This recipe for healthy cabbage rolls uses cabbage leaves and a delicious stuffing made with ground beef, a mix of wild rice and long grain rice, fresh vegetables cooked in a tomato sauce with aromatic spices and herbs. Same stuffing can be used for an assortment of colored bell peppers. You can tweak the cabbage roll recipe to your liking and substitute the ingredients as you please. Here I’m using healthier ingredients, but feel free to adjust to your taste.
1cupstock or brothas extra liquid for baking (optional)
Step 1. Prepare The Rice
Place the rice in a bowl and add water to soak overnight. If you don’t have time, just rinse it several times until the water is clear and let it soak for at least an hour until you gather and prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Step 2. Prepare The Cabbage
Slice out the core by cutting a deep cone-shaped incision so that the leaves could be easily detached. Submerge the entire cabbage head into a large pot with boiling water (for about 3-4 minutes). See video below for visual help.
Then, peel the leaves off, one at a time, while the cabbage is still submerged. Use tongs for convenience.Since I don’t have pickled cabbage (that’s what is preferred) I’m adding some vinegar to the boiling water to give it a little kick.
Prepare the bell peppers if you're using any: cut the core from the inside and strip away the seeds. Set aside.
Step 3. Prepare The Stuffing
In a skillet over medium heat, sauté onions, garlic, carrots until lightly soft, add the spices and herbs, the beef. Add the soaked rice at the end and cook for 1-2 minutes. Leave the meat slightly uncooked.
Now you can add half of the crushed tomatoes to the mixture at this moment or add it later on top, after rolling the cabbage. Set aside to cool.
Step 4. Assemble The Cabbage Rolls
To stuff the cabbage leaves, lay down a single large leaf and place about a 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the filling in the lower third of the leave, fold the sides and roll (this way you’ll get huge rolls).
If you prefer smaller rolls then cut the leaf in smaller parts, and use less filing (see video).In a large deep dish (I’m using a 3-quart round glass dish) place the stuffed cabbage rolls on the bottom, and continue by adding layers.
Pour the remaining half of the jar of crushed tomatoes on top. Alternatively use water and lemon juice or vegetable broth. Some try to add a lot of liquid so they are covered, but I found that this is not necessary as the steam fill circulate inside. Just add enough liquid to help the rice puff.
Cover with the remaining cabbage leaves to seal moisture and cover with a lid.
Step 5. Bake The Cabbage Rolls
Bake for 2 hours at 370F or 190C. Or until the wild rice has puffed and is cracked open. (It has a longer cooking time than the regular rice).
Remove from the oven and allow to sit covered for 30 minutes before serving. It will continue to cook and build some flavor for the next day.
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Tips for Making & Storing Cabbage Rolls
When baking in the oven, it's important to cover the baking dish tightly, a tight fitting lid is the best. It will not allow the vapors to escape.
Soak the rice overnight, besides removing the impurities and contaminants it will also “puff” the rice and make it cook faster.
For the best tasting and healthier cabbage rolls, use the leaves of a pickled cabbage head (like sauerkraut).
To soften the cabbage leaves (for easier rolling) boil the cabbage. Submerge the entire cabbage head into a large pot with boiling water (for about 3-4 minutes). Peel the leaves off, one at a time while submerged. Use tongs for convenience.
Freeze for up to 3 months. To re-heat, thaw completely in the refrigerator the night before. When ready to eat throw them in a skillet, add 2 tbsp of water, cover and cook over low heat, until heated through.