Ahh, my first meal! The meal that inspired me to start this blog. I was searching on my Pinterest boards for something to make on a boring day with nothing to do… Really it was just to keep me busy. I wanted to make something that wasn’t too difficult and that did not include olive oil (My boyfriend’s apartment doesn’t come with olive oil and I didn’t want to spend the few bucks needed to buy a new bottle I knew he would never use… I’m a college student on a budget… what can I say?). So I came across a picture of these delicious thai-looking cabbage rolls, skimmed the ingredients list, and thought I could give it a try! In actuality, they did not have anything to do with thai food… They actually reminded me of the Lebanese grape leaves I always make with my mom. (Well… I don’t make them… I just roll the leaves…. my mom does all the cooking) I knew they would never taste as good as hers (actually they wouldn’t taste anything like hers… because they are just completely different), but a young cook has got to start somewhere and this looked like the start for me! Quick shout out to Lisa for the recipe and beginning of my cooking journey! Here is the original recipe found off of her site! Usually I just skim the little stories people always write before they tell you how to make it, but Lisa’s story- I actually really enjoyed. Maybe because it reminded me of when I was younger and my grandpa would always make the most astounding grape leaves and lebanese food. Below are the ingredients/directions Lisa used for her stuffed cabbage and I added comments throughout based on how I made my rolls. Enjoy!
Sweet and Sour Stuffed Cabbage
1 large head green cabbage, about 2 to 2¼ pounds
For the cabbage, I suggest going a little heavier. I purchased a cabbage around 2.75 pounds and thought it was going to be way too big but it ended up working out! It was nice because I had plenty of leaves to choose from when rolling. And if some were to break or weren’t big enough, I knew I had plenty of extra! Always good to know you have more than running back to the store when you don’t have enough!
2 pounds ground beef
Don’t go cheap when picking out the beef! (Again… college student on a budget…) But the quality is in the beef and the sauce! Make sure to get lean, good quality beef. Really makes a difference in the final product!
2 eggs (not necessary, you can leave them out, but they do make the meat fluffier)
I decided to go with the eggs, but I’m curious to see how they would have turned out without them!
1 medium onion, grated or minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
Probably should have only went with one! I never add salt into things- something about too much salt just puts a weird tang on my lips and I hate thinking about the added bloaty-ness. X-nay on the salt.
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup raw long-grain white rice
I was surprised by the small amount of rice. I thought there would be much more! (Maybe because I’m used to a couple cups with the grape leaves I’m used to making) But I was not disappointed! I wouldn’t be afraid to add maybe 1/2 a cup more.
2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped (medium dice)
2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce or one 32-ounce can whole tomatoes, pulsed in a food processor with juice until pureed.
juice of one lemon or 2 tablespoons (or more to taste) apple cider vinegar
I went with the 2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce only because I was limited to my resources (boyfriends don’t use food processors…) Otherwise I probably would have went with fresh tomatoes instead of canned with lemon! Lots and lots of lemon. (Would that have worked? Who knows!) I chose cans with the least amount of sodium but it was still too salty for my liking. Shoulda gone fresh!
1/3 to 3/4 cup light brown sugar (depending on amount of sweetness you prefer, unless you prefer it completely savory. In that case, add only 1 tablespoon brown sugar and the juice from half a lemon)
I only put in about 1.5 tablespoons of the sugar. Didn’t really taste it too much so not sure how much it affected it. Would love to try it with more!
Salt and pepper to taste
Maybe I subconsciously added a little too much extra salt but something about the sauce wasn’t suburb! Huh.
½ cup golden raisins (optional)
No raisins for me!
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Or parsley… (on a budget).
1. Core the cabbage. Carefully separate the leaves. Blanch the leaves. Yeah… I didn’t know how to do that. So I went with her next best idea- threw it in the microwave for about 6-8 minutes, let it cool down and peeled the leaves right off. (I peeled more than 16 to have some leftovers and saved chopping the remaining leaves until after rolling, just in case)
2. Chop some of the remaining leaves to make 1 cup of chopped cabbage and reserve.
3. Mix the ground beef with the eggs, grated onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and rice. Divide this mixture into sixteen 2-ounce balls. Using moistened hands, form the balls into cylinders. Meh. I just wung it. No need to evenly divide until the rolling.
4. Place a cylinder of filling near the bottom of a cabbage leaf. Begin to roll it up, folding both sides over the filling, and finish rolling to enclose the filling, like an eggroll. Continue, filling and rolling all the cabbage leaves. Place them, seam side down, on a tray or baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
5. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a heavy, nonreactive saucepan. Sauté the second onion until soft and golden. Add the garlic and saute for 2 more minutes, then add the reserved chopped cabbage and sauté briefly.
6. Add the tomato sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, salt and pepper to taste, and stir to combine. Increase the heat until it comes to a boil, then lower it and simmer for 5 minutes. Add raisins now, if using.
7. Line of the bottom of a 13 x 9 roasting pan or glass dish with a layer of sauce. Place cabbage rolls, seam side down, on top of sauce. Top cabbage rolls with remaining sauce then cover the whole pan with tin foil.
8. Bake for 2 hours oat 350F
And vuala! (Spelling?) Alright- so it may not be Pinterest worthy just yet… But I’m happy how it turned out. (Now I just gotta pay attention to making my plate looking pretty, invest in a nicer camera and some lights, and then pinterest here I come!) In total… it came to about a total of 4 hours to make… (I ran into quite a few bumps along the way… cut me some slack) But I know if I had a chance to do it again I could cut the time in half! (Well maybe just down to 3 hours because 2 of them consisted of the actual baking… and boy did the kitchen smell good afterwards. And the boyfriend approved as well 🙂 Made many leftovers and kept me out of the kitchen for a whole week. 😉 Until next time… enjoy.