Root Vegetable Stuffed Cabbage with Mushroom Tomato Sauce

This year has been tumultuous at best. This is a blog about food, so I don’t want to get too political or specific, but the tension is palpable and it is very close to home. During a time of year that is supposed to be peaceful, the weight of racial tension, acts of terrorism, and of a neighborhood, a city, a state, a country, a world divided, feels heavier and more frustrating than usual.

What drew me to food as a career was the way it can bring people together. Family dinner was a nightly affair at my house growing up. Arguments were started and resolved, the events of the day were discussed. We got to know each other better as we grew as individuals and as a family. At thirteen, cooking these dinners became my primary chore – requested because I loathed cleaning up afterwards.

I make jokes about preferring the back of house because of my distaste for customer service, but feeding people is my way of connecting and sharing, of telling a story and drawing someone into my universe. Feeding someone is, at the most human level, an act of compassion. You are appealing to a person’s basest instincts, nourishing their physical body, more often than not their metaphysical body as well, and creating (or recreating) a sense memory.

Here, it is a plea: to slow down, to be more thoughtful, to make more time to connect with those around you whether they are strangers or neighbors, close friends or family. Open a door for someone who has their hands full or help a new mom carry her stroller up the subway steps. It won’t take anything out of your day, but it might add something to theirs.

Stuffed Cabbage Root Vegetable Stuffed Cabbage with Mushroom Tomato Sauce
This recipe is vegetarian and can easily be made vegan – just swap the butter and cream for olive oil & vegetable stock and substitute nutritional yeast for the parmesan.

12 savoy or napa cabbage leaves, thicker stems removed, steamed

For the Sauce:
1 large leek, whites & greens, thinly sliced & thoroughly cleaned
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
12 oz. white button mushrooms, quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
1- 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf zest of
1 orange
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 glug red wine (roughly a 1/4 cup)
pinch of cayenne
salt + pepper to taste

For the Filling:
about 4 cups total of diced root vegetables – I used potatoes, turnips, & sunchokes
1/2 cup heavy cream or whole milk
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, finely minced or grated
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 egg, whisked
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, washed, picked, & chopped

Sour cream to top, if desired

To make the sauce:
In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the leek, celery, carrot, & mushroom in some olive oil until semi-soft and very fragrant, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cayenne, and season with salt + pepper. Cook until garlic becomes fragrant, about a minute. Add red wine and stir to scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes, herbs, zest, & cinnamon stick. Bring to a simmer and cover while you prepare the filling.

To make the filling:
Bring a pot of well salted water to a boil & add root vegetables. Cook until root vegetables are fork-tender and drain. Return veg to pot with butter & cream or milk. Mash until pretty smooth and most of the lumps are gone. Add breadcrumbs, garlic, lemon zest, parmesan, & parsley, whisking to combine.

To serve:
Heat the oven to 350F. On a clean surface lay one steamed cabbage leaf with the longest side facing you and top with 2-3 tablespoons of filling. Fold the shorter ends over the filling, then roll the long side up so you have a burrito-like cabbage roll. Place in casserole dish. Repeat with remaining cabbage & filling until the pan is full. Top with sour cream & freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Serve with more sour cream if you like, or a side of cranberry sauce (it was delicious with cranberry sauce).

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