Every St. Patrick’s Day I fall prey to the temptation to make corned beef and cabbage and, no matter how carefully I pick the corned beef, eyeing it for evidence of fat, I am always queasy afterwards, because no matter how many times I drain the boiling liquid, corned beef and cabbage just isn’t kind to me. So this year I decided no corned beef boiling in the kitchen. I bought a small package of deli corned beef – the kind where 2 slices = 2.5 grams of fat – and had a corned beef sandwich for lunch. But I still had purchased the cabbage, because they are at a very good price around St. Patrick’s Day. I wanted to make something a little different.
Now my dear mother used to make wonderful stuffed cabbage, sweet and sour and beef-filled. And I plan to make it one day with buffalo to show you all the recipe she was famous for and which was one of my favorite childhood foods. But this is not mother’s stuffed cabbage. It is a very tasty vegetarian stuffed cabbage that originally came from Cooking Light. Strangely, once I cooked it, it had some of the same flavor as my mother’s cabbage rolls, although the ingredients are quite different.
Barley-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Pine Nuts and Currants
1 large head of green cabbage, cored and with any damaged outer leaves removed
1 teaspoon olive oil
1½ cups finely chopped onion
3 cups cooked pearl barley
¾ cup (3 ounces) crumbled non-fat feta cheese
½ cup dried currants
2 Tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or one Tablespoon dried parley)
½ teaspoon salt, divided
¼ teaspoon black pepper, divided
½ cup apple juice
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained
Steam cabbage head 8 minutes; cool slightly. (See note below.) Remove 16 outer leaves from cabbage head; use remaining cabbage for another purpose. Cut off raised portion of the center vein of each cabbage leaf (do not cut out vein, you want the leaf whole); set trimmed cabbage leaves aside.
(The pink background is one of my plastic mats that I use to cover my kitchen counter.)
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cover and cook 6 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat; stir in barley and next 4 ingredients (through parsley). Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
Place cabbage leaves on a flat surface; spoon about 1/3 cup barley mixture into center of each cabbage leaf.
Fold in edges of leaves over barley mixture and roll up.
Arrange cabbage rolls in the bottom of a 5-quart electric slow cooker.
In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper, apple juice, vinegar, and tomatoes; pour evenly over cabbage rolls. Cover and cook on high 2 hours or until thoroughly heated. Makes 4 servings (4 rolls are one serving) at 6 grams of fat/serving.
I actually could have made at least six more rolls with the filling, so either I was not stuffing them enough, or my leaves weren’t big enough. I took the extra filling for lunch. Also, I used a can of diced tomatoes because that was what I had in the house – but crushed tomatoes (or diced tomatoes that were chopped in the food processor) would have made a smoother sauce.
NOTE: I did not like this way of separating the cabbage leaves. The outside leaves were soft enough, but as you got to the inside, they were harder and thus more difficult to fill and roll. I suppose you could stick the cabbage back in the steamer for a bit after you reached the harder leaves. My mother didn’t have a steamer, so she immersed the cabbage in boiling water for a bit, then took it out and sliced off the soft leaves at the bottom (she didn’t core it). Then she put the cabbage back in the boiling water and repeated until she had all the leaves she needed. This seemed to produce more, softer leaves.