I love my mom’s abundance of cookbooks.
She has your regular cookbooks (ex. the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, a crockpot cookbook, a Christmas food cookbook, etc.), some not so regular cookbooks (an Indian food cookbook, a Vegetarian food cookbook, etc.), and then some completely random cookbooks (a cookbook with traditional recipes from Somerset England, a Betty Crocker cookbook published in 1950, etc.).
I love the random cookbooks. They have such interesting recipes in them. Especially vintage cookbooks. One cookbook I recently found, and cooked from, was a cookbook created by the women of a Greek Orthadox church. I think my mom bought it years ago at a Greek Festival in Oklahoma. A lot of the recipes sound delicious, but I decided to start out with making cabbage rolls.
I’ve made cabbage rolls before, although I don’t make them that often, as they do take quite a bit of time to make. They’re a fun dish to make once in a while though, and they’re great for dinner parties or potlucks.
I think it’s interesting how so many different countries and cultures have their own cabbage roll recipe. Even Japan has their own cabbage rolls recipe, which I’ve made before, however, this was my first time to make Greek/Mediterranean cabbage rolls. I altered the recipe to suit my own tastes and to make it healthier, as I often do, and I was not disappointed! These cabbage rolls were fabulous! If you’ve never had Greek cabbage rolls, give these a go.
First, cook 1 1/2 cups of brown rice (or use white rice if you want) according to the package instructions. Meanwhile, brown a pound of ground meat of your choice, then drain off the fat. Beef and lamb are both great, but I used ground turkey as a healthier alternative.
When the rice and meat are both done, mix them together in a large bowl along with 1 cup of sliced almonds (toasted), 1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. allspice, and season with salt to taste. At this point, you can serve the filling (called Hashwa) as it is, or continue to make cabbage rolls. Both options are delicious. Just sayin’.
Cut the cores out of two heads of cabbage. Heat a large pot of water with a good dash of salt on to boil. When boiling, add one of the heads of cabbage. Carefully peel off the outer leaves of cabbage as they soften and come away from the head. Remove them from the pot and place them on a plate or baking sheet to cool. Continue doing this until you only have the tiny inner leaves left (keep these small leaves), and then repeat with the second head.
When the cabbage leaves have cooled enough to handle, slice off the heavy ribs near the base of the leaves. Don’t cut it off too high, or it will make it difficult to roll the cabbage leaves. Place the sliced off ribs in a layer in the bottom of a large pot.
To roll the cabbage leaves, place a single leaf on a plate. Place about 2 tablespoons of the filling above the cut out part of the leaf (note: I actually cut this leaf a little too high, which made it kind of hard to roll. You want to cut the rib out a little less high than this one).
Fold over either side of the leaf to cover the filling.
Fold the outer sides in towards the middle of the roll. Roll the bottom part of leaf (with the filling in it) upwards, tucking in the sides as you go along so they don’t stick out farther than the filling-stuffed part of the roll (just like you would roll a burrito). Stop when the seam is on the bottom of the roll. Gently press the roll a little (seam side down) so that the roll will stay sealed.
Place the rolls, seam side down, in the pot on top of the layer of sliced ribs. Once you’ve laid down one layer of cabbage rolls, begin a new layer on top of it.
Once you’ve added all the rolls to the pot, pour in enough water so that the top layer of roll are about half to 3/4 of the way covered with water. Add 4 cloves minced garlic and 1/2 tsp. salt. Place the leftover cabbage leaves (those little ones you saved) on top of the cabbage rolls in a layer, and place an inverted plate on top of that. Put on high heat until the water comes to a rolling boil, then reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice in the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Turn off the heat, remove the plate, and let the rolls rest for about 5 – 10 minutes before removing the layer of cabbage leaves. Carefully drain the water remaining in the pot, and remove the cabbage rolls to a serving plate.
Greek Cabbage Rolls
(serves 8 – 10)
- 1 lb. ground meat
- 1 1/2 c. uncooked rice
- 1 c. sliced almonds, toasted
- 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. allspice
- 2 heads cabbage
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
- Cook rice according to package instructions.
- Meanwhile, cook ground meat in a skillet until browned. Drain fat, and add to a large bowl along with the rice.
- Add butter, almonds, cinnamon, and allspice, and mix well. Season with salt to taste.
- Cut out the cores of the cabbage heads. Put a large pot of water with a good dash of salt in it on to boil. Once boiling, add one head of cabbage. Carefully peel off the outer leaves as they soften and come away from the head. Remove them to a place or baking sheet to cool. Continue until only the tiny inner leaves are remaining (keep these). Repeat with the second cabbage head.
- Once the leaves have cooled enough to handle, slice off the heavy ribs near the base. Place the ribs in the bottom of a large pot in a layer. One at a time, place about 2 Tbsp. of filling on the center of a cabbage leaf. Fold in the sides over the filling, and roll the leaf up until the seam is on the bottom. Press gently to seal the roll, and place in the pot in a layer on top of the cabbage ribs. Continue until you run out of filling or cabbage leaves.
- Add enough water to pot so that top layer of cabbage rolls is half to 3/4 covered by water. Add minced garlic and 1/2 tsp. of salt to the water. Place leftover cabbage leaves over rolls in a layer. On top of that, place an inverted plate. Put on high heat until water comes to a rolling boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. In the last 15 minutes of cooking add lemon juice.
- Remove from heat, remove place, and let cabbage rolls rest for 5 – 10 minutes. Remove top layer of cabbage leaves, drain any remaining water, and carefully remove rolls to a serving plate. Serve.