I like to go on and on about my coworkers because they really are wonderful people. The occasional bad day at work is always mitigated by their warmth, friendliness and humour.
The fact that many of them are fabulous cooks and bakers also helps.
One particular coworker is dear to my heart (for many reasons) because of the wonderful stories she has of growing up in a close-knit family where food was at the heart of it all.
On one occasion, we happened to be talking about food traditions and she mentioned her mother’s cabbage rolls.
I am somewhat of a cabbage roll fiend in that I love them and love to hear about them. Strangely, though, we rarely make them in my family. My grandmother would make them from time to time but it’s not a dish in my mother’s repertoire and for some reason, I’ve just never stepped up to the plate (no pun intended) and tried them myself.
Well one thing led to another and before you know it my coworker and I had booked a day for me to travel to her home where she would enlighten me with her family’s recipe for cabbage rolls.
At this point, I feel that I should have paragraphs to share with you about the glory of cabbage rolls and what a life-changing event this was but the fact of the matter is that it was an enjoyable day spent with a lovely friend making comforting cabbage rolls. And that’s about it. I could say more, but that would be like adding too much filling to a cabbage roll: unnecessary.
Instead, I give you a photo journal of the process.
Cabbage Rolls 101
We started off by gathering all the ingredients, which included cabbage, rice, butter, cooked ground meat, onions and eggs (hard to see in the picture but they’re there).
We got to work by adding the eggs to the cooled filling mixture and onions.
In goes the uncooked rice.
With our filling done, we got to work by carefully coring the cabbage.
The cabbage then took a dip in a pot of simmering water.
As the leaves began to soften, we gently separated them from the core.
The separated leaves were transferred to a baking tray to cool and drain.
We carefully removed the top of the thick stem at the base of the cabbage leaves (the part attached to the core.)
We began filling the rolls by placing some of the filling in the top part of the cabbage leaf.
The roll begins by first rolling the uppermost part of the leaf over the filling.
After completing a roll the edges of the leaf are tucked in.
The end result is a tightly rolled, neat looking cabbage roll that’s placed in a baking dish to wait for all its little friends.
All our rolls in a row!
We topped the rolls with tomato sauce and seasoning.
Our rolls went into the oven (covered with foil wrap), where the liquid was absorbed until the rolls were nice and tender and ready to be served.
I want to extend the warmest of thanks to my dear friend and coworker and by extension her mom and sisters who offered much advice and many tips!
Recipe courtesy of a dear coworker.
Makes between 36 and 40 cabbage rolls.
1 lb ground beef
Â½ lb ground veal
Â½ lb ground pork
salt and pepper to taste
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large eggs
Â½ cup long grain rice, uncooked
1 to 2 small heads green cabbage (depending on how many cabbage rolls you want to make)
1 16 oz can crushed tomatoes
water (if the tomatoes are not enough to cover your rolls, you can add water)
Â½ tsp. oregano*
*You can use oregano, basil, paprika, chili pepper or any other spices that you like in the quantity you like.
1. In a large sautÃ© pan, cook the meat over medium heat until browned (there should be no pink visible in the meat). Season the meat with salt and pepper to taste. Drain the meat (it release some juice during cooking) and place in a large bowl to cool slightly.
2. Wipe out the sautÃ© pan and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Cook the onions on low heat until they are soft and translucent. Let the onions cool and then add to the cooked meat.
3. Add the minced garlic, eggs, uncooked rice and any spices that youâ€™re using to the meat and onion mixture. Mix thoroughly and set aside to cool.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two baking dishes (13 x 9-inch or whatever size you have).
5. In a large pot, bring a few inches of water to a boil.
6. Core the cabbage as best you can, being careful not to damage the leaves.
7. Carefully place the cored cabbage in the boiling water. Let the cabbage sit in the boiling water for a few minutes and then, using a sharp knife and a set of tongs, gently cut away each leaf and let it fall in the water as you cut it from the core. (The consistency of the cabbage shouldnâ€™t be too soft or too stiff, but somewhere in between so that you can easily roll the leaves when stuffing them).
8. Once the leaves fall into the water, remove them to a large cookie sheet lined with paper towel to drain.
9. When cabbage has cooled slightly, take a paring knife and remove the thick spine on each cabbage leaf (this is the part of the cabbage leaf that was attached to the core).
10. Place the cabbage leaf flat on a plate or on the counter and put approximately one tablespoon of the meat filling in the centre of the leaf leaf and roll once, forming a tight fold over the filling. Tuck in the sides and then roll the leaf the rest of the way. Place seam side down in a baking dish (we used two 9 x 13-inch pyrex baking dishes).
11. Once all of the rolls have been formed and placed in the dish, cover with the crushed tomatoes and sprinkle on the spices of your choice and bake at 350 degrees F. for approximately 30 minutes. The cabbage rolls are done once most of the liquid has been absorbed and they feel soft when pierced with a fork.
12. Let the cabbage rolls cool slightly before serving.