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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lahana Sarma (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)

Although this is a Turkish dish, you probably can find an equivalent in most cultures. I remember my mom making this growing up, though I think our stuffed cabbage rolls were topped with tomato sauce.

One difference is the use of dill. Dill is a favorite spice in Turkey. I hardly use fresh herbs in cooking, but this is one I'd suggest making the effort for. Dill is so aromatic and flavorful; a little goes a long way.

Lahana Sarma (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)

1 large savoy cabbage
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 small onion, diced
2 tsp chopped dill
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 lb ground lamb
1/2 lb ground beef
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook brown rice as directed on package. Set aside and let cool.

2. Remove outer leaves from the cabbage and submerge the rest of the cabbage for 10 minutes in boiling water. Immediately submerge in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

3. In a large bowl, combine ground meats with onion, dill, tarragon, rice, and salt and pepper. Mix well.

4. Drain cabbage and remove leaves. Flatten the leaves out on a cutting board and remove the tough center ribs. You should have two pieces of cabbage for rolling after doing this.

5. Make small sausage-shapes with the meat mixture and place one on each cabbage leaf. Roll the leaf, folding the ends inside as you work. Place in a large pot and add water; enough to cover cabbage rolls about halfway. Cook on medium until water begins to boil, then turn heat down to a simmer. Cook for approximately 40 minutes, watching to assure that cabbage does not disintegrate. Arrange on a serving dish and serve immediately.

The Verdict: The cabbage rolls end up being a little over two inches long each. It's fun to have a square meal--meat, vegetable and rice--in one little package.
Because I usually use brown rice, I would suggest cooking your rice first if that's your choice as well. This recipe called for soaking the rice for 30 minutes only, which I did, and it didn't cook thoroughly. It might work for white rice, but coarser brown did not.

I would suggest buying a large cabbage so that you have larger leaves to work with. You may not use the entire cabbage, but at least you won't be trying to create cabbage origami with tiny leaves. You can always save the extra cabbage for side dish later in the week. If you find that your cabbage is still raw as you get towards the middle, you may wish to blanch it a second time for a shorter cooking time.

For a different spin, and an extra vegetable, you can top your rolls with a mixture of a can of tomato sauce, a can of diced tomatoes, a tablespoon of sugar and a splash of vinegar. Place the cabbage rolls into a large baking dish, ladle the tomato mixture on the top of each roll, then add water so that it covers the rolls to about halfway up their sides. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 350 degree oven.

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