely chop enough cooked cabbage to measure 2 cups.
- Heat some olive oil in a skillet and then add the chopped onions. Cook until they start to soften, and add cabbage. Then add carrots and garlic. Stir and cook until the mixture is soft and golden. Season the vegetables with sea salt and fresh pepper. Remove mixture to a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the skillet.
- In a saucepan, if necessary, slightly warm the mashed potato. Add the yogurt and horseradish, mashing well. Then stir in the grated Cheddar cheese. If needed, add a bit of heat under the pot to melt the cheese. Stir in the scallions and season with sea salt and fresh pepper. Set aside.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the cleaned skillet; add the breadcrumbs, and cook, stirring frequently, until golden.
To assemble cabbage bundles:
- Fill each leaf with about ½ cup mashed potato.
- Divide the vegetable mixture between the leaves.
- Then cover with the remaining mashed potato.
- Sprinkle the crumbs on top.
- Secure the bundles with toothpicks.
- Bake the bundles in a preheated 375 - degree oven until heated through (165 degrees) and the edges are browned, about 20 - 25 minutes.